What to Know
- Cities have asked e-scooter companies seeking operational city permits to include payment plans that serve low-income individuals.
- At least five major e-scooter companies in Los Angeles offer discount programs for low-income customers.
- A Santa Monica survey showed that ridership skews young, male, and affluent.
Hoping to increase the number of people who can hop on the ubiquitous electric scooters zipping around Los Angeles, some companies are offering discounts for low-income riders.
Those who are on local, state or federal aid programs such as CalFresh, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Medicaid can now hop on an e-scooter and ride for up to half of what it normally costs.
"We did it to ensure that all of our residents, regardless of income or zip code, have the option to try these scooters out for themselves," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who helped push for the plan to broaden electric scooter ridership. "Alternative transportation modes such as scooters aren't just for tourists and wealthy communities, but are a critical step in closing the gap in first mile/last mile transportation."
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The city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation requires that each company have an equity plan that addresses payment barriers for those who don't have bank accounts or smartphones.
Currently, eight companies are permitted to operate in Los Angeles.
They are: Bird, Bolt, Jump, Lime, Lyft, Sherpa, Spin, and Wheels.
Here are the details about the programs by company:
Lyft Scooters offers the Community Pass program, a low-income discount that offers riders unlimited, 30-minute rides within Lyft's service area for a flat fee of $5 a month.
The Community Pass is available to LA residents 18 years and older who are currently enrolled in or qualify for state or federal assistance programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, the Low Income Fare is Easy (LIFE) Program, or a discount utility bill.
A qualification survey is available on the Lyft website, and it prompts users to submit proof of eligibility by uploading an image or scan of valid documentation.
Bird offers its own low-income program One Bird, which waives the $1 base fee for eligible riders. Without the fee, riding a Bird scooter costs 15 cents per minute.
The program is available to anyone enrolled in or eligible for state or federal assistance programs such as CalFresh, Medicaid, SNAP, or a discount utility bill.
The e-scooter company also offers Red, White, and Bird, a discount program for active and retired military personnel.
To enroll, customers should email proof of enrollment eligibility along with a full name and phone number to email@example.com.
Lime's affordable mobility program Lime Access provides lower prices for Lime-S electric scooters.
The program offers free rides for up to 30 minutes for LA residents only.
Through a discount program, it will cost 50 cents to unlock electric bikes and scooters, and $0.07 per minute to ride them. The pedal bikes will cost $0.05 for each 30 minutes.
Lime is partnering with PayNearMe to support a text-to-unlock feature, which makes the transportation-rental company more accessible to those without smartphones or credit cards. Riders can use cash at any participating location to load funds into their account.
To qualify for the discount program, the rider needs to demonstrate eligibility or participation in a local, state or federal assistance program. To apply for the discounted program visit their website.
Spin, a scooter-share company owned by the Ford Motor Company, offers low-income rates up to 50% off to eligible participants through its Spin Access program. With the discounted rates, it would cost 50 cents to start the scooter, and it would cost $0.07 per minute to ride.
To qualify for the low-income rate program, a rider must be a LA city resident who qualifies for or receives CalFresh through the California Department of Social Services, has a LA Metro LIFE Pass, or is in the Pacific Gas and Electric California Alternate Rates for Energy Program.
The program also allows eligible low-income riders to use cash to purchase a Spin Access card at participating locations. Each card will have a unique promo code that the user can input into the scooter app to add funds for future rides.
To apply, customers can fill out an online application form on the Spin website.
Jump by Uber
The JUMP Boost Plan provides users with 60 minutes of daily ride time for $5 a month. After the initial 60 minutes, all rides will cost $0.07 per minute.
Those who need a cash option to fund their JUMP account can load Uber Cash gift cards to an Uber account and take trips through the app using that balance.
The JUMP Boost Plan is available to Los Angeles residents who are enrolled in CalFresh, CalWORKs, LIHEAP, or Medi-Cal. To enroll, riders can email a scanned copy of eligible documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Los Angeles Boost Documentation" as the subject line.
The Bolt Forward program offers 50% off to those who are low-income or have served in the military.
Customers can fill out an online form, which asks users to verify their range of income and upload proof of eligibility such as a photo of a veteran ID, an EBT/SNAP card or a discounted utility bill.
The Wheels For All program provides discounts to Los Angeles riders who are part of the California EBT Program, the DWP Income Discount Program or Metro's LIFE Program. Those who are eligible will receive free rides up to a total of 30 minutes.
Customers will need to fill out an online form to determine if they qualify for the program, and they will need to submit front and back photos of qualifying documents.
Those with a smartphone, will immediately receive a credit on their account. Those without a smartphone or those who prefer to pay with cash, can add money by sending a check or money order to the Wheels corporate address, which will be provided to eligible customers. For those who do not have the app, a phone number will be provided to text to unlock a bike.
Sherpa offers discounts for people with low-income status, text-to-ride for those without access to the app or a smartphone, and cash payment options.
To apply, email them at email@example.com with document proof of low-income status.
To enroll for text-to-ride, email TextToUnlock@bird.co.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify details of the Lime scooter program.