Photo by Maurice Prokaziuk
M60 Bike ShareBIXIs lined up in the Old Port of Montreal, QC.
If all goes as planned, 2013 could be a banner year for bike share in North America. But before we see nearly 20,000 new shared bikes on North American streets, the final piece of the bike share puzzle needs to be solved: funding.
While city officials and politicians are showing ever-increasing support for bike share systems, many are reluctant to promise adequate funds to build the required infrastructure and provide ongoing maintenance. This reluctance to invest in public bike share infrastructure has resulted in funding solutions that combine both public and private resources.
In Milwaukee, WI, planners are deciding where to locate bike share kiosks while Midwest BikeShare Inc., a nonprofit corporation working to bring bike share to Wisconsin communities, works on fundraising. By late January 2013, Midwest BikeShare Inc. had received $500,000 in committed funds through grants and other sources – roughly one-third of what is needed to launch a system with 250 bicycles and 25 stations by the summer of 2013.
In Chicago, IL, where a 4,000-bike, 400-station system is expected to launch this spring, initial funding was awarded through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, federal grant. Sponsorships and user fees are expected to provide ongoing revenue for the system once it’s in place.
Through a combination of public and private funds, Houston, TX’s three-station pilot program will jump from 18 bicycles and three stations to 200 bicycles and 24 stations. Houston B-cycle’s expansion is being funded with a $750,000 commitment from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas as well as US Department of Energy’s ARRA stimulus funds.
In California another funding model will be put to the test this year. Two bike share vendors, Bike Nation and DecoBike, are working with cities to launch systems that are privately owned and funded.
For the April launch of Los Angeles, CA’s public bike share system, Bike Nation, a sister company of Media Nation Enterprises, LLC, that provides outdoor media programs and has ties to major corporations such as AEG and Verizon, plans to use private sponsorship to operate the $16 million project. The system is planned to reach 4,000 bikes and 400 stations.
In San Diego, CA, DecoBike, who will manufacture, own, and operate the bike share system, is expected to bring 1,800 bikes and 180 stations to popular destinations across the city by the end of 2013. Originating as a public-private partnership, the system is expected to run without public funds by offering corporate sponsorships and advertising opportunities.
Bike share is an efficient and cost-effective way for cities to ease overburdened public transit and congested roads. Since bike share is a relatively new concept in North America, there is still uncertainty about how to create sustainable funding. While it is easy to focus on the upfront costs of bike share systems, it is also important to consider the more difficult to measure social and health benefits that can be a result of a more active population.
New York Bike Share Fleet Halved
New York, NY’s Citi Bike system has been pushed back throughout 2012 – the most recent delay was caused by flooding at a storage facility during Hurricane Sandy. Initially set to launch with 10,000 bikes, Citi Bike will start this May with 5,500 bikes spread throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn at 293 stations. As repairs are made to the inventory damaged during the storm, the system is expected to add another 1,500 bikes by the end of 2013. Citi’s $41 million sponsorship remains unaffected by the delays.