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.

  • timsmith

    Be still my heart. (Tell me your not playing a belated April Fools’ joke on us, Aaron.)

    That said, 2017 is still far out. Can we look forward to any expansion this year?

  • timsmith


  • Prinzrob

    The press release says the first wave of expansion should start in 2016. Berkeley and Oakland already have people hired to work on this specifically over the coming year.

  • Prinzrob

    The other big news is that the agreement requires Motivate to provide subsidized memberships to low income individuals (no more than $5/month), and to install at least 20% of the stations in designated Communities of Concern.

  • Yay! Bonus great news!

  • saimin

    What about other cities in the current system, like Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Redwood City?

  • Prinzrob

    The peninsula bikes are being relocated elsewhere. Perhaps once there is more of a user base throughout the rest of the Bay Area it will make more sense to bring them back.

  • murphstahoe

    Holy toledo!

  • murphstahoe

    LOL. There’s a user base in those areas, there just isn’t any way to use them.

    I did use the Mountain View system once. I had to make a beer run from Caltrain to Tied House. Since there was no dock near Tied house, I leaned the bike up against the wall outside.

    I’m fine with moving them away but let’s not pretend the system as it was down there was even marginally useful.

  • saimin

    There would be a user base if there were more stations. The current deployment of just a few stations per city really discourages people from signing up.

  • The MTC agreement also stipulates other cities can buy into the system if they wish. If Mountain View, etc want to continue participation in BABS, they’ll need to pony up the $$$.

  • Jimbo

    would be great to see even a small fraction of the 328 being used before expanding it

  • Mario Tanev

    Confused. 7000 bikes by 2017, then 150 bikes afterwards? What’s the point of even mentioning the 150?

  • shotwellian

    You seem to be misunderstanding how something like this works. The more bikes there are, in more places, the more useful it becomes and the more people use it. Lots of things are like this … the Internet is a lot more useful now than when there were only 328 websites, for example.

  • jonobate

    Looks like the 150 are part of the 7,000 total. They are mentioned separately because their location is still TBD.

  • I’m a little confused as to where the money is coming from for this. Are there advertising sponsors, or is Motivate hoping to make ends meet via the existing payment model, or something else entirely?

  • saimin

    In some other cities (like New York), bike share is paid for by corporate sponsorships and advertising as well as user fees.

  • street_user

    no expansion until 14 months from now?? Jesus…we might all be dead by then.

    This is good news though and is how bikeshare is supposed to roll-out. The BAAQMD pilot program was a shit-tard of a joke.

  • This is a game changer. I do wish they’d change the gearing on them though… it would be really nice to have a gear fast enough to allow you to keep up with the pack on market st.

  • Chris Weeks

    SAD – Bay Area Bike Share technology is OLD TECHNOLOGY. SF Bay Area planning establishment jumping on the trailing edge of technology yet again.

    Too bad MTC planners didn’t choose Social Bicycles when they had the chance. Social Bicycles cost 10 times less and have much better functionality. You can lock them anywhere with an integrated ULock, end your trip anywhere, you don’t need special racks, you can even find the bike with your smart phone and check them out with your Clipper Card. Social Bicycles bikes blow the Bay Area Bike Share program bikes out of the water, for 1/10 the price. MTC cut your losses now and switch to Social Bicycles. Re-bid the program now before its too late and save MILLION$!

  • gneiss

    The San Francisco bike share averages 2.4 trips per bike per day. That’s more than the ‘small fraction’ you seem to be implying.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Is BABS even costing us anything?

    The SoBi thing is cool, I tried it in Phoenix and it worked fine. I didn’t perceive it to be radically better than BABS/CitiBike.

  • Excellent. 4500 hundred bikes in San Francisco will likely be enough density to be effective. I have been a subscriber the past year and a half but I’ve used the bikes only twice because in order for me to use them, I first have to take Muni two miles to the nearest pod.

    In general I expect I’ll always prefer my own bike to a bikeshare bike. What I would love to use bikeshare for:
    1) going the mile between Castro and 24th and the 24th and Mission BART station. This would be very, very useful.
    2) going between Castro and 18th and those places downtown or in SOMA where I worry thieves will steal/strip my bike if I park it there.
    3) going to Caltrain if my destination at the other end had bikeshare or was close to a Caltrain station.

    I live up a big hill, but I would be happy to walk four or five blocks down to flatter parts to pick up a bikeshare bike and do the same walk on the return.

  • Prinzrob

    The Bay Area Bike Share expansion is happening with zero additional public funding, read the agreement here: In fact, some of the money previously allocated for the much smaller expansion will need to be returned.

    I haven’t used Social Bicycles, but it looks like an interesting system. However, the need to use a smart phone or computer to find out where the bikes are does create a big barrier for some. Locking them up to existing, limited bike racks, as opposed to having their own dedicated parking areas does create a potential issue as well. There are definitely a lot of pluses to this kind of decentralized system as well, but it doesn’t come across as obviously superior to me.

    It’s also not clear yet whether the new operator will be using the same technology as the existing BABS system, or implementing something new. Clipper integration is something that seems doable, and which I would definitely like to see.

  • Prinzrob

    Since Motivate is allowed to receive sponsorships via the new agreement, it seems likely they will be going that route. Any guesses on who they might try working with?

