Jeramey Jannene

Who Has the Cheapest Scooter?

Bird, Lime and Spin versus MCTS and Bublr Bikes. Which is the best deal?

By - Aug 14th, 2019 05:43 pm
Bird, Spin and Lime scooters. Photos by Dave Reid.

Bird, Spin and Lime scooters. Photos by Dave Reid.

There are scooters on virtually every downtown street corner, but how do you decide which one to ride?

Three scooter companies, Bird, Lime and Spin, now offer electric scooters for rent in Milwaukee as part of a city-wide pilot program. The scooters, unlockable with smartphone apps from each of the companies, charge by the minute. But how much that per minute charge is and whether the sales tax is added at the end or embedded in the price can drastically alter what you will pay.

We ran the numbers, and included rides using the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) and Bublr Bikes to boot.

We calculated all of the rides to be 19 minutes in length based on a 2018 study of how scooters were used in Portland, Oregon.

Bird – $1 to unlock the scooter plus 29 cents per minute plus sales tax. $5 deposit required for first ride, discounts for bigger deposits. Cost of a 19-minute ride: $6.87

Bublr Bikes – $.15 per minute, discounted membership rates available. Cost of a 19-minute ride: $2.85

Lime – $1 to unlock the scooter plus 25 cents per minute (sales tax embedded). Cost of a 19-minute ride: $4.75

MCTS – $2 per ride with app or MCard, monthly and weekly discount available. Cost of a 19-minute ride: $2

Spin – $1 to unlock the scooter, plus 25 cents per minute plus sales tax. $10 deposit required for first ride. Cost of a 19-minute ride: $5.01

Lime has the cheapest fare for scooters based on the company’s decision to embed the sales tax into the cost. It also has the cheapest start-up cost with no deposit required to start riding. Spin comes in second, but requires a $10 deposit (which you get back to spend on rides). Both of the companies’ scooters offer speedometers to see if you can get the scooter to cross over the 15 miles per hour state scooter speed limit (spoiler: you can easily do so going downhill).

Bird offers the most expensive per-minute price, requires a $5 deposit and appends the tax on the end, but its scooters performed the best during my test.

Both Bublr Bikes and MCTS are cheaper to utilize than the scooters, with the former requiring you to use the docks and the latter requiring you to ride on a schedule. The Hop, the city’s streetcar system, is free for the foreseeable future, but only serves Downtown and a handful of adjacent neighborhoods.

All of the options are cheaper than using ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft; they’re also likely cheaper than driving when the cost of parking, maintenance and vehicle ownership are factored in.

Scooter Details

Ford-owned Spin and last year’s entrant Bird have joined Lime in offering dockless electric scooters in Milwaukee. Each of the companies is allowed to place up to 350 scooters on city streets.

Spin began deploying its scooters yesterday, with Bird flying into the city on Wednesday morning. When the companies each have their full, regulated fleets deployed there could be as many as 1,050 rentable scooters in Milwaukee, doubling the total available one week ago.

The fleet size, staffing plan and insurance requirements are regulated by a city-approved pilot program. An additional city ordinance was passed in July to ban sidewalk riding, a key issue that caused city administration officials to “pause” expanding the program in early August after getting more than 100 citizen complaints.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) said in a release Saturday that it conducted an eight-hour-long survey of scooter users on the East Side, Historic Third Ward and Downtown. The study found that 83 percent of observed trips were taking place in the street as required by law. The DPW press release did not provide compliance statistics for bicycles and motor vehicles.

The three companies are able to place up to 250 dockless scooters each in an area east of Interstate 43 running from W. Oklahoma Ave. north to the city limits near W. Capitol Dr. that includes Downtown, the East Side, Brewers Hill, BronzevilleHarambeeBay View and a special cutout west to N. 22nd St. for Marquette University.

The companies are able to place 100 additional scooters, bringing each company’s total fleet size to 350, in two additional zones (50 scooters per zone) which encompass the rest of the city and are roughly divided by Interstate 94. The pilot program documentation outlines a scenario whereby scooter fleets would be allowed to increase to 1,000 if certain performance metrics outlined in the pilot study, including utilization, are met.

According to data provided to the city by Lime, over 53,000 trips were taken on scooters between the company’s launch on July 23rd and August 9th.

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Categories: Transportation

4 thoughts on “Transportation: Who Has the Cheapest Scooter?”

  1. Elizabeth Pancratz says:

    What about the Hop? 😛 The 19-minute ride is free but you just go in a circle I suppose…

  2. kmurphy724 says:


  3. kmurphy724 says:

    Ok, tried a Spin scooter today (wore helmet, stayed off sidewalk, etc). It was actually kinda fun. Will do it a fun again.

  4. Barbara Richards says:

    Time to weigh in. Thanks for the data! I have been watching the scooters and wondering. What did these folks do before the scooters arrived?
    First, scooters join Uber and Lyft as extractive business – money leaves our community when you ride with a company that is not local.
    Second, this is another convenience nail in the coffin of the future for our planet.
    Third, walking or riding a bicycle is much better for physical health.
    Fourth, so how did these folks move about before? We need transit riders, bublr riders, bicyclists, pedestrians to make a city of connected people and people connected to a place.

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