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

San Jose city officials test riding Bay Area Bike Share at the system’s launch in August 2013. Photo: Richard Masoner

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 to massively expanding the bike-share networks in SF and San Jose, the plan will bring bike-share to the East Bay for the first time, with stations in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville.

San Francisco will receive the lion’s share of new bikes: 4,500. San Jose will get 1,000 bikes, and 1,400 bikes will go to the East Bay cities.

The mid-Peninsula cities of Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Redwood City, which had appeared to be in jeopardy of losing their small allocation of stations set up under the initial Bay Area Bike Share pilot program, will together end up with 300 bikes if they all choose to remain part of the system under less favorable contract terms.

“This is incredibly exciting, that we’re going to extend to the East Bay and expand in San Jose,” said MTC Commissioner and SF Supervisor Scott Wiener at the board meeting. “In San Francisco, going from 350 to 4,500 bikes — we’re going to have a true city-wide bike share network.”

“We hope that by tying the program with successful outreach and education programs, and continuing to build a network of safe and comfortable bikeways, we will see many more riders, and especially new riders,” said Bike East Bay Project Manager Cynthia Armour.

Motivate initially proposed a 7,000-bike system that it would construct and operate using private funds entirely. The company agreed to add 155 bikes in the three Peninsula cities if the cities opt in to the program by contributing their own funds.

In addition, MTC staff recommended allocating $4.5 million in public funds to “emerging communities” to pay for improving their bike infrastructure and making them more bike-share ready. These funds would be awarded via a competitive grant program.

MTC Bike Share Suitability Map
A map of “Bicycle Sharing Suitability” used to determine the locations for the Bay Area Bike Share expansion. Image: MTC

“What we have is the first bicycle sharing program in California, and the first regional bicycle sharing program nationally,” said Bay Area Air Quality Management District Deputy Executive Officer Damian Breen. “It creates a clear path for other areas to join through the $4.5 million [grant program].”

Cities, schools, or companies can also buy into the expanded bike-share system after 2017 for $4,000 per docking station, plus assorted maintenance fees. To encourage efficient placement of bike-share stations in such an expanded program, Motivate will discount these fees by 25, 50, and 100 percent if bike usage rates of 1.0, 1.5, and 3.0 trips per bike per day are achieved, respectively.

Cities wishing to join the bike-share system can also offset the cost of buying in by setting up local sponsorship agreements. The cities can sell the space on one side of the advertisement panel that comes with each station.

MTC Chair and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese expressed concern about whether the expanded bike-share system could be used to connect to transit in lower-density areas, such as those he represents.

“Transit-dependent folks don’t only find themselves in dense urban routes,” said Cortese. “As the San Jose BART extension comes to fruition shortly, it’s going to stop in a suburban neighborhood, not one that would fall into your typical business model as one of urban density.”

Bike-share memberships will be available for $149 per year or $15 per month, allowing unlimited trips of up to 30 minutes for free. Discount memberships for households earning less than twice the federal poverty level will be available at prices of $60 annually or $5 monthly. Nearly one-third of Oakland’s residents and one-fifth of all Bay Area residents will be eligible for the discount.

A final 10-year contract with Motivate will be drafted based on the approved contact terms, and reviewed at the next MTC Board meeting on June 24.

  • November 2017 is very sad

  • jonobate

    It has to be asked, why are they expanding bike share in San Jose? It hasn’t been any more successful there than in the Peninsula cities that are being canned, and the bike share sustainability map indicates that it’s probably not going to be successful.

  • shanand

    My guess is that San Jose contributes a fair bit to the MTC funding equation. Spread the wealth.

  • Gezellig

    Cool news, though hopefully 7k bikes “by 2017” means “and starting much earlier.”

    Anyone know where Marin is on this? All I can find is this:

    Also, this gem:

    ^ Side note: to this colorblind individual the “low” and “high” values look identical, though with my IRL familiarity with these areas I can pretty much surmise which is which.

    It’s funny when there are only 3 main variables why map designers all too often pick two colors that automatically 7% of males (and some females, too) find maddeningly difficult or impossible to distinguish.

    Designers of the world, a plea to remember your UX classes and pick red vs. blue or black vs. yellow or one of the many other pairs which practically no one confuses :p

  • shamelessly

    Peninsula cities are reportedly trying a new approach where the station locations are optimized for last-mile connectivity with Caltrain. See
    I’d love to see one of those density maps for San Jose. Perhaps they’re doing the same thing?

