NEWARK, NJ — Electric scooters and bikes are becoming more common on the streets of Newark, a sign of the city’s shift towards providing more sustainable transportation options for residents. However, in a city where the median household income is about $37,000 per year, ride costs associated with these transportation alternatives can shut out low-income residents from accessing these services.
So when Bird Rides, a California-based electric bike and scooter micromobility company, teamed up with Newark officials in July 2021 to help launch the city’s first-ever shared bike and e-scooter pilot program, company officials wanted to ensure every resident had access to its services. In doing so, the company launched a Community Pricing Program to meet the community at its level by offering a 50% discount to low-income riders who apply for the program.
“Bird’s mission is to provide sustainable and reliable transportation for all,” Bird Chief Communications Officer Rebecca Hahn told TAPinto Newark. “Our Community Pricing Program broadens access to our micro-electric vehicles, encouraging more individuals to replace gas-powered car trips whenever possible.”
The idea for the pricing program, which is also open to Pell Grant recipients, local nonprofit organizations, veterans and senior citizens, was sparked by the positive response the company received when it launched its “Free Rides for Healthcare Professionals” and “Free Rides for Teachers” initiatives. When company officials saw the interest both programs generated by making their service more accessible, they wanted to expand it to even more individuals.
By bringing the program to Newark, the goal is to eliminate the cost barriers associated with using an electric scooter or bike and deter residents from opting to take a gas-powered bus or rideshare service vehicle across town.
Before stepping foot on a Bird scooter or bike, riders are required to pay a $1 “unlocking fee.” Once the unit is unlocked and available to use, riders are charged about 15 cents for each minute – about $10 for an hour-long ride. An individual can get a ticket at roughly the same price, or cheaper in some instances, to travel around town in a relatively shorter amount of time by bus or using a ride share service.
Bird’s pricing program wants to shift that narrative.
“The Community Pricing program will benefit Newark residents by offering access to reliable and affordable transportation for those who don’t own a car and those impacted by soaring gas prices,” Hahn said.
Community leaders are backing the program as well.
The Rev. David Jefferson, the pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, commended the program for its aim to promote an eco-friendly transportation alternative to residents no matter their income level.
“I encourage more eligible residents to sign up for the program, which aims to increase transportation access for everyone,” Jefferson said.
The program not only increases access to the company’s services for residents but could also expand the use of e-scooters and bikes among residents in order to promote sustainable public transportation options in a city that has long been overburdened with pollution.
Newark—a city bounded by major railroads, highways and industrialization—is home to an airport and one of the busiest seaports in the US. Each of these factors has contributed to the city’s longtime struggles with pollution, particularly its air quality.
By cutting down on the city’s number of gas-powered vehicles traversing around town, providing more sustainable transportation options could potentially help relieve greenhouse gas emissions in the area.
Making Newark a more sustainable community is exactly what Newark Mayor Ras Baraka had in mind when he announced his “NewarkGo” initiative. Part of the mayor’s initiative called for bringing shared mobility services to the city to help reduce road congestion, parking demand, and toxic emissions while enhancing safety, promoting walkability, and achieving sustainability.
“It’s about making sure that it’s affordable to the people of this community so they have alternative ways to move around the city outside of just public transportation and owning a car,” Baraka said at the launch of NewarkGo in July 2021.
Bird officials hope to see other companies and organizations adopt similar programs.
“Bird is committed to helping drive mode shift to get people out of gas-powered cars to instead opt for eco-friendly transportation alternatives,” Hahn said. “We encourage others to promote sustainability through everything we do, including by removing barriers, such as cost, preventing individuals from making eco-friendly decisions.”
To sign up for the Community Pricing Program, follow these three steps: