BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Dream Center told 23ABC that Kern County has one of the highest numbers of disconnected youth in the nation, meaning they're not in school or working.
Spin Scooters is hoping to change that through a "universal basic mobility initiative" in Bakersfield.
Spin Scooters in partnership with the Dream Center, Get Bus, and UC Davis, are hoping that expanding opportunities for Bakersfield youth, is just a ride away.
At hours when the buses no longer run and when mobility services like Uber can get expensive, being able to access a scooter for free can make a major difference.
“Around April I crashed my car,” said William Darden. “And especially when we stopped getting the stimulus checks and EDD, it’s really hard for me to save up the money to get a new car, so I’d be late to school a lot.”
Darden is a Bakersfield resident and the average 21-year-old. He juggles school, a job, and when he can, sports.
That car crash started to affect his daily routine, especially when buses don’t normally run on his schedule working at a nightclub. He said it’s an hour and twenty minutes from his house by foot, and Ubers can get expensive.
“I have my friend drive me around to places I need to go, but spending. The spending of constantly giving gas money, not just to him, but my mom. It would just come out of my pockets a lot,” said Darden.
But this past week things have been different. He may not be behind a wheel but he’s on a scooter he tracks down, through the app, getting a ‘handle’ back on life.
“I’ve been able to get to work on time, and I’m making more money, I’ve been able to get to school on time,” said Darden.
Darden is a part of a universal basic mobility pilot program launching in three cities in the nation, including Bakersfield.
Once the program kicks into full gear, 100 Dream Center youth from ages 18-24 will have access to free spin e-bikes and scooters around town and get bus passes.
“Our CEO Ben Behr had been following the work in Stockton and other places with guaranteed based income and had the thought of let’s try this for mobility in understanding that mobility is a right, not a privilege,” said Josh Johnson the Senior Public Policy Manager of Spin Scooters.
Johnson said the idea is to break down the barriers in this case transportation that keep youth from reaching their full potential.
Jayme Stuart the Dream Center’s Child and Family Services Coordinator said Kern County has one of the highest amounts of disconnected youth, meaning they’re not in school or working.
“The youth that work jobs outside of the bus hours, or in areas of town where the bus doesn’t run, typically pay as much as $20 to $30 a ride for an uber, and that’s as much as two hours of their work,” said Stuart. “So, half of their salary can go to Uber or Lyft in a day. So being able to ride e-scooters or e-bikes and connect with the bus schedule, is amazing for them.”
Stuart said UC Davis will be conducting a 12-month study to see if the program is creating more opportunities for disconnected youth while boosting their mental health.
“You know, how do we make this scalable? How do we take these pilots that we’re doing in three cities and not only make it bigger not only in existing cities and build a movement?” said Stuart.
If the program is successful, Spin is hoping to spread this initiative to other parts of the country, especially in light of the infrastructure bill that president Biden just penned into law.