Electric scooter startups eye Chicago, but need to go through City Hall first

CHICAGO — If you’ve been to a street festival this summer, chances are you’ve seen one of the latest forms of public transportation spreading across the country: rentable, GPS-connected electric scooters.

One such company trying to get a foothold in Chicago is Lime, but it faces an uphill battle to get the City's approval. Nevertheless, the company hopes to start operations this fall.

"The focus is to get people out of cars and healthier forms of alternative transportation," Lime's Nico Probst said. "There’s more and more cars on the road and there’s more congestion... we need to find alternative forms of transportation to get people out of cars and something else to get them to the place they want to go."

Like the city’s Divvy bike program, Lime is a rent-as-you-go concept. Scanning a scooter with the Lime app unlocks it and the clock starts, with rentals costing $1 plus about 15 cents per minute after that. When users are done they leave the scooter in a public area.

"You take it where it’s most convenient for you and then park it in or around a bike rack or in the furniture zone of a sidewalk," Probst said.

A fully charged scooter can take you about 35 miles, but the usual ride is about 1.5 miles. At the end of the day, the company uses GPS to collect the scooters before recharging them overnight.

Lime and its competitor Bird already operate in other cities like Los Angeles, to varying degrees of success. Some cities, like West Hollywood, have banned the scooters.

Lime hopes to take lessons learned and put them into practice in Chicago, through better regulation and rules of use for safety as it works with aldermen and city’s Department of Transportation.

"We’re not asking for any government money to subsidized the program; we come in and bring a full operations staff to manage and redeploy… to take them off the roads when they need repair, repark them if they’re incorrectly parked and that’s a commitment we make to cities," Probst said. "We are providing a transportation solution that they don’t have to pay for, and that’s one of the real benefits to a city."