  • tungwaiyip

    10 fold expansion is good news. But are you saying the membership fee is also doubling to $149!!!

  • mx

    $150/year is a huge price increase compared to the current $88. With the expansion, limiting free trips to 30 minutes will be more problematic, especially as these aren’t exactly racing bikes. Some pretty reasonable trips could get close to 30 minutes if you’re not particularly fast, stop for red lights, etc…

  • tungwaiyip

    The last-mile connectivity with Caltrain use is rather problematic. Bike use comes in two waves. Morning commuters ride away from the station. Evening all bikes come back to the train station. The station will fluctuate between the extreme of all full or all empty.

  • “Sites representing 25% of the total bikes for San Jose, East Bay and San Francisco should be approved and permitted by December 30, 2015. Motivate will install these bikes by June 1, 2016.” – page 5 of the contract terms.

    25% of 7000 is 1750 bikes. So assuming this contract holds, within a year we can expect the number of docks and bikes on the street to more than triple.

    Awesome – game changer.

  • jonobate

    Sadly, I think that’s probably the reason.

  • Ziggy Tomcich

    I don’t know about you but I easily spend at least $150 a year maintaining my city bike that I rarely use for trips longer than 30 mins

  • aslevin

    In all bikeshare systems that have stations at transit hubs, there is a need to rebalance because of the rush hour one-direction peak. This is true in New York, Chicago, DC, etc, here at 4th and King in SF, and would also be true for a last mile use case in e.g. Mountain View.

  • Kid Charles

    There’s a robust biking culture in San Jose and an expansion of the system, particularly into lower-income areas where cycling is a very popular method of transportation, could do very well. Reaching out to these communities and getting folks signed up with the discounted memberships will be key. Bike lane infrastructure is growing every year in SJ as well. I agree though that expansion of the system on the Peninsula, particularly on the Caltrain and El Camino Real corridors, also needs to happen. Seems like the latest news is less dire than it was recently when the Peninsula appeared to be abandoned.

  • CBrinkman

    I think San Jose will see good usage. Flat, regional transit connection, putting in good bike infrastructure. Great last mile solution. If they put in more bikes there will be more usage.

  • gneiss

    You fail to understand how the system works. There is no limit on the number of rides you can take in a day, just a limit on how long you ride a given bicycle. So, if you need to take a trip that’s longer than 30 minutes, you chain it – riding for 20 minutes to the next bike station, and then another 20 minutes to the next one.

    But, the point of the program is not a “bike rental”. It’s to increase mobility for short trips around the city. It’s as if you now have a way to cut your walking time from 30 minutes to 5 or 10, and instead of waiting for a bus, you can now hop on a bike instead.

  • tungwaiyip

    But if they target last mile Caltrain connection, it means most bike trip in the peninsular cities will need this shuffling. Someone has to run a van to move the bike back to the station in the morning, then move it away in the evening. If you have to run a van to move bikes you could have save some trouble by moving the passenger instead. Oh we already have that, it is called Caltrain shuttles.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Judging from the map, they should have included Oakland and Berkeley in the initial launch.

  • mx

    I’ve been a member since day 1 and use the system around weekly. I get that the idea is an incentive to keep the bikes circulating and not have people using them for large blocks of the day. Chaining trips is certainly possible, but annoying.

    It’s not really a major issue with the current system, as most stations are within 30 minutes of each other already at a reasonable pace. My point was simply that with more stations spread further throughout the city, more trips will approach that 30 minute mark, especially when you’re dragging a 44 lb bike, making Bike Share a lot less hassle free if you have to keep watching the clock or get charged.

    I’d only like to see them consider raising that 30 minute limit to maybe 45 minutes like NYC given both the expansion and major price increase.

  • mrmagic

    This is great but who’s paying for the bikes/stations? If they’re going in next year, shouldn’t there be a sponsor signed on the dotted line? BTW, do existing members get a grandfathered annual discount?

  • EastBayer

    People are more finicky to move than bikes. They demand things like reliable schedules and air and relative comfort.

  • murphstahoe

    if the trip is over 30 minutes, I want my own bike. I’m pretty fit but I don’t really see too many trips within the SF catchment that will exceed 30 minutes.

  • Mountain Viewer

    In Mountain View, free shuttles are already provided and operated by the local Transportation Management Association (TMA) (see: )
    Maybe the TMA should take over the MV bike share program and decide how it can be complementary to the shuttles?

