MTC Grant Will Fund Expanded Regional Bike Share Program

Paris bike sharing program Velib. Flicr photo: Gilles
Paris bike sharing program Velib. Flicr photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/gillescouteau/3687830264/##Gilles Couteau##

Getting to work or school in the Bay Area by shared bicycle could be a reality soon, as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area’s regional transportation planning body, awarded more than $4 million to a regional bike share program as part of $33 million for a host of innovative projects around the Bay Area meant to reduce driving and curb emissions.

The MTC has made a small but significant first step in addressing the greenhouse gas reduction targets mandated under SB375 and AB32. MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger acknowledged the connection between funding innovative pilots and the 15 percent per capita greenhouse gas reduction target adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the Bay Area by 2035.

In his routine report to commissioners, Heminger said the MTC was the last of the four major municipal planning organizations to adopt the SB375 Sustainable Communities Strategies targets, so they had “the luxury of learning from everyone else’s mistakes.” Still, he argued, “we are off to the races.”

Today’s $33 million in Climate Initiatives Program grants go to projects that were ranked based on cost and benefit analysis, as well as potential for innovation. The regional bike share program piggybacks off the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) bike share pilot, which has been in development for more than a year. VTA secured a $500,000 grant from Regional Measure 2’s Safe Routes to Transit program to fund design and capital costs for an initial deployment of approximately 100 bikes. VTA had convened a working group and a feasibility study and had enlisted the support of private sector employers, such as Google, Apple, Adobe and Cisco.

“VTA is committed to smart, sustainable strategies that invest in the urban cores and transit corridors that promote walking, bicycling and transit,” said VTA Board Chair and San Jose City Council M ember Sam Liccardo.  “The pilot bike-share program will make the commute for Santa Clara County residents greener and more affordable.”

With the $4.29 million MTC grant announced today, the program will increase to approximately 1,000 bicycles at up to 100 kiosk stations, including nearly 500 bikes at 50 kiosks in San Francisco and the remaining 500 at Caltrain stations in Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose. The VTA will coordinate with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), SamTrans, San Mateo County and Redwood City. The total project cost is approximately $7 million with $1.4 million in funding provided by the BAAQMD and $1.3 million in funding from the other partners.

“Bike sharing that works regionally as well as in San Francisco will provide greater connectivity and make the system more useful,” said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. “As bicycling increases in San Francisco and the Bay Area, key projects like this will encourage others to add bicycling to their travel solutions.”

In the Bay Area, the transportation sector accounts for more than 50 percent of air pollution. While smaller bike share programs in the United States have failed to transform their host cities like Paris’ Velib or Barcelona’s Bicing programs, U.S. cities have been jumping at the opportunity to add publicly accessible bicycles to their transit profile.

“The SFMTA is proud to work with its regional partners on this important effort to increase bicycling,” said SFMTA CEO Nat Ford. “Services like bike sharing will strengthen San Francisco’s and the region’s sustainable transportation network.”

Because the program is now regional, VTA’s initial timeline to implement bike sharing in 2010 has been pushed back significantly. According to VTA spokesperson Brandi Childress, the program would likely not go online until early to mid 2012. Despite this, said Childress, the VTA and its partners believe they can address the last-mile problem with bicycles, thus eliminating the situation where core transit lines are often just far enough from people’s homes that driving appears to be a more convenient option, even for those seeking to minimize their environmental footprint.

“Innovative programs like bike-sharing solve the problem for those people who want to take transit but can’t quite make that last mile or so of the transit trip work for them,” said Childress. “That connection and confidence needs to be there to make public transportation more competitive to the automobile.”

  • I love bike sharing, but doesn’t it seem like there needs to be safe places to ride the bikes first to get where you’re taking them? Just seems like that should be a priority first, but I guess these systems are less politically difficult to implement first.

  • Michael Smith

    While I really like the idea of bike sharing and it does work in other cities, this just isn’t the time to implementing it San Francisco. When people in SF are asked why they don’t bike they rarely respond that is because of a lack of a bicycle. The perception of the lack of safety when riding a bike is always the key issue. So providing more access to bicycles is not going to make a difference. This kind of money should be spend on separated bikeways, bike lanes, and traffic calming.

