Bird raises cost of electric-scooter rides because of Raleigh’s ‘unreasonable fee’

Riders will now pay more to hop on one of Bird’s electric scooters in Raleigh.

The California-based company has added a $2 transportation fee — on top of the $1 needed to unlock the scooters and 15 cents per minute to ride — because of increased fees and regulations from the city of Raleigh. Riders were notified through an email and when they clicked on the app.

“Unfortunately, the Raleigh City Council [has] implemented new regulations resulting in huge fees on alternative forms of mobility in the city,” Bird said in the email. “Paying a premium for environmentally friendly transportation is not acceptable. Please take a moment to tell the council to repeal this unreasonable fee.”

The company then prompts riders to email or tweet their displeasure with the City Council.

Raleigh’s “excessive and unnecessary fees” limit access to affordable transportation for those who need it the most, said Sam Reed, director of government partnerships for Bird.

“Raleigh residents have enthusiastically supported our service,” he said. “They want — and need — more access to our affordable transportation solution, not less. Furthermore, the popularity of Bird has led to a budding community of chargers and mechanics who have come to rely on the supplemental income they earn by supporting our operations in Raleigh. We remain committed to those riders, chargers and mechanics who are greatly benefiting from our presence and helping eliminate our addiction to cars.”

It’s Bird’s hope that city leaders will eliminate its fees, he said.

City leaders approved regulations late last year that included when and where scooters can be parked and ridden. The city also imposed a $300 per scooter fee and limited companies to 500 scooters each.

City staff originally recommended the per scooter fee to be $100 before City Council member Dickie Thompson recommended $150. The fee was then doubled to $300 per scooter at a later meeting, also at Thompson’s recommendation.

Other cities typically charge $25 to $100 per scooter with $130 on the high end, according Raleigh Transportation Director Michael Moore. Cities with lower fees per scooter may have a higher permit fee. Raleigh’s permit fee is $290 per company.

Moore said he didn’t have an opinion about Bird’s new fee.

“It’s their business decision as to how much money they feel they need to make in this market to be successful,” he said.

Several council members have already gotten seemingly automated tweets from people saying “Raleigh should encourage innovative business in our city — not tax it to death.”

Some council members are already posting about the increase on social media, including member Stef Mendell.

“Bird is taking scooter users for a ride,” she wrote on Facebook. “By charging an extra $2 per ride, not per day, Bird is clearly taking advantage of its customers.”

Lime, the other scooter company operating in Raleigh, hasn’t issued a fee increase, but did write a letter to The News and Observer about the city’s regulations. The city has one of the “highest permit fees in the nation” that Lime “cannot help but pass on to our riders,” wrote Todd O’Boyle, director of Lime Strategic Development, in the letter.

“The City Council can correct this mistake by amending the terms of its agreement to embrace affordable, ubiquitous transportation options for all members of the Raleigh community,” he said. “We urge them to do so at their first meeting of the year.”

Bird arrived with hundreds of scooters this summer followed shortly by Lime. Neither company sought the city’s coordination or permission.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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