Electric scooters are spreading in residential and office complexes
It used to be that getting around downtown meant jumping into a car, battling traffic, trying to squeeze into scarce parking spots, or waiting for a slow bus. But some landlords allow office workers to easily commute, eat lunch and run errands, all without waiting or paying carpool fees.
Workers at 800 W. Fulton Market and 320 N. Sangamon St. in Fulton Market can now hop on e-scooters provided free to tenants by building owners, without searching for an available city scooter or e-bike and be certain that their vehicles will be available when they need to return.
“If you have a working lunch five minutes away, you can hop on a scooter and be back at the office without breaking a sweat,” said Peter McEneaney, executive vice president of developer Thor Equities, which opened all 19 floors. 800 W. Fulton Market in 2021.
It is transport without delays or costs, and it reduces pollution and traffic jams, he added. It’s popular with office workers, and ridership has steadily increased after scooters were placed in the lobby in April. Vehicles can reach 15 miles per hour, dramatically increasing the number of restaurants people can reach during lunchtime, one benefit that can keep employees coming back to the office.
“Putting scooters into 800 Fultons was really a test for us, but we’re already looking at rolling them out to our other properties across the country,” McEneaney said.
Electric scooters in the building give Brian Duffy peace of mind. A senior vice president at Stream Realty Partners, tenant of 800 W. Fulton Market, he hops on one of the vehicles several times a week, often when a meeting is about to start, and wastes little time crossing the town.
“It’s not uncommon to have to wait 10 minutes for an Uber to show up and forget to try to hail a cab,” he said. “I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken a taxi in the last six months.”
According to Guru Medasani, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Ridy, which provides the scooters and charging stations at 800 W. Fulton Market and 320 N. Sangamon St. The Sagamon Street building opened last year by developer Tishman Speyer, who co-developed the 13-story tower with Mark Goodman & Associates.
An engineer turned entrepreneur, Medasani launched Ridy in 2019 after visiting Seattle’s Pike Place Market, he added. It was there, after riding several blocks before finding an e-bike, that he realized that office workers on the clock sometimes didn’t have time to search for available public vehicles or a rental car and needed another option.
Ridy places scooters and charging stations inside residential communities or office buildings and restricts their use to residents or tenants. Riders can lock the scooters to the racks after reaching their destination and quickly remount to return.
“It’s guaranteed to be available, so you don’t have to play that Pokémon-like vehicle finder game,” Medasani said. “We don’t think public scooters are competition, we think they serve a purpose, but there is a gap (in service), and we are trying to fill that gap.”
Ridy bikes, scooters or charging stations are now present in 11 states, including Florida, Texas, California and New York. Chicago-area communities with Ridy include North + Vine, an Old Town apartment complex, but over the past year the company has focused on securing contracts with office developers such as Thor Equities and Tishman Speyer.
“It’s another great convenience for people,” said Catherine Hughey, general manager of JLL, property manager at 800 W. Fulton Market.
JLL receives monthly reports from Ridy, and the data shows that runners from Aspen Dental, which leases about half the building, frequently run to their second office several blocks away, while other runners venture to River North, sometimes in groups.
“People go out, walk away from their desks and go out to lunch,” Hughey said.
April and May trips would have cost renters about $2,000 if they had used Ubers, she added, but saving money is only part of Ridy’s appeal. Like many of Fulton Market’s newer office towers, 800 W. Fulton Market features landscaped outdoor terraces and smart building systems that circulate fresh air and reduce energy consumption.
The ability to escape traffic jams and delays is driving a surge in the use of e-bikes and scooters nationwide, and Chicago is no exception, according to Sandy Romero, head of global research at the company. commercial real estate Cushman & Wakefield.
Combined e-bike ridership in New York was up 10% in April compared to April 2021, and San Francisco saw a 70% increase, while in Washington, D.C., rides were up 48%, a Romero said, citing federal transportation data. And in Chicago, the city’s Divvy e-bike system, operated by Lyft, recorded 5.5 million rides in 2021, the most on record and up from 3.8 million in 2019, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
“There was a lull in usage that happened because of COVID, but I think we’re past that,” she said.
Chicago will likely see another big leap in the use of small electric vehicles this year. The city unveiled pilot scooter programs in 2019 and 2020 and has just introduced its first permanent system, with Divvy scooters already operating throughout the city center and its surrounding neighborhoods, while scooter companies Lime, Spin and Superpedestrian also operate in the city.
Duffy lives about a mile and a half north of Fulton Market and already takes advantage of Divvy scooters to get around.
“During the summer months I will ride a scooter before getting on a bus or train,” he said. “It’s just faster and easier.”
Private providers such as Ridy are a welcome addition to the mix, according to Alex Perez, advocacy manager for the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago-based advocate for bicycling, walking and public transit.
“All additional (electric vehicles) are good for the city, because each takes one less driver off the road,” he said.
But as e-bikes and scooters proliferate, cities will need to expand their infrastructure, especially dedicated bike lanes, which allow cyclists to get around safely, Perez added.
“People need a safe place to ride, and if there’s no proper infrastructure, they’ll opt for sidewalks, and that’s what we don’t want,” he said. declared.
The Lightfoot administration pledged last year to spend $17 million to add 100 miles of new or improved bike lanes by the end of 2022.
“The city has done a good job installing bike lanes,” Duffy said. “So as long as you plan your routes carefully, you don’t feel like you’re stuck against buses or cars.”
Ridy also wants to provide e-bikes and e-scooters as amenities in parking garages. Starting this summer, drivers using the 3.8 million square foot downtown Millennium Garages near the lakefront will be able to pick up Ridy scooters after parking, as part of a Civic Infrastructure Collaborative effort to nonprofit and private Millennium garages to encourage the use of electric vehicles, Medasani said. He hopes Ridy vehicles will help ease downtown congestion by encouraging drivers to simply use the garage and hop on a Ridy, instead of driving around their destination.
“They can use an electric scooter for that last mile and don’t have to drive around to find the perfect parking space,” he said.