The following article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on January 22, 2015.
Metro moving into the bike-sharing business in LA, Pasadena – San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Steve Scauzillo
January 22, 2015
Joining ride-sourcing and transponder-tracked toll lanes, bike sharing will be the next item plucked from the shared economy and dropped onto the streets of Los Angeles and Pasadena.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority or Metro is collecting contract proposals to be awarded in June for the first-ever countywide bike-sharing system that allows users to pull a bike from a rack, ride it to work or a transit stop and drop it off at a different strategically placed docking station.
Metro will pay one-half the capital cost and 35 percent of the operation and maintenance to add bike sharing to its expanding menu of alternative transportation modes, a practice already established in many cities, including New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
The pilot program will create 65 to 80 downtown L.A. bike stations primarily between the 101 and 10 freeways east of Figueroa Avenue. Phase 2 adds 35 bike stations in Pasadena roughly along the Metro Gold Line route, south of the 210 Freeway and east of the 710 spur.
Metro plans to roll out the program in March 2016 in L.A. and in Pasadena in summer 2017, said Laura Cornejo, Metro’s deputy executive officer of countywide planning and development.
Funding comes from a $3.8 million Express Lanes program grant. Metro charges solo commuters to ride carpool lanes on portions of the 110 and 10 freeways. Metro will shoulder about $500,000 a year in operations costs for the downtown L.A. program, according to a report discussed at Metro committee hearings last week .
“We are closer than we ever have been to bringing bike sharing to L.A. County. That is quite an achievement, with as geographically dispersed as our county is,” said Dave Sotero, Metro spokesman.
Access to a bicycle via a smartphone or website can help a rider reach a bus stop or train station, or arrive at his or her destination, something planners call the first/last mile of a trip. Not having a convenient and safe way to complete the trip discourages commuters from using mass transit and keeping cars in their garage.
“It is another way of increasing capacity on our system,” Sotero said.
The program also may be a way of increasing Metro’s budget, which is headed toward deficit status in the next year and a half, according to CEO Art Leahy. The report estimates Metro’s bike-share system in L.A. and Pasadena could generate $1.12 million a year.
If successful, Metro plans on expanding into Venice, Marina Del Rey, Hollywood, Silverlake/Echo Park, West Hollywood, East Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Koreatown, Huntington Park and the USC area.
The cities of Long Beach and Santa Monica are pursuing their own programs. Long Beach is going out to bid in the next six weeks for a bike-share program in its downtown with 50 stations and 500 bicycles, said Nathan Baird, the city’s mobility officer. It is being funded by a $2.2 million federal grant.
Bicycle groups are supportive of Metro’s plans and say L.A. is way behind other cities. Bike sharing originated in Europe and began multiplying after Paris began its program in July 2007. Last year, China added 70 bike-share programs.
“Metro is doing good planning but the devil’s in the details,” said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
One idea is to incorporate any fees for bike sharing onto the existing TAP card system. A rider of a Metro bus or train swipes a loaded card at a turnstile or fare box and $1.75 per ride is deducted. Since transfers are free, a bike rental would be tantamount to a transfer, Bruins said.
While the LACBC sees Metro as a good candidate to wrap together various bike-sharing programs under one system — something previous bike share attempts have not been able to do — the group is concerned about the cost edging out the poor who make up a majority of transit riders.
“I want to make sure any system will include lower-income communities, that they (Metro) adopt a fare system that is fair,” Bruins said.
The Bay Area Bike Share costs $29.95 for a 30-day trial; a mid-level member pays $88 a year and a “Frontrunner” member pays $103. Premium members can share memberships with other users, such as friends or family members. Generally, there’s no extra cost per ride unless the rider goes over the allotted distance or rental time. Capital Bikeshare in D.C. charges $75 a year.
Bruins wants Metro memberships offered at reduced rates for low-income bike sharers, just like bus and train passes are sold at reduced rates for seniors and students. Low-income users of Metro Express Lanes pay less up-front costs.
Some doctors in the Bay Area are prescribing bike share as exercise to battle obesity, lower blood pressure and treat diabetes, he said. “So that way it is free,” he said.
Bicycle ridership grew by 7.5 percent in L.A. County between 2011 and 2014, according to the LACBC. The group credits the addition of 200 miles of bikeways in Los Angeles since the launch of the city’s 2010 Bicycle Plan.
Between 2000 and 2009, bicycling as transportation increased by 75 percent, according to the 2012 Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Transportation Plan. On Metro’s rail system, riders with bikes equal 8,560 a day, a 42 percent increase from the 2012 fiscal year.
By offering rental bikes clustered around rail stations, a passenger could bike share and drop off the bike for someone else to use, instead of carrying his or her own bike up and down steep escalators or steps and onto trains, Sotero said.
“People who take bikes on trains might not feel the need to do so,” he said.