  • Prinzrob

    Well, the agreement requires 25% by June 1st of next year, but their project timeline shows the first wave of bikes being installed between January and April. Station siting is supposed to happen this summer, from June through August, so we should see the planning process ramping up very quickly.

  • SFnative74

    Motivate – if you’re reading this – paint the bikes orange! The light blue is such a passive blah color.

  • com63

    It should be cheaper. The full membership is $8.60 a month. Discounted memberships should be something like $2 a month. I think the bigger issue is how do you let someone who many not have a credit card check out an expensive bike. It only helps these systems gain legitimacy if the users are economically diverse and Motivate should really work hard on this issue.

  • saimin

    They really need cheaper daily rates for people who can’t or won’t pay for a full year at a time. For example, part-time workers may not need the bike every day (because they don’t work every day or because some of their jobs are in areas not served by bike share). Bay Area Bike Share currently charges a $9 daily rate which may be OK for tourists who are using the bike all day, but is really silly for commuters who are only using it for a few minutes a couple of times a day. How about a 50 cent per ride rate for people transferring from other transit systems (via Clipper).

  • murphstahoe

    I just wish they’d get employers to sponsor bikes and docks at their places of employment. Of course, this is more useful in the South Bay, which has collapsed because this wasn’t done in the first place.

  • murphstahoe

    Clipper integration would cost $$$$$ – ask Richard Mylnarik. I mean, it’s actually pretty simple, but that’s not relevant in the US these days.

    I fund my clipper card with pre-tax transit dollars. Those dollars can’t be used for bike share. Clipper would need to have a separate wallet solely for bike share. This already exists for BART, but the bike share specific wallet would have to be fundable only from sources that aren’t pre-tax dollars.

    So Cubic would ask for a couple million bucks to write the 400 lines of code. Then the MTC would screw up the specification and need to pay a $200,000 change order to get it working.

  • p_chazz

    Said the Social Bicycyles sales rep.

  • Chris Weeks

    Not quite, I actually purchased 100 social bikes for a new bike share program at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon. Got 100 bikes for the price of 16 Bay Area Bike Share program bikes.

  • Chris Weeks

    On our system we just use the Clipper NFC to transmit the serial number off the Clipper as an ID to check out the bike with a secure password and link it to our internal billing system. It cost about $1000 in programming time.

  • Chris Weeks

    So why not spend 10X less to get the same or better experience?

  • AnoNYC

    How do Social Bicycles end up not clustering in certain areas? Or ending up way outside the prescribed coverage area?

  • Tyson White

    For just a few million bucks they can paint them whatever color you like, and even put your name on them.

  • murphstahoe

    Did you clear this with the MTC??? 🙂

  • Chris Weeks

    Yep, does not access any of the encrypted areas of the card.

  • Prinzrob

    Well, the full membership cost is very likely going to go up as part of the expansion, since it is now being run as a far-profit enterprise with much smaller subsidies, which makes the low-income membership cost all the more important.

    This is all indicated in the MTC report, but it looks like the low-income memberships will be approved based on an existing PG&E designation which provides discounted rates for people who earn up to 2 times the federal poverty level. Over 1.4 million people are already enrolled in this program.

    My hope is that Motivate and PG&E will coordinate so anyone enrolled in the utility program will automatically be qualified for the bike share discount. Perhaps they could also partner on payment options as well, for users without credit cards or bank accounts.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What number is zero divided by ten?

  • Guest

    The BRiteBikes at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon has Clipper Card integration already.

  • Guest

    The BRiteBikes system at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon has Clipper Card integration already.

  • rickbynight

    I definitely hope this pans out, but 2017 is still quite a ways out, even if they start rolling out a bunch in 2016.

    Keep in mind, San Francisco was “moving to catch up with European bike-share programs” in 2007. 10 years later, we may finally be close to catching up?

  • I expect that the technology will be upgraded. When this started out as Bixi, the technology was written by a company named 8D. The code then went to an outfit called PBSC who hired consultants to hack on it for Chattanooga and NYC. 8D sued, Bixi went bankrupt, Alta Bike Share took over, PBSC went bankrupt, and meanwhile 8D still had a good codebase.

    Motivate has taken over from Alta Bike Share and last weekend they upgraded NYC’s system with updated software from 8D. I imagine BABS will be similarly upgraded.

  • rickbynight

    This seems exceedingly easily hackable…

  • rickbynight

    I hope it doesn’t go up much… The Paris system (which will still be almost 3x as dense as this 2017 rollout) costs 19€/year for kids or 29€/year for adults. That’s how you get ridership: make it accessible to people who wouldn’t normally bike or think to use it. When they launched the system with 10,000 bikes, it was 8€/year. Everybody joined because—why not?

  • SFnative74

    We don’t know how dense SF’s system will be as we don’t know the extent of the service area yet. I’d be surprised if we get bike share stations in the Sunset or Excelsior, but we’ll see!

  • Prinzrob

    I don’t see why not. 4500 bikes in pods of about 15 each would mean 300 stations around the city. SF is 48 sq mi of land area which would mean 6-7 stations per sq mi all over the city, but probably more like 9-10 once the unusable areas like hills, lakes, and undeveloped land are figured in.

  • ranzchic

    Social Bicycle is not proven in such high densities. I imagine the labor costs associated with rebalancing will skyrocket as they have to individually located and unlock the bikes.


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