The following Editorial appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on January 28, 2015.
Editorial: A bike-sharing path to a better Gold Line ride – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
January 28, 2015
Clearly it’s a First-World problem, the issue of whether a bike-sharing program funded by Metro would help with the perceived hassle of too many personal bikes on Gold Line and other Los Angeles County light-rail trains.
That means it’s a good problem to have, in the sense that not only is ridership clearly up on our growing light-rail (and connecting Red Line subway) system, but those riders are often eliminating car use entirely during their commutes by getting to the stations on their own bicycles and taking them to their workplace or school.
As Staff Writer Steve Scauzillo pointed out in his story last week about Pasadena and South Pas Gold Line stations being picked by Metro as the next cities after Los Angeles to get bicycles available for pick-up and drop-off, this is an effort to solve what transit types call the first mile/last mile problem.
In places less dense than Manhattan, there is often going to be a considerable distance for many rail riders between their homes or offices and a train station. A mile, especially when carrying a briefcase or when wearing fancy business shoes, is a little bit too far for most of us to walk. So a bike can be a great go-between, with no need to take the time and money to park a car once you get there. If there are bicycles at the station, available for one-way rides for free with ID or for very cheap rental prices, that may incentivize those without bikes of their own to use mass transit, or eliminate any worries cyclists have about their own fancy bikes getting stolen from the station.
Or, yes, eliminate as well bulky bikes being rolled on to trains where they take up a lot of room. Ever seen a picture of a Tokyo subway car at rush hour? There’s no way you’re going to get a bike in there among the human sardines.
Bike-share plans, which began in European cities in the 1960s, have seen considerable success, but there are pitfalls. Bicycles can be stolen. They aren’t much fun in bad weather. The systems have high capital start-up costs. An advertising-based effort to solve the latter problem went wrong in Washington, D.C., where there was also low ridership, and the program was shut down.
A bonus of the Metro proposal is funding from a $3.8 million Express Lanes grant. Though we have big problems with the “Lexus Lanes” aprroach to beating gridlock, we’ll take their money for bikes.