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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.

Senate confirms Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D). Photo: David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 on Tuesday to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to lead the Commerce Department.

Why it matters: The agency promotes U.S. industry, oversees the Census Bureau, plays a key role in the government's study of climate change through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and evaluates emerging technology through the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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