Your Morning Commute - Reviewing Cost vs Convenience

Unagi is proud to announce the launch of its Commute Calculator!

As urban commute routes grow in volume and density, prospective commuters need access to current, up-to-date travel information in order to make informed decisions on how to get around. Many professionals have taken advantage of increased public transit infrastructure, the rise of ride-share solutions, and now e-scooters. However, understanding the various trade-offs in cost vs convenience for such solutions may still be difficult for a customer to model as part of commute planning.

Luckily, various agencies regularly publish freely available information that can help prospective commuters make the right mobility decisions. Using some of this information (which has been compiled from sources like the US Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the American Automobile Association), Unagi has developed a basic comparison of various commute scenarios that can help commuting professionals better understand their commute options.

Unagi took a deeper look at a variety of canonical commutes that urban professionals may encounter:

  • A trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan’s Lower East Side
  • An Oaklander’s trip across the San Francisco Bay to AirBnB Headquarters in SF’s SOMA district
  • A cross-town journey across San Francisco to catch the shuttle to Google HQ
  • And more!

Unagi also compared various commuting options against an owned Unagi financed at $25 a month. The comparison modes of transportation included:

  • Walking
  • Mass transit
  • Scooter share (e.g. Bird, Lime)
  • Ride-share (e.g. Uber, Lyft)
  • Blended mass transit and walking (or scooter)

Finally, Unagi compared modes of transportation by various commute dimensions. These include:

  • Commute time
  • Commute cost (e.g. gas, transit fees, parking, etc.)
  • Gas used
  • Electricity used
  • Carbon footprint
We found that the financed Unagi scooter performed favorably versus all alternative commute options on dimensions of cost, convenience, and environmental concerns.

E-Scooters are Cheaper, Faster, and Greener than Other Commute Types

In an earlier blog post, Unagi cited a joint study created by Unagi Scooters and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of business that found that the electric scooter market will reach between $34 and $42 bilion by the year 2025. The shift to micro-mobility is driven partly by a clear proposition of value to urban commuters. When integrated into a commute plan, e-scooters provide a convenient micro-mobility solution essential to navigating clogged commutes in areas of increasing urbanization and decreasing car usership. To cover short distances, e-scooters are not only cheaper and faster than public transit or ride-shares, but they are also more energy efficient, while being easier to ride than bicycles.

Looking at the commute data we put together, it’s clear why e-scooters stand out versus other modes of transportation. We see a few clear self-evident facts arising:

  1. Walking is often the slowest mode of transportation; with some exceptions, a commuter’s own car or a ride-share are often the fastest.
  2. As a trade-off, car-based solutions are often the most expensive, driven by parking, gas and general wear and tear with a user’s own car, and by basic ridership cost with ride-shares. Walking is, of course, free of charge.
  3. Public transit offers various mitigations to cost and convenience, depending on how well developed the local transit infrastructure is, but often requires one or more legs of the trip to be covered via alternate transit, on foot or using some other mode of transportation.

Taking these three factors into consideration, it becomes clear that many commutes can be best augmented via a micro-mobility solution such as an e-scooter. To offset the high cost of a regular car-based commute, some combination of micro-mobility (which eases issues of convenience) and public transit (which offers commuters greater travel range) offers commuters with a powerful set of travel options. For example: while a ride-share from Brooklyn to the East Village in Manhattan can cost a customer between $21 and $23 on a weekday morning, a theoretical commute involving an e-scooter can accomplish the same trip for between $0.66 and $4.15, depending on whether the commuter uses public transit, and whether they rent or own their scooter.

Note that at a recharging cost of roughly three tenths of a cent per mile, an Unagi ride over the Williamsburg bridge and to, say, 770 Broadway in Manhattan would cost roughly a penny in electricity charging.

Scooter Ownership is Cheaper and Easier than Renting

Where do the $0.66 and $4.15 figures come from? Well, as mentioned, Unagi would use up electricity equivalent to about $0.01 for a trip over the Williamsburg bridge. Alternatively, a commuter may choose to hop on the subway for part of the trip. They may also choose between utilizing a scooter share and purchasing (& financing!) an Unagi scooter. For a variety of reasons, Unagi presents the most convenient and cost-effective of all of these options -- whether you choose to get there with Unagi or a combination of scooter and public transit.

Let’s consider our theoretical Brooklyn commuter’s scooter share costs in a little more detail:

  • The basic scooter share pricing model charges an upfront cost of $1 to unlock the scooter, plus $0.15 per minute riding on the scooter.
  • A scooter ride originating at 60 Broadway in Brooklyn and then travels over the Williamsburg bridge and into the East Village takes roughly 21 minutes -- which isn’t bad, considering that a morning ride in a ride-share would take about 23 minutes, door-to-door.
  • If the Brooklyn commuter unlocks and rides a scooter share to their Manhattan destination, then their cost for the ride is roughly $1 + ($0.15 * 21) = $4.15.

If the hypothetical Brooklyn commuter takes a scooter share every work day riding to and from their place of work, their commute costs could exceed $160 per month. Indeed, our research with Haas indicates that the average monthly commute cost for regular scooter share customers exceeds $60 -- and, given how our Brooklyn scenario plays out, some commuters may pay much more for their shared scooters.

By comparison: Unagi offers financing on its scooters that starts at $25 per month. For our Brooklyn commuter, who commutes to and from their office to the tune of about 40 trips per month (2x daily over 20 business days monthly), the per-trip cost of the commute is closer to $0.65 per trip (add an extra penny per trip for electricity cost). And obviously, the commuter is paying towards sole ownership of their primary commuting tool, rather than renting a piece of hardware they found on the sidewalk.

What’s next?

Unagi was built by tech start-up veterans, and as such we take an attitude of constantly iterating to improve our products and services. The first version of our Unagi Commuter Scenarios calculator helps customers to better understand how Unagi stacks up against existing commute scenarios, but it’s limited by the small number of scenarios we have been able to test so far. We want to do better.

In the future, we want to present a more dynamic calculation of benefit a commuter can come to expect by switching to Unagi Scooters. Using the data we have gathered, we want to empower Unagi customers to compare their own commute routes, whether they’re located in New York or New Mexico, Chicago or Sheboygan. If we can ever find some time to plumb through the Google Maps API, we’d love to enable our users to simply drop a few location pins and see how Unagi benefits them.

For now, we can provide you with transparent, defensible data that clearly states the value Unagi provides as part of an everyday commute. We think Unagi will get you where you need to go, and in style. As our data indicates, you’ll also save time, money, and maybe a little bit of our planet in the process.


American Automobile Association (2017). Your Driving Costs: How Much Are You Really Paying to Drive?

Environmental Protection Agency (March 2018). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from A Typical Passenger Vehicle.

US Department of Transportation (January 2010). Public Transportation’s Role in Responding to Climate Change.

Lyft (2018). Fare Estimator.

Google My Maps (2019). Google Shuttle Stops.

Choose Energy. Electricity Rates by State.

Carbon Fund (2019). How We Calculate.

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