    My unfortunate prediction is that it will mostly be used by tourists, taking away from the bicycle rental business, and won’t have much support by locals since they won’t use it. The program will die a slow painful death and then the politicians will be able to say “we tried bike sharing and it failed so we never have to try it again”.

    Let’s hope I’m wrong.

  • Though I definitely agree that San Francisco should build out its bicycle infrastructure as quickly as possible, I think people from the Peninsula might make very good use of bikes available at Caltrain and bike rentals pods in the surrounding area. It would be an easy ride from the Caltrain station to MOMA, the financial district, the ferry building, AT&T park or the Westfield Mall, for example. Though a little further out, the Civic Center and the Asian Art Museum are only a 2 mile/10 minute bike ride from Caltrain. It would even be a pleasant weekend jaunt to ride all the way to Pier 39 or North Beach (taking the Embarcadero to circumvent Telegraph Hill.)

    A couple weeks ago I went to hear the Dalai Lama speak at Stanford. For the very first time, I took my bike on the train, and then rode it on the Stanford campus when I got to Palo Alto. Though it was great to have my bicycle with me (the Stanford campus is a dream to ride around after challenges of San Francisco) carting my bike up and down steep stairs to board and depart the train wasn’t all that easy for me physically, not to mention that when we got back to the city, the conductor made all the bicyclists wait to disembark until everyone else was off the train.

    My ideal trip would have been to park my bike at the secure bike parking at the SF train station, taken the train, and then rented a bikeshare bike at the Palo Alto train station. If encouraged, I think the combination of train and rental bikes could really catch on. In Paris, the locals use the rental bikes more than the tourists, which doesn’t surprise me. For short distances, bikes are fast, easy and fun.

    For long distances, I would prefer to have my own, properly sized and cared for bike. But for short distances, as long as it worked, a bike doesn’t have to be perfect.

  • icarus12

    $500,000 grant starts with 100 bicycles. That’s $5,000 per bike. An expensive study. Why not just start with things trial and error? Seems cheaper and whole lot less precious.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Update on the Regional Transportation Plan

|
From SPUR: Every four years, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) updates the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan, a $200 billion and 25-year investment plan for the region’s transportation infrastructure. The next plan will be the first to incorporate a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” and will demonstrate how the Bay Area will achieve 15 percent per capita […]

It’s Coming: MTC Approves 10-Fold Expansion of Bay Area Bike Share

|
On Wednesday morning the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) approved contract terms with Motivate International to expand the Bay Area Bike Share system from 700 bikes to more than 7,000 bikes by November 2017. When the expansion wraps up, the Bay Area’s system is expected to be the second-largest in North America, after Citi Bike in New York City. In addition […]

MTC Adopts Aggressive 15 Percent Target for Reducing Emissions by 2035

|
Photo: Keenahn The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), in a historic vote Wednesday that will help guide the future for more sustainable land use and transportation planning in the Bay Area, recommended a 15 percent per capita target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2035, the most aggressive goal to date among California’s metropolitan planning […]

Advocates Say MTC Proposal Short-Changes Regional Bike Network

|
Photo: Michael Patrick Bicycle advocates are upset that the first draft of a spending plan to come out of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency’s (MTC) 25-year Change in Motion regional transportation blueprint falls far short on proposed funding for the regional bicycle network. They say the MTC is failing to demonstrate a commitment to bicycles. According […]

Bay Area Transportation Commission Starts Climate Sustainability Fund

|
Transportation advocates were thrilled last week when the nine-county Bay Area regional transportation planning and funding body, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), established a fluid pot of money for innovative transportation projects, from Safe Routes to School programs and bicycle educational campaigns, to parking policies and demand management strategies meant to reduce the over-reliance on […]

Plan Bay Area Public Workshop – Marin County

|
From MTC: By 2035 there will be an estimated 1.2 million new jobs and 900,000 new households within the Bay Area. Where will all of these people live? Where will the new housing be built? How will people get around? Will the air we breathe and the water we drink be clean? Will we still […]