Walkways in and around campus are cluttered with electric scooters, making it nearly impossible to travel around campus without spotting a rider or maneuvering around a fleet on the sidewalk.
Electric scooters have changed the way many students travel around campus. Between Lime, Bird, Lyft and JUMP, there are numerous scooter providers students can choose from and another provider has just launched in downtown Austin, OjO Commuter Scooters. These scooters take a different approach by providing a way for riders to sit while using electric scooters.
UT Parking and Transportation Services director Bobby Stone said scooters provide quick and cheap commuting options for students.
“Scooters have become an important part of the transportation ecosystem of our campus,” Stone said. “Users are realizing options (in addition to vehicle ownership) exist that are economical and convenient.”
Max Smith, CEO of OjO Electric Scooters, said Austin is the first city where they have launched their ride share service. OjO has been selling scooters out of Los Angeles for several years but only recently pivoted to launch sit-down electric scooters.
OjO scooters launched a small fleet of 100 scooters in Austin on Feb. 23 and are currently only operating downtown. The company plans to expand the number of scooters and the permitted operating zone after SXSW.
“We chose Austin because we think it’s the best city to launch (these scooters),” Smith said. “It’s got great year-round weather, it’s a very progressive city, it’s tech-centric, it’s young, urban.”
Smith said some of the challenges of expanding to the UT campus include obtaining the necessary permits from the city and from the University itself to operate on campus.
OjO scooters provide a different approach to electric scooters. Smith said other providers use different brands of the same scooter from a company in China called Ninebot.
“We wanted to develop a scooter that was truly safe, where people could sit down and enjoy the benefits of this form of mobility,” Smith said.
Abigail Moorhead, human dimensions of organizations sophomore, said she uses electric scooters every day to get to class. She said she used to like Bird better because it was the first in Austin and the only app she had downloaded.
“As the year has gone on I have started primarily using Limes, they are a lot more accessible because there are more of them around campus and the apartment where I live,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead said that she has never heard of OjO, but she believes there are already too many scooters around campus not being used.
“Bringing in an entirely new company sounds like it would create more clutter than it’s worth,” Moorhead said. “I have the option to use Bird, Lime and (JUMP) scooters right now, so I don’t know if I would want to go through the process of registering with a new company.”