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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Metropolitan Transportation Commission to expand Bay Area Bike Share System by 2017

Motivate International, Inc. to provide over 6,000 additional bikes to bike share program

Over the next two years, the Bay Area bike-share system expects to  increase the program from approximately 700 to 6,300 bikes by expanding into Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. Under the leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and bike supply from Motivate International, Inc. (Motivate), the program is perceived to expand 10-fold between 2016 and 2017.

The 2013 pilot program, which was headed by groups like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), started off with 700 bikes at 70 different docking stations. The first system spread across San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City.

Jan Tore Endresen, CEO of ShareBike in Norway, gave his input via an email and listed the two main things needed to build a successful bike-sharing system.

“The most important [things are] to have enough bikes and a well-planned network of stations,” Endresen said.

Back in 2013, the pilot program had been successful with Bixi as its bike manufacturer; however, with Bixi’s bankruptcy, its contract with the Alta bike-share ended and expansion was halted.

Bixi, a company based in Montreal, had been unable to make repayments and stood $50 million in debt. Though financial concerns involving Bixi were evident early on, events escalated in 2012. Finally in 2014, Bixi declared itself bankrupt. In the midst of the bankruptcy, Alta, a global bike share company, was soon absorbed into Motivate, who purchased Alta in October 2014.

When Motivate purchased Alta and contracted to take part in the bike share, Motivate took over operations and created its own bike supply chain.

Endresen explained that bike-sharing is more than about having good hardware, but requires both a robust business case and well-managed maintenance.

“As a result, we will see that future contracts for new systems – in particular those replacing old ones – will benefit all the parties involved, including the users, just as the situation usually is for new markets that are about to mature,” Endresen said.

Since the fall of 2014, the MTC and the BAAQMD have been working with staff from pilot communities, prospective communities to be affected by the expansion and Toole Design Group who is MTC’s bike share planning consultant.

According to the Bay Area Bike Share’s (BABS) website, the bike-share system allows residents to purchase an annual membership for $88 online. Customers can also purchase 24-hour or 3-day memberships that cost $9 and $22, respectively. Though trips that are 30 minutes or less are free, additional increments of 30 minutes will cost $7.

As was the situation during the pilot program, the bike-share program will be of no cost to taxpayers.

John Goodwin, public information officer of the MTC, explained how Motivate uses corporate sponsorship to fund bike-sharing projects.

“We don’t know who the corporate sponsors here in the Bay Area would be, but [the strategy of Motivate] is to have [its] expansion funded by corporate sponsorships,” Goodwin said.

In the current Bay Area bike-share proposal document, there are five priorities for a strong equity policy: station siting, discount pricing, language access, program outreach and transaction access.

The MTC will manage and expand the bike-share program, while the BAAQMD will be responsible for expanding Electric Vehicle (EV) powering infrastructure and EV-related marketing. Both agencies will be involved in the bike-sharing project; however, MTC will be more focused on the bike-sharing program itself.

Endresen stated that bike-sharing began in the 1960s when bikes were placed around cities or campuses. Unfortunately, many of the bikes were stolen, and the Danish system in Copenhagen, which was known the be the biggest one, lost several thousands of bikes before the system was closed down.

“The solution [was] automatic stations where any loan is registered and tied to an identified person via subscription or purchase of a ‘ticket,’”  Endresen said.

Bike-sharing systems like that of the Bay Area were a result of the first automatic system that was developed in Rennes (France) in 1998 by Clear Channel.

“This system was a pilot test, and became the inspiration for the Oslo system to be the first large system delivered worldwide with 1,200 bikes in 2001-02,” Endresen said.

Motivate has offered to add 6,300 bikes to the bike-sharing system. These additional bikes will help further the programs that are already in San Francisco and San Jose. Some of these new bikes will also be distributed to the East Bay where cities will, for the first time, be able to take part in the bike-share system. There are no reported plans to expand into the Peninsula, however.

“The plan is to phase it in over two years, with 25 percent of the bikes deployed by the first of June in 2016, … another 15 percent of the bikes deployed by October 1, 2016, … 30 percent more by April 1 of 2017 and the remaining 30 percent by November 1 of 2017,” Goodwin said.

Motivate also aims to offer lower prices for low-income residents by placing some biking docks in areas such as Oakland.

Goodwin explained that if the details of the proposal are approved, residents would be qualified for discounts based on their eligibility for the Pacific Gas and Electric California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program.

“My expectation is that [the discount program] will be approved, and what they have proposed [with] the eligibility requirements outlined in the proposal would be that households that are eligible for PG&E’s CARE program … would be eligible for membership in the discount program,”  Goodwin said.

During the first bike-share program, San Francisco had been a key participant by accounting for 90 percent of the rides in the system.

When asked what kinds of benefits the Bay Area bike-sharing program would bring to urban areas such as San Francisco, Endresen responded that a system built according to proper size and good network of station would lead to more flexible and available public transport. As a result, more people would be encouraged to use public transport.

“Bikes ‘feed’ the other transport carriers, [and] indirectly result in less traffic and less pollution and [solve problems concerning heavy traffic congestion] with little investments and within a short timespan,” Endresen said.

Endresen added that bikes would help promote health improvements and foster an improved image of the city.

Bijan Sartipi, district director of Caltrans Bay Area, elaborated on the positive aspects of the bike-share program on urban areas as well.

“We are looking at more of a multi-model approach to transportation and providing an alternative to driving … It [also] reduces the need to maybe take the bikes on board of some of the crowded transits that we have in the Bay Area,” Sartipi said.

Sartipi emphasized that the first and last miles of transit are important because users of transit find the lack of mobility from one source of transit to another inconvenient.

“That lack of availability of transit for that first and last mile could change the decision of a commuter from using transit or not,” Sartipi said.

Though the proposal shows promising results, it has not been met with absolute approval. There are concerns about the sole source contract that characterizes the proposal.

“Typically, we do not do a sole source contract unless there is great advantage and there’s a lot of public benefit to it,” Sartipi said.

Contracts, according to Sartipi, are usually competitively bet, so that groups are able to get the best value.

The proposal will be presented to the entire board later in April. In early May, MTC and BAAQMD will also present for the execution of the various logistical transfers involved.

Presently, proposal staff recommends for there to be an International Agreement to be made with all cities involved in the bike-share system, who are supporting the contract terms listed in the proposal. The staff is also discussing prospects for these cities to determine agency roles and responsibilities for tasks that are listed in the proposal.

Though Sartipi desires for a full evaluation of the proposal and necessary modifications to be made to it, he expressed his positivity toward the changes.

“It it is good to have someone coming in and saying, ‘We want to increase biking 10-fold, we want to expand it and we’re not going to be using any public money,’ and so when it comes to that, I think it’s all positive,” Sartipi said.

Graphic by Jennifer Wu.

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