HARRISONBURG — A third scooter company has been welcomed into the city.
VeoRide, a mobility company founded in Chicago more than two years ago, sent its application to the city around June 2 to acquire an $8,000 permit to hold business within Harrisonburg, according to Assistant City Attorney Wesley Russ.
According to Candice Xie, CEO and co-founder of the company, scooters will roll into the Friendly City in August, which is when James Madison University begins its fall semester.
The company will join California-based Bird and Bolt in providing scooters.
VeoRide has more than 40 programs running throughout the United States so far. The sources of transportation can be found in Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Illinois. Operations are mainly based in the Midwest, according to a map on the company’s site, but two locations exist in California.
Xie said after the next two months, the company plans to have more than 50 programs running.
Although the company has electric-assist bikes and pedal bikes, Xie said only scooters will be in Harrisonburg for the time being.
The electric scooters can be checked out by anyone 18 or older through apps on smartphones for a fee. When riders are done, they can leave the scooters for the next person to pick up.
For a VeoRide scooters and e-bikes, it costs $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute of use. The scooters run up to 15 miles per hour.
Xie said one big difference with VeoRide is how the battery works.
“When a scooter dies, we change the battery on-site,” she said. “Other companies pay people to be chargers and so they charge in their houses or apartments and that is a big fire hazard.”
With California-based Bird company, people can become chargers. Chargers get paid daily to go out into the community to pick up Bird scooters and charge them at their residence and release them the next day, according to Bird’s website.
In February, City Council adopted permit regulations to be set in place for a 12-month trial period designed to give city staff the chance to observe if they are working as intended. After the trial ends in February 2020, either party can request a three-month extension if the city hasn’t already put together a permanent ordinance.
As part of the requirements, VeoRide is limited to 100 scooters or equal to the average number of riders per day during a three-week period divided by four. If the average is higher than four rides per scooter per day, the companies will be allowed to place additional devices.
Because e-bikes are a part of the permit regulations, any company can split up the number of scooters and bikes as long as it does not exceed the regulated limit of 100.
“We are going to start with the scooters and gather feedback from the city and university to see if there is any need for e-bikes,” Xie said in an interview Wednesday.
She said the company has been in communication with JMU for about a year and a half about bringing the scooters to campus and then began having conversations with the city before applying.
“Harrisonburg has always been on our list,” Xie said. “Harrisonburg is a good community with a good-sized campus.”
Russ said in order for a scooter company to be approved by the city, the company has to meet all requirements, which include submitting the permit fee, information for monitoring and insurance information.
The city can pull the plug on the permit regulations trial at any point as long as it gives a 10-day notice.
With three scooter companies now holding permits in the city, Russ said he is wondering at what point the companies will stop applying. He said there has to be some limit for the competitors.
“I do wonder how many different apps people are willing to download,” he said. “It’s one thing to give your credit card information to one or two companies but I don’t know at what point people will get frustrated with that.”
Russ said there are no other companies that have reached out to the city so far.