Scooter startup Bird will discount rides for people in low-income brackets

Scooter-sharing startup Bird is ditching the $1 base ride fee for people in need of financial assistance, the company announced today. People who are “currently enrolled in or eligible for” state or federal assistance programs like SNAP or Medicaid will instead only have to pay the 15 cent-per-mile fee that Bird charges all riders.

Individuals who want to access the discount have to email a specific account that Bird has set up for the program with proof of their enrollment or qualification, name, and phone number. Bird says approval should take two to three business days. The company is offering the discount in all eighteen cities that it currently operates in.

As TechCrunch points out, Bird competitor Lime spun up a similar program earlier this year where riders who are enrolled in assistance programs can apply to get 100 bike rides for just $5. New York City’s Citi Bike program — which is run by a company called Motivate that was recently acquired by Lyft — also recently announced discounted rides for people who live in public housing. And other bike-share programs around the country have offered discounted, sometimes completely free, rides to people in lower income brackets.

Bird is one of a handful of companies pushing electric scooters as a way to augment how people get around cities, an idea that has helped the startup capture $400 million worth of investment capital so far. (Lime has raised a similar amount, in part, thanks to a partnership with Uber.) There have been some regulatory speed bumps in some cities, which haven’t been helped by the aggressive rollout strategies some of these startups have employed. But based on what is known, the unit economics on scooter sharing could actually be sustainable. In other words, the companies don’t seem to be subsidizing the cost of the rides as severely as, say, Uber and Lyft do for their car-hailing services.

There’s also reason to believe that, in cities where shared electric scooters and bikes have taken off, that these so-called “micromobility” services are starting to nibble at the edges of ride-hailing’s dominance over mobility in general. Of course, both Uber and Lyft are adding scooters and bikes to their platforms, and Lyft is already offering discounts for people who use them to connect to public transit. So if micromobility services really do catch on, the Ubers and Lyfts of the world still stand to benefit.