On April 9th, The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Programming and Allocations Commission unanimously approved funding for the continuation and expansion of the Bay Area Bike share program. Last Thursday April 23rd, this was finalized with approval from the full MTC board. The Bay Area Bike Share program will expand to the East Bay sometime in 2015 with the approval of $8.7 million in funding. Plans for an earlier expansion have been hampered by uncertainty with the financial health of the bike model’s manufacturer. The program had a successful pilot program in SF and to a lesser extent in the Peninsula with public demand for the bikes meeting or exceeding initial expectations. The programs ultimate goal is to close the transit gap by providing commuters a way of completing “the last mile” of their destination. There are still significant challenges for the program to overcome and financial support from a private sector may be necessary for its long-term success.
Bay Area Bike Share allows annual members to check out bicycles for free for up to 30 minutes at a time (with a fee schedule incurred thereafter) and return them to various stations throughout the city. The SF program started in August of last year after already operating throughout the peninsula and South Bay. About 750 bikes would be added to as-yet undetermined locations in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. The cities of Oakland & Berkeley have been lobbying hard for their inclusion in the program and it appears they will be receiving the lions share of the allocated bikes. Specific locations for the bikes remain unclear and will be decided in the coming months, likely locations would be office complexes, BART stations, college campuses and our Amtrak station. It’s clear Emeryville needs to take action to reduce the amount of car-trips taken into our city and this may provide a slight relief.
It’s been recommended by MTC that a regional study be conducted to determine the ultimate costs of running these stations, after the Capital and initial 3 years Operations & Maintenance, which is covered by MTC, runs out. Complicating the matter is the recent bankruptcy of the Montreal-based Bike manufacturer, Public Bike System Company, also known as Bixi. The company has since been sold but manufacturing has yet to resume. MTC has expressed confidence that the long-term business model of bike-sharing is viable.
There may be some sort of public process to determine what areas will ultimately get bike-share stations. Arguably, Emeryville would benefit from more pods than our neighbors because of our lack of a BART station and a 4:1 daytime workforce population ratio (An estimated 40,000 daytime population despite only 10,000 actual residents). Other ideas I’ve discussed with neighbors besides Amtrak that may benefit our city would be the Bay Bridge trail staging area in front of IKEA that seems to be getting a healthy dose of recreational use (and should get a boost when it connects with Treasure Island in 2015). Perhaps having something within Bay Street may encourage more folks to forgo their cars in lieu of using the program. What other areas in our city do you think would benefit most from having a bike share station?
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