Transit nonprofit My City Rides wants to get Memphians to work faster and with greater reliability and affordability.
Founded in April 2017, the program works with employers to provide payroll deductions so that employees can fund a scooter without credit. At three dollars a day, the scooter will be the Don Henson, security manager with the Southern College of Optometry and his scooter acquired through My City Rides. recipient’s within three years.
The program expanded in June to provide scooters to employees and students of the Southern College of Optometry and is forging a new partnership with Explore Bike Share, another new transit option in Memphis.
The Southern College of Optometry sees My City Rides scooters as an affordable and efficient way for students to get around the city. The school plans to offer students the chance to enroll in the My City Rides program as students arrive on campus in late August.
There are currently 21 scooter riders, known as "flyers" to the company, using their new SYM Fiddle III scooter on Memphis roads. My City Rides wants to triple that figure and bring 60 new flyers on board by the end of August and 100 flyers before the end of 2018.
So far, two Southern College of Optometry staff members and one faculty member have secured My City Rides scooters through the employee-based payroll deduction program.
Tracy Lindow, Southern College of Optometry human resources executive director, said, “Our students are a great population for the My City Rides program because, once they are admitted, it’s a four-year track. Most students will be here long enough to pay off their scooter and own it before they graduate.”
While details are still in the works, Southern College of Optometry plans on including My City Rides scooter options in their alternative student transit package. The college offers students a bundled package of discounted rates for various alternative forms of transportation that can include ride-sharing programs, bus passes, and even Explore City Bikes.
Lindow said that after the college heard about the benefits of the employee-based program, it quickly became something they saw as a smart option for students looking to reduce their debt.
“Cars have to be insured and maintained and that can be expensive for students. The environmental appeal of the scooter has also been a big motivator for both employees and student interest,” Lindow said.
The participant receiving the scooter pays for the vehicle through a payroll deduction of $3 a day, which will pay off the scooter in three years at zero interest.
Employers have ongoing communication with My City Rides and they incorporate the scooters by creating designated parking, supplying an on-campus space for scooter maintenance, and facilitate the payroll deductions for My City Rides.
To receive a scooter, employees must work at least 20 hours a week at the participating business, be recommended by their employer, have a Tennessee driver’s license, be individually insurable and make a three-year commitment to the payment plan.
Once signed up, the participant immediately gets their brand new Fiddle III. The scooters get 89 miles to the gallon and can reach up to 65 miles per hour, though they are not recommended for interstate travels. The Fiddle III costs approximately $3,000 before taxes, tag, and title. That full price does not include the cost of a windshield, which can cost about $100.
Scooter protective gear including a lock and alarm, insurance, tags, license, safety course and scheduled maintenance are included in the My City Rides program.
At the Southern College of Optometry, college administration will collect student fees internally and send the funds off to My City Rides. Southern College of Optometry has a designated parking space on its Madison Avenue campus for My City Rides scooters and plans on offering more scooter parking as students enroll in the program.
Since last year, My City Rides has rolled out the employee payroll deduction program at several companies, including Ewing Moving & Storage, Juice Plus+ Technical Training Center of the Boys & Girls Clubs, Henry Turley Co., Memphis Rox and The Hub Automotive.
Andy Nix, executive director of My City Rides, says that the nonprofit can be a bridge between Memphis' overarching issues of accessibility.
"Memphis has some real challenges as regards to public transportation, and that is a huge barrier for economic development on an individual and community level," he said.
"My City Rides’ main mission is to get people to and from work and school. We want to essentially pull together all of the elements someone needs to successfully own and operate reliable, inexpensive transportation. That happens to be a scooter.”
My City Rides also recently teamed up with Explore Bike Share and delivered a couple of scooters to the bike share mechanical team.
Explore Bike Share repairs are completed at bike return stations all over the city and most of the mechanics ride a bicycle around town to hit all their repairs. The two organizations decided by equipping Explore Bike Share mechanics with My City Rides scooters, Explore Bike Share could save more of their mechanics’ time and allow them to cover more ground and carry more supplies.
My City Rides is currently seeking more businesses and individuals to participate in the program.
“There is a huge economic justice component to this. Reliable transportation is a game changer and it helps to level the playing field," Nix said.
"When it can take four hours to get from your home to your job on public transit, that is a huge disadvantage. It’s basically a whole other job just getting to work. There is a powerful independence and autonomy that is empowering and comes from ownership of transportation. It opens so many doors for how one can navigate through life,” Nix said.