  • San Franciscia

    That map is bogus. No way Berkeley & Oakland are more suitable than much of SF. Problem is that the scale actually changes county to county, but this is not apparent on the map. Otherwise, SF would show up as all red/orange and there would be little dots of green/yellow elsewhere around the region. Also, don’t hold your breath on the rollout–the timeline is unrealistic given the lack of any kind of intergovernmental agreement, contract, environmental review, permits, etc, etc.
    Don’t get me wrong, this is freaking fantastic, but it’s a big project and will require a lot of hard work to get it done. No magic wands.

  • Prinzrob

    I also suggested raising the time limit to 45 minutes when bike share staff brought this item to the Oakland bike/ped commission several months ago. Oakland/Berkeley are more spread out than SF, and chaining trips is not a reasonable suggestion to ensure a reliable system.

    Although there will be a low-income discount membership rate I assume there will be no discounted late fees, so to ensure that the penalties do not most affect those who can least afford them and in areas with the least direct bike routes a more forgiving trip limit should be a requirement.

  • gneiss

    I apologize. Yes, raising it from 30 minutes to 45 does seem reasonable, particularly when the system is going to be more spread out than it is currently.

    My comment was based on the most often complaint that you hear from non-users who often argue that they were charged unreasonable amounts of money after using one these bikes.

  • Cameron Newland

    $149/year for unlimited trips is a great deal. Public transit passes can easily exceed $1,000/year, depending on your location.

  • Cameron Newland

    $149/year for unlimited trips is a great deal. Public transit passes can easily exceed $1,000/year, depending on where you are.

  • mx

    Thanks. Bike Share has had the problem you mention, generally with tourists (just read the Yelp reviews for the angry screeds). People see the one day membership fee, ride the bikes for four hours, and wind up with a much larger bill than they are expecting. That’s mainly an issue with communicating the pricing structure in a way people can understand. I know they’ve tried to improve the signage to help with this, but reading the latest reviews on Yelp, some people still just aren’t getting it.

    That problem isn’t a criticism of the Bike Share model, which as you say is not the same thing as bike rental, but enough people are feeling ripped off by the service that it needs to get better.

  • Andy Chow

    Moving bikes in vans can be done at a less busy time in a non-commute direction. People want to bike to.from the train because the roads are crowded and there’s no congestion on the bike lanes.

  • Jorge

    Not only is San Jose’s downtown much larger than the downtown of any of the peninsula cities, it is also not adjacent to the its Caltrain station, (unless you expand downtown to include that, then it is huge), the point is that there is enough density away from Caltrain to make bike trips make sense, more than at other stations, where the density drops off so fast that the bike stations are never more than .4 miles from each other.

    The core of downtown San Jose is about 1 mile from the Caltrain station, and there are bike stations in several areas. Simply put in peninsula cities there is not enough density far enough from Caltrain to justify bike stations that far, and when they are too close, it kind of reduces the use of one way trips. From downtown San Jose I can ride a bike for 15 minutes and get to Diridon, or Japantown, and leave the bike there. There really isn’t a destination 1 mile from downtown Palo Alto, where a bike station can be placed, Midtown?

    Stanford is not part of the bike share system, and that cripples DT PAs possible use, I would have to bike to Stanford, and back to downtown Palo Alto in 30 minutes. Eh, pass. RWC has no destinations in the 1 mile zone, MV, same, really only San Jose has that, which is probably why people use the bike share there (it also isn’t as rich as the peninsula, which may be a factor)

  • Jorge

    Interestingly Google has that issue in its own campus with what is essentially a free bike share system.

    They end up releasing bikes in waves so employees arriving later still can find bikes. but it is not perfect hence why if you really need a bike to go to another building a lot people bring their own bikes (also Google has plenty of MV commuters from Stevens Creek trail)

  • Jorge

    They also demand very few stops before theirs or a more direct route, and almost perfect synchronization with their train schedule, before they decide that driving is so much faster, why bother taking the train.

  • I suspect Motivate has them lined up. I haven’t seen it written anywhere, but I expect the bikes and docking stations to carry advertisements for the sponsors, even if it’s just their logos, much like Citi Bikes do.

  • It’s not doubling, but it is increasing 70%.

  • It falls into the “emerging communities” category, if I’m not mistaken. Andrew writes, “In addition, MTC staff recommended allocating $4.5 million in public funds to “emerging communities” to pay for improving their bike infrastructure and making them more bike-share ready. These funds would be awarded via a competitive grant program.”

    Don’t know how they came up with awkward term.

  • You also need to consider the advertising aspect. Sponsors may desire to see their products promoted on docking stations there, i.e., it’s not just bike usage.


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