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Photo: Courtesy of Unagi

E-scooter company Unagi on Wednesday debuted a personal scooter subscription service in Los Angeles and New York that allows people to lease their own scooter rather than take their chances with a shared one on the sidewalk.

Why it matters: In the COVID-19 era, people are wary of mass transit and shared vehicles, instead opting for personal cars, bikes and scooters that are seen as safer.

Unagi CEO David Hyman says the company — which sells scooters that retail around $1,000 — saw a surge of orders at the beginning of the pandemic. But not everyone can afford that price point or wants the commitment of a large purchase, he told Axios.

  • "We're seeing a seismic shift to personal transit," he said. "Many people now prefer access over ownership."
  • Consumers can lease a scooter for $39 a month, which includes maintenance and insurance.

Context: Unagi isn't the first to test e-scooter rentals. Bird, Spin and Bolt have also rolled out limited personal rental options.

  • The difference, Hyman said, is Unagi's sleek form factor and lighter weight, making it more attractive to bring into a customer's home or carry up to a four-floor walk-up apartment.
  • Shared e-scooter varieties are built to be bulky and heavy to withstand a hard life on the street.

Yes, but: Auto subscription services have failed to take off, likely due to the high price points.

What we're watching: The extent that people opt for personal vehicles of all kinds will have lasting implications for public transit, car use, the future of micromobility modes and traffic.

Go deeper: How the pandemic will reshape cities

Go deeper

Chicago official: COVID-19 allows for transit innovation

Axios' Ina Fried (l) and Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi. Photo: Axios

The lull in transit use during COVID-19 has given officials room to experiment with public transportation for all communities, Chicago's transportation commissioner, Gia Biagi, said at an Axios event on Friday.

The big picture: Americans have shied away from public transportation during the coronavirus pandemic. But Biagi argues that declines in ridership provide a window to innovation that wouldn't otherwise be available.

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker