Bay Area Bike Share to Expand to 7,000 Bikes By 2017

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Bay Area Bike Share will expand to a 7,000-bike system over the next two years and venture into Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. San Francisco’s system will dramatically increase to 4,500 bikes, and San Jose’s will expand to 1,000.

The mayors of all five cities announced the expansion today along with Motivate, the system’s operator (formerly known as Alta), which will enlarge the system tenfold “at no cost to taxpayers.”

Here are the details, according to a Mayor’s Office press release:

Motivate’s proposal includes bringing a total of 850 bikes to Oakland, 400 to Berkeley and 100 to Emeryville, and boosting the number of bikes in San Francisco to 4,500 from the current 328, and the number in San Jose to 1,000 from the current 129. Motivate plans to add 150 more bikes to the Bay Area Bike Share fleet after the four-phase expansion is complete in late 2017. While the locations of these bikes have not been identified, Motivate proposes to keep at least 50 of them in the East Bay.

Supervisor Scott Wiener issued a statement applauding “this proposal to dramatically expand bike share,” as he has pushed for. “A robust and sustainable bike share network is a key part of being a Transit First city and will allow us to reap the benefits of bike share, including reducing traffic, improving public transit, and stimulating the local economy,” he said.

Mayor Ed Lee issued this statement:

When we launched Bay Area Bike Share nearly two years ago, we saw a transformation in the way that residents and visitors moved around the Bay Area with an easy, convenient, affordable and healthy transportation option in our world-class transportation network. The proposed expansion of this popular bike share program will help residents and visitors move around our diverse San Francisco neighborhoods, and around the Bay Area region more easily.

This is the first wave of expansion since new management took over at Alta Bicycle Share and changed the company’s name to Motivate in January.

Motivate also operates bike-share systems in New York, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.

  • Chris Weeks

    BCycle & Bixie style systems have proven they do not work everywhere they have been deployed. Time to use modern technology. SocialBicycles have GPS and are easy to find as a result. Reducing management costs drastically. You can even tell if they have been stolen and are being driven off in a van thanks to an internal accelerometer that notifies the management team when the speed passes preset thresholds. BCycle & Bixie style bikes are just lost when not locked to a dock. When you can afford 10x more bikes for the same cost rebalancing becomes less of pressing issue. You have more time to redistribute.

  • ranzchic

    I can see Social Bicycles working in smaller systems.

    The social bikes might be 1/10 the costs but if labor cost ten times more, then all of this is moot. And you have to pay for that for the life of the system, not a one time thing.

    Good luck with your venture and keep us posted with ridership and cost figures.I’m curious to see how it compares to the traditional system. Santa Monica, CA I hear is looking at Social Bikes to implement thier system and might be part of the larger LA network being planned by LA’s Metro.

  • murphstahoe

    Then it means that if I have money on my Clipper Card, I can’t use it to pay for the bikes. Therefore it’s not integrated.

  • Chris Weeks

    They don’t need pods. Transcend the pod and the labor issues become less central. If you have enough bikes in the system the users can do much of the redistribution for you since most trips are round trips. We hope to see more partnerships such as the one you mention as a way to integrate new smart bike systems with old urban transit agency run municipal legacy smart rack/dumb bike technology. When the grants run out Social Bicycles will be there.

  • Chris Weeks

    Ok, I will try. I am trying to do this from memory so please take this with a grain of salt. You are right, its probably more prudent to estimate like 4X cheaper for a SoBi version of this large of a program. But they are not comparable programs as SoBi gathers very useful data using GPS, allows ending of trip anywhere and has a much lighter impact on the built environment. But lets assume they are comparable as you suggest.

    Bay Area Bike Share Type Bike Cost (BABS) based on BCycle quote VS SocialBicycles (SoBi)

    Conservative estimate:
    Costs for 7,000 SoBi Bikes Per Year = Bikes $10,500,000 + Labor/Maint $5,250,000 + Connectivity $1,680,000 + Racks $875,000 = $18,305,000

    Costs for 7,000 BABS Bikes = Bikes $10,500,000 + Labor & Maint ~$15,750,000 (BCycle would not quote me an exact number and does not include management or insurance. I will probably be more expensive than SoBi due to Dock and Pod maintenance not required for SOBI) + Racks/Docs $43,550,000 + Connectivity $1,925,000 = $71,725,000

    Total = BABS about 4X as expensive with no tracking, no Ulock, no flexibility, and unknown labor & maint costs due to additional major infrastructure requirements. You get none of the real time tracking data that SoBi provides with BABS. They only track check ins at Pods. I have not added the value of the street scape required for the BABS pods which is substantial in an urban setting. Personal bikes can not use the pod infrastructure to lock up either.

    How I came up with this:
    1) Racks Vs Docks
    *Cost for 4 runs of 4 bike spots BABS Dock Rack Pods for 16 bikes = $100,000 (Just for the racks & site prep)
    *Cost for Sobi 4 runs of 2 bike racks each $500 per run $2000 total.
    Compare BABS racks at almost $8000 per space to SoBi at $125 per space.
    TOTAL = BABS rack pod spots cost waaaay more (50X) than the rack required for a SoBi bike.

    2) Dumb BABC Bike VS Smart Sobi Bike = Purchase/set up
    Both bikes cost between $1,500 and $1,800 per bike
    Both bikes have similar shipping costs & assembly $1200
    =About Equal but BABS has no GPS

    3) Network/Cellular
    BABS=Cellular about $22.50 per dock spot per month
    SoBi =Cellular about $20 per bike per month
    =About Equal

    4) Software/Web license & set up
    BABC costs nearly $8000 for software and web set up for a 16 bike system
    Sobi costs only $2,000 for software and web for the same system
    = Web hosting software and setup 4X as expensive for BABS

    5) Labor & Maint costs
    BABS = Could not commit to an estimate for labor and maintenance but with additional needs to maintain Pods and docs the costs will be higher, I assume 2 to 3 times higher due to vandalism weathering)
    SoBi = ~$750 per bike per year and goes down with more bikes no pod or dock maint required

    = BABS more expensive due to Pods & Dock maint and management costs so $750 for Bike/$750 for pod and sign/$750 for dock = $2,250 per bike

  • Chris Weeks

    Never used the word “integrated.” We would be happy to “integrate” the card if MTC would allow it. We want all our employees to have a card in their pocket that works on BART, Bus & Bike. We were able to come up with a way to do that. It not “integrated,” since integration is prohibited, but its awesome to use your Clipper to grab a bike!

  • murphstahoe

    “They don’t need pods. Transcend the pod and the labor issues become less
    central. If you have enough bikes in the system the users can do much
    of the redistribution for you since most trips are round trips.”

    I disagree on this one. Sure most trips are round trips – BUT the time between each leg of that round trip is usually in the 8 hour time range.

    Transcending the pod is also problematic to me. If I go to 21st Amendment, I *know* there is a pod across the street. I *know* where the bikes will be at Caltrain. “The bikes are all located by GPS” doesn’t make me happy. First off, it pretty much shuts out anyone without a smart phone. And it shuts me off if my phone is out of charge. Then you have the moment I find a bike on GPS at some building on Market Street and I go to get the bike, but the user has brought the bike into the building.

    I prefer this problem to be solved by actual hard locations – like MUNI stops, not Uber calls.

  • Bike Share Tech Gnostic

    Not really. The card acts as a token in place of the user’s 6-digit code. There’s still a two factor authentication in place with a user’s PIN and they can change this number. It’s generally more “secure” than 8D or PBSC in terms of the operator being able to hold the person liable. That said, unlike programs with a physical key, people who write down their info can have rides taken in their name.

  • Bike Share Tech Gnostic

    Thank you for the reply. Truly interesting details.

    Why are you citing B-cycle? Last I checked, Motivate does not use B-cycle. B-cycle tends to work with Bicycle Transit Systems (former Alta team members).

    Do you have any numbers for the latest tech from Motivate?

    As for your numbers on SoBi, there seem to be some miscalculations. For instance, your $875k figure if broken across 14k docking points comes to less than $60 per docking point. Maybe the folks in Hamilton can chime in if you’re not using SoBi infrastructure at Bishop Ranch.

    If you have an actual current capital cost sheet from SoBi, it would be awesome if you could share it? Your bike estimate puts them at $1500/bike. Is that what you paid?

    No large-scale SoBi program has launched without a few kiosks. You don’t include those costs.

    The LA RFP responses are not yet available via FOIA otherwise I would cite those figures.

    On your item #3 the costs would not be equal. If still correct, SoBi is cheaper on connectivity by 1/2.

    On operations, if you hare details on your operations (parts replaced, batteries swapped, etc.) a delta estimate would be pretty easy to come up with.

    In general it seems your stance is that Motivate should have opted for SoBi. Perhaps you should address your question of “why” to them rather than to the city? If the city is getting bike share for “free” I doubt they care too much about the cost.

    Also, as Motivate makes use of the same tech across all these large cities there is likely a matter of cost savings not made public.

  • Bike Share Tech Gnostic

    Good point. When do they expect to be at 750?

  • Chris Weeks

    You are not dreaming. SoBi uses a standard bike rack with two sides $125 = 2 bikes = $62.50 per spot.

    My stance on Motivate style systems is the same one I have on BART. Stop building now. Maintain what you have then for expansions there are better, cheaper, nicer, more reliable and versatile alternatives. Sobi technology can be outfitted on any bike including Motivate. Motivate in the urban core SoBi everywhere else. Reciprocal memberships are not a problem for SoBi.

  • Kevin M

    I don’t think it will go anywhere, but if it does, Pronto in Seattle is probably a better model than Melbourne.

