The Bay Area Bike Share made its debut Thursday in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Jose and San Francisco. The pilot program is intended to provide Bay Area residents and visitors with an additional transportation option for getting around the region.
The bike sharing system will start out with 700 bikes and 70 stations across the region, said Karen Schkolnick, district grants program manager for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
“By early 2014 we will have a total of 1,000 bikes and 100 stations,” Schkolnick said.
Public Bike System Company provides the bike sharing system with specially designed heavy-duty bikes that are locked into a network of docking stations throughout the region. Although durable bikes, they are not conducive to long recreational trips. Jessica Manzi, Redwood City senior transportation coordinator, said the bikes are meant for short-term rental.
“This program isn’t meant to compete with bike rental companies for recreational rides,” said Manzi. The purpose of the program is for members to run errands or commute to work while avoiding the use of a vehicle. To ensure short trips, bike use is free for 30 minutes or less, while overtime fees can pile up to $150 per day. The idea is to get a bike, run an errand and return it to a BikeShare Stations.
“It is like car sharing except you can return it to any of the stations,” said Manzi. “You don’t have to return it to the spot from where you picked it up from.”
There are three membership passes which are the one day, three day and annual pass. Annual members will receive a special key in the mail. You can use your Annual Member key or enter your Ride Code (for 24-Hour and Three-Day Members) to unlock a bicycle from any station, said Manzi.
Although the BikeShare program is in its infancy in the Bay Area, the program has been in effect in cities such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York.
“Three years ago, several Bay Area communities started looking at potential bike share systems within their community,” said Schkolnick.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District became very interested after it was piloted in Washington, D.C., using fewer than 400 bikes.
“We along with a number of agencies applied for some capital funding from MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission),” said Schkolnick.
The MTC had $30 million available for projects that would reduce greenhouse gas from cars and trucks with innovative strategies easily replicable in other Bay Area communities. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District along with several Bay Area cities found out they were applying for the same funding. The MTC suggested they all work together by submitting a joint application.
“We were the lead applicant, so we sent our application on behalf of all of our partners,” said Schkolnick.
Starting from now until early next year, the district will learn what the needs for the system are and how it can learn and save the program for a more robust system. All issues will be reviewed by the district management with the intention of expanding the program.
Bike sharing programs have received great testimonials from other cities such as Arlington, Texas, Schkolnick said.
Studies by the Arlington Transit Agency showed that not only ridership numbers were high, but that the system was consistently safe.
Redwood City bike share program
Redwood City is one of the five Bay Area cities taking part in BikeShare program.
San Mateo County was looking at a number of strategies called last mile program, said Manzi. The last mile often refers to the distance between a transit stop and the ultimate destination.
They are linking people who take transit to work with other transportation options when they are at work during the day. The idea is for the county to target a program that the city and county employs as a way to pilot these different strategies to ensure the most success. That is how Redwood City got looped into the regional program of Bay Area BikeShare, said Manzi.
“The program will reduce congestion on streets in downtown and improve economic development supporting all the businesses in downtown,” said Manzi. “Not only will it help the environment, but it will get people more active.”