A new electric-scooter (e-scooter) program has launched in New Brunswick, NJ. An email on Thursday from the Rutgers University Department of Institutional Planning and Operations announced the launch of the program, and by the afternoon, many young people could be seen whizzing around the city on the new scooters.
The scooters are provided by Veo, a Chicago-based micro mobility firm, which operates shared scooters and bicycles in dozens of cities around the country. One of the company’s goals is to “reduce automotive use and promote widespread utilization of shared alternative mobility in a safe and reliable way”. To use the e-scooters, a user must download the Veo app onto a smart device. A map within the app shows the location of the scooters, which can be parked almost anywhere within designated areas in New Brunswick, Highland Park, and Piscataway, NJ. Many of the scooters could be seen today around the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University.
To begin a rental session, the user scans a 2D barcode on the handlebar of the scooter with their smart device. The electric motor is activated by pushing forward and pressing on a throttle. Beginning a session costs $1, and the user then pays 28 cents for each minute of the ride. A 10-minute ride would therefore cost $3.80. The acceleration feels zippy, and the motor is almost completely silent. The scooters can travel up to 15 mph, and are equipped with a bell, brakes, and lights. Users must be 18 years old, and are encouraged to wear a helmet, although this is not mandatory. Sidewalk riding of scooters is not permitted per municipal ordinance, punishable by a fine of $250.
The electric scooters could be useful for Rutgers University students, to get around campus without using the campus shuttle bus service. In 2017, Rutgers University was working with North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority on a shared bicycle service, which was to be called ‘Knight Cycle‘. That program never launched, and the new electric scooters appear to be a replacement.
Could Princeton be the next town in New Jersey to get electric scooter rentals? e-Scooters were growing in popularity with Princeton University students before the COVID-19 lockdown. Princeton University previously supported a Zagster bikeshare scheme, but the parent company went into bankruptcy earlier this year and the program has shut down. According to a planning document released by Princeton University in July of this year, the University aims to start a new, larger bikeshare scheme, and hopes to include electric bikes in this new program. Electric scooters are unlikely to come to Princeton however, because the University considers them vastly inferior to bicycles. Specifically, the University’s planning document says:
“Scooters, as a vehicle, are simply less stable and more prone to crash (due to tiny wheels and small steering bars) than bicycles. Bicycles are also more useful due to their cargo capacity (a basket or rack), to say nothing of the fact that a bike can be safely ridden with a single hand while a scooter cannot…”
In the coming years, it seems that New Brunswick, NJ and Princeton, NJ will follow different directions when it comes to shared micro-mobility. Rutgers University in New Brunswick will have shared e-scooters, whereas Princeton will focus on bikes. Time will tell what proves to be more durable or popular.