YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An early-stage company based here envisions placing as many as 30 electric bicycles and 45 charging stations inside a broad swath of downtown, introducing a concept that its owners have seen in other cities across the country.
“We found out this is something you don’t jump into to get rich from a business standpoint,” says Ronnell Elkins, president of YoGo Bikeshare. “It’s about creating that sense of community – share ridership and have something that’s tangible for your city to utilize in terms of a mode of transportation.”
YoGo Bikeshare wants to provide downtown with a “bike sharing” transportation option, Elkins says. Under its business model, the electric bicycles – tagged at $1,500 apiece – would be available for public use at various charging stations downtown.
Rides can span from 20 to 30 minutes, depending on which pricing model a customer follows. If the bicycle is not docked by the allotted time, the rider is assessed 10 cents a minute in overtime charges.
“You don’t have to dock them from the station where you got it from,” Elkins says. “You can dock them at a different station closest to your final destination. It hinges on bikes being readily available so multiple people can use them.”
He adds there are tracking devices on all the bicycles, “so we’ll know where every bike is at every second.”
After Elkins observed bike sharing programs in other cities, he thought the idea could work in Youngstown.
YoGo started in the Youngstown Business Incubator with $174,000 in initial capital through a Valley Economic Development Partners loan. Elkins and business partner Kent Wallace each put in $5,000 of their own money to start this company.
Elkins concedes the idea may require some psychological change for residents. YoGo is a family-owned and operated business whose mission is to foster healthy community interaction while providing an environmentally friendly alternative through cost-effective transportation.
YoGo is scheduled to host a town hall meeting at the Youngstown Flea building at 365 E. Boardman St. on Sunday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to introduce the company and its rideshare platform, Elkins says. It will be one of three town halls YoGo will host. A second meeting Feb. 6 concerning safety issues will be held at an as yet unconfirmed location, while the final town hall is Feb. 20 at the Youngstown Business Incubator, where the first bicycle will be displayed, Elkins says.
“It’s a way for us to communicate in a group setting on what bike sharing and micromobility is, and answer any questions people might have,” he says.
Elkins says the charging stations would be placed in three locations — on the sidewalks in front of the DeYor Performing Arts Center and the Main Library, and on property owned by Penguin City Brewing Co. along East Federal Street. The charging stations have enough space to accommodate 15 bicycles, but dock 10 at a time.
Charging stations could be installed between mid March and early April, depending on when the company receives its equipment. Elkins adds the electric bicycles would be available for use between March and early November, weather conditions permitting.
The company plans to meet with Mayor Tito Brown and other city officials next week regarding the venture, since the project would most likely require approval from the city’s Design Review committee before work could begin.
Bicycles will enhance the city’s economy and overall health of its citizens, says Wallace, YoGo’s vice president of operations.
“There’s many benefits involved,” he says. “We want to make people aware of that in the first town hall.”
Wallace says YoGo will continue to generate funds through the year and work with different sponsors. Currently, the company is partnering with Penguin City, Youngstown Flea, Youngstown Business Incubator and Dope Cider House and Winery.
“As of now we have what is necessary to at least get us going,” Wallace says.
Pictured at top: An electric bicycle that YoGo Bikeshare plans to have in downtown Youngstown this spring.