  • Bike Share Tech Gnostic


    I’ve used their program in Phoenix and it is absolutely a 1 rack to 1 bike set up. You are not able to attach 2 bikes to 1 rack. That may be possible in Hamilton (different rack) but the photos online also show a 1:1 ratio. So that cost really is $250/bike to get a ratio of 2 racks to 1 bike.

    Regarding approximate costs, based on recent figures from Beverly Hills (!) — hoping staff operations aren’t costing more than $100k for the first year — it seems SoBi is running closer to $4,500/bike and that’s certainly not cheap.

    Lastly, can you elaborate on how being anti-BART factors in to a bike share discussion???


  • Chris Weeks

    The way it’s set up in AZ was how the client wanted it. They asked for pods. They can use ANY bike rack. No pod needed, Period. Standard inverted U rack is fine. I repeat no pod required. If the client wants a pod they can be arranged that way.

    I do not know how being anti-BART factors in. Are you anti-BART?

  • Bike Share Tech Gnostic

    Chris… you were the one who went after BART
    “My stance on Motivate style systems is the same one I have on BART. Stop building now. Maintain what you have then for expansions there are better, cheaper, nicer, more reliable and versatile alternatives.”

    That comment indicates a lack of understanding systems thinking and integration…

  • Chris Weeks

    Not wanting to expand Motivate footprint is not anti-Motivate. Availability is key to a successful bike sharing system. Expanding availability by focusing on the existing system footprint and expanding availability within the footprint would be a better step for Motivate. More docks and bikes not new cities will take Motivate to the next level. It is the same as the concept of capacity for BART which does not have the train capacity or station size to meet the existing demand. Not wanting to expand BART but instead invest in maintaining and enhancing the existing system is not an anti-BART stance it is a pro-BART stance. A system that is rotting at the core (example is rotting wooden ties still in use throughout the system) needs to invest in the maintenance and improvement of its core to sustain itself. To me, a system can’t operate sustainably if its core crumbles while prioritizing continued investments in overreaching into the periphery that puts more stress on the core. The longer basic maintenance and upgrades are delayed the more expensive the maintenance becomes. Often this neglect leads to additional damage to and neglect of other parts of the system such as the cars that must use the failing tracks. Capacity of the existing core stations, right now, is beyond capacity as we continue to stimulate ridership from the periphery into the core that can not handle it. Fortify and enhance core BART station capacity and try to meet the demands on the existing system. Fortify and enhance Motivate infrastructure and capacity in the existing system. Use the best and most affordable new technology to open service on the periphery to add capacity and frequency quickly while maintaining and growing legacy systems rationally. As the older technology depreciates, replace it and upgrade it with new technology. A system must be cultivated, pruned and trimmed, and guided to a sustainable shape to enjoy healthful longevity.

  • Mark Rejhon

    Some good publicity occured this month (July) about SoBi Hamilton. I’m reposting a post I made in another comments board:

    Toronto old BIXI type system — 1000 bikes over 15 square kilometers, 5 years
    Hamilton new SoBi type system — 700 bikes over 45 square kilometers, 4 months

    Toronto, a rich city with rapidly improving bike infrastructure.
    Hamilton, a poorer city with bike-unfriendly roads.

    Which system has more users today?
    Surprising answer: Hamilton.

    SoBi Hamilton just launched this year. In just less than 6 months, Hamilton with over 5300 active users, out-bikeshared Toronto (with only 4000 active users) despite having operated for 5 years.

    The freedom from expensive docks allowed Hamilton to deploy 50% more docks than Toronto, and I signed up for the system only when I saw someone park an off-dock bike in front of my house. With freedom from docks, more bikes (from a smaller fleet) can be spread around, advertising themselves to a larger number of users over a larger area, accelerating signup process. Funding the the system more quickly.

    I have tried to google, but I could not find a single city running a SoBi system having financial problems with SoBi. Based on preliminary data I was able to find, the signup rate for SoBi type systems seems to be approximately 5x faster than the signup rate of a BIXI type system. I think it’s because of the ability to spread the SoBi bikes more thinly over a wider area without needing to use expensive docks. And the park-and-forget-anywhere convenience of 1-way bike trips now possible with SoBi. With more bike visiblity, more signups occur, since everybody is within walking distance of a SoBi bike, despite the area being 3x-5x bigger with the same number of bikes.

    I’m just a user. I have memberships in both BIXI and SoBi systems, and am personally impressed how much more cost-efficient SoBi is, as a local observer whose taxpayer money contributed to the creation of our local SoBi system — and thus I have a stake on wanting to see tax money spent efficiently….

    Also, rebalancing is mostly crowdsourced. You get a credit when bringing an off-dock bike back to a dock. The system is capable of being configured to reward people that bring bikes to unfavourable docks (e.g. uphill). Operating costs have sustained itself from membership costs already — no taxpayer input.


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