Grand Rapids Pilot Program Makes Lime Access Free for Riders

by Odochi Akwani, Writer and Content Manager

Through a partnership between Mobile GR, Lime, and McGill University, shared micromobility will be free for income-qualified residents through a pilot program launching June 1.

On June 1, Grand Rapids, Michigan, will launch a pilot program to grant eligible residents free standard rides on electric bicycles and scooters from Lime, the city’s shared micromobility operator. Riders will receive up to five free 30-minute trips per day. The new initiative looks to expand residents’ transportation options across the city.  

“This affordability program is something that we’ve wanted to do for a while to remove barriers and incentivize not only the use of shared micromobility, but to expose people to multimodal transportation that they may not otherwise feel comfortable, able, or educated to use,” says Trent Cerra, mobility planning analyst for Mobile GR, a department of the City of Grand Rapids.

Currently, residents accessing SNAP, Medicaid, federal-subsidized housing, and other public subsidies can receive a 50% discount on Lime bikes and scooters through the Lime Access Program. With the new pilot program, the city will cover the rest of the cost of standard rides during the 2-3 month program period. 

“Our hope is that by removing the fees for any Lime Access eligible user, we’ll get to show people in the city that you can use shared micromobility as a totally legitimate part of your daily transportation needs,” Cerra says. “Whether it’s connecting you to the local bus stop that’s maybe a bit too far for you to walk or might take too long, getting you from the bus stop to your job if there’s not a stop nearby, or just using it as a connector to fill the gaps. This shows that you can get around without using a car.”

Engagement in the discount program is the goal even after the pilot ends. While Grand Rapids’ micromobility ridership is growing, the number of users taking advantage of Lime Access has been low, according to Cerra. Successful engagement means once people are signed up during the pilot period, they continue to use micromobility afterward. Mobile GR will implement both marketing initiatives and community outreach through local community organizations that work with people in these assistance programs to make sure those who qualify take advantage of the opportunity.

Grand Rapids is looking long term to build equity. Through a partnership with McGill University, rider intake surveys will be distributed to get an idea of how members of these communities get around the city, how they utilize micromobility, and what destinations they use it for. Partners at McGill will send surveys throughout and at the end of the program to see how riders’ transportation methods changed in terms of better access to daily needs and destinations.

Our findings from a report by researchers from Monash University on the Lime Access program highlight that Lime Access riders primarily use Lime for essential trips. Most Lime Access riders  are avid transit users who do not drive and see micromobility as public transit. Both quantitative and anecdotal data is how cities and operators can find out what barriers exist.

According to Cerra, the city is considering making Lime Access free permanently, along with instituting additional equity-related programs based on the results of this pilot. 

“I think it’s underestimated how good of a fit shared micromobility is for small to midsize cities, because often they’re the ones that don’t have that great of a public transportation network,” says Cerra. “So, it’s a great way to help fill those gaps and try to get people out of their cars and moving around the city in other ways.”