New business takes aim at USC parking shortage
If a local businessman’s plan is as successful as he hopes, a lot more scooters will be seen in downtown Columbia this fall, and University of South Carolina students will find it much easier to get around town.
USC alumnus Frank Scozzafava is the founder and CEO of CitiScooter, which will be known as Scootaway in Columbia. Scozzafava said the Scootaway name was suggested by USC students, who are his target audience.
Scozzafava has arranged to rent parking spaces for his company’s 500 scooters on and near the USC campus, at apartment complexes that serve students and in hospitality areas like Five Points and the Vista.
Students will be able to use the Scootaway smartphone app to rent any parked scooter, take it on a one-way trip, and leave it in any approved parking spot, monitored through GPS.
Scozzafava said he was inspired by short-term car and bicycle rental services in New York City while living there, and believes USC’s growing student population and parking shortage make it a good fit. His partner in the new company is Mike Campbell, son of former South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell.
“We’ve raised the right money to do it,” Scozzafava said. “We have the right people in place for the technology and stuff.”
Scootaway will open for business in a limited test run with 40 scooters in May.
“The test is to learn all this information and hear from students,” Scozzafava said.
A full launch with all 500 scooters is scheduled for August, in time for the beginning of USC’s fall semester.
Word has spread on campus of the new company’s arrival, and some students are excited to try it.
“If I can pay three bucks and not have to wait for a bus or ask someone for a ride, yeah, I’d probably use it,” said sophomore Will Doerrer.
Scozzafava said he’s given a lot of thought to the safety of the riders who would be using the scooters.
“We go beyond all the safety aspects” required by law, he said. Drivers must be at least 18 and have a valid driver’s license. Each scooter will have two helmets, and Scootaway will offer a t-shirt and a $10 account credit to all those who take a free scooter safety class, which Scozzafava has arranged to offer through a partnership with Midlands Tech.
USC will be the first campus served by Scootaway, but Scozzafava hopes to expand into 20 other cities by the end of 2016.