Metro Planning Committee Approves Bike-Share Contract

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms
Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego. Metro is in the process of approving Philadelphia’s vendor, Bicycle Transit Systems, to run its bike-share system starting in DTLA in 2016. Image via Streetfilms

As expected, at yesterday’s meeting the Metro Planning and Programming Committee approved the contract for the first phase of Metro bike-share. The final approval is now expected at next Thursday’s meeting of the full Metro board of directors.

The initial phase of Metro bike-share will be located in downtown Los Angeles, extending from Union Station to USC. There will be 1,000+ bicycles at 60+ docking stations. The system is expected to open in early 2016. Once established, the system is expected to expand to Pasadena, other parts of central Los Angeles, and additional areas. See details at this earlier SBLA article.

The vendor selected is Bicycle Transit Systems, which implemented and operates Philadelphia’s Indego bike-share system.

Metro bike-share will likely be the largest, but when it opens for business in early 2016, it will be the third bike-share system in L.A. County, after the systems already being implemented in the cities of Santa Monica and Long Beach. Both Santa Monica and Long Beach use a different operator, CycleHop, than the one being approved by Metro. At yesterday’s Metro meeting, the city of Santa Monica’s Strategic and Transportation Planning Manager Francie Stefan testified that multiple uncoordinated systems could “chill” the spread of bike-share throughout the region.

Both State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (AD-50), whose district includes Santa Monica and other Westside cities, and Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown submitted letters (PDF, PDF) to Metro advocating for Metro to prioritize interoperability between systems. 

“The common thread that ties together virtually all bikeshare systems is full interoperability from station-to-station regardless of jurisdictional boundaries: a seamless customer services,” wrote Bloom, who has been an advocate for regional bike-share since he served on the Santa Monica City Council. “That concept was built into the Santa Monica RFP [Request for Proposal] process by including input from multiple jurisdictions, including all members of the Westside Council of Governments (Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Culver City, and Los Angeles), L.A. Metro, County of Los Angeles and bicycle advocates.”

Bloom also noted that Santa Monica, whose pilot bike-share program will launch sometime this summer, took the lead on bike-share for the region because it was the only city that had, at the time, secured funding, a $2 million grant. The city received an extension on the grant in 2013, but stood to lose the money if it didn’t move forward with bike-share. Santa Monica’s full system is expected to roll out in November with 500 bikes.

“It was in this context that Metro issued its RFP,” Bloom wrote. “It is my understanding that Metro’s RFP did not consider interoperability as a key criteria. As a result, it appears none of the three finalists match the technology that Santa Monica has adopted. Moreover, Long Beach has also adopted Santa Monica’s vendor and Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and UCLA are poised to do the same.”

At yesterday’s hearing, City of Pasadena Transportation Department (PDOT) administrator Mark Yamarone and L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds both testified in favor of the Metro bike-share system as planned. Reynolds spoke on her experience in implementing Bay Area Regional Bike Share in San Francisco, connected with other Bay Area cities.

Metro boardmembers, including L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Lakewood City Councilmember Diane DuBois all expressed concerns over future inter-operability between multiple systems, but ultimately this concern was outweighed by the utility of getting bikes on the ground. The committee unanimously approved moving forward now with the downtown L.A. pilot, and later reporting back with plans on how and when multiple systems can be linked.

Angelenos may need use a valid credit card as the interoperability when these systems are initially implemented.

  • brianmojo

    I still can’t believe we’re building systems that don’t work together. Does LA ever, ever learn?

  • Joe Linton

    I am shocked that my Vons card doesn’t work at Ralphs, too. But I have found that they both take my one credit card.

    L.A. County is a big place, I think having two or three or five bike share systems will be great – and way better than just none.

  • Chris Wienberg

    I’m really shocked at how staunchly you’ve been defending this mess. Following your metaphor, payment may be worked out (though, in all honesty, it took us years to work out common fare media for the various bus companies here, and we’re still nowhere near a seamless fare *structure*, so I don’t think even that’s a sure bet), but it’s going to be a major pain in the neck once our disparate bikeshare systems are adjacent to each other. “Oh, you want to go from Venice to Santa Monica. Remember to stop at one of the shared bike share kiosks along Main Street to swap your bike and pay again.”

  • M

    That really depends on some details though… will there be a membership fee per a system or will one membership fee cover all systems? If it ends up being a membership fee per a system, that’s going to change things greatly. At that point it doesn’t matter if you can use a credit card in every system… if you buy a week pass for the LA System and then visit Long Beach and find out you need another pass, you’re going to get some confused/frustrated people. I don’t think people will want to pay another weekly membership fee just for the LB one after already doing so for the LA one.

  • Los Angeles Bikes

    I’ve been really surprised by Joe in all these bikeshare posts too. (and now he’s so snarky!)

    If we want to roll with the supermarket metaphor, I see it as being more akin to needing distinct Ralph’s cards for every department in the store. i.e.: “I tried to buy salami with my Ralph’s card, but I couldn’t because I only have the Ralph’s produce card, which doesn’t work in the deli section.”

    And nobody is trying to suggest that ZERO bike share programs would somehow be superior to having the two/three/four….or eighty-eight different bike share programs that we seem to be working towards having in the county, but having an integrated system is such a no-brainer that people are rightfully stunned that it’s not going to happen.

    I’ve said this elsewhere, but the whole situation reminds me of Austin Powers when he runs over the bad guy’s minion with the steamroller. The steamroller is a mile away, and it’s coming at .25 mph, and yet it’s like we’re not even trying to get out of its way. We’re just watching it as it runs us over.

  • Joe Linton

    Well, here’s a long explanation that tries to not be too snarky:

    1. Bike share systems are all basically start-ups. They very often have delays in getting bikes on the ground. Companies have gone bankrupt; whole systems could. To put all our eggs in one basket – ie: try to launch countywide for L.A. County – I expect would be risky – and would likely result in more delays.

    2. Different technology or different pricing could end up being important. I like that the two systems approved so far are smart-dock and smart-bike. If docks prove obsolete in 2 years, we would have a local alternative to fall back on.

    3. Having a couple of competing companies could serve to foster a healthy competition, driving prices down, making companies more responsive to customer pressure.

    4. The dynamic that developed between SM and Metro has been unhelpful. First Metro tried to push SM into delaying their system. Now SM is trying to push Metro to delay their system. Neither of these is helpful to getting bikes on the ground. I suggested that SM not wait for Metro at the time. And I think Metro should not wait for SM-interoperability right now. I am for getting bikes on the ground as soon as possible. I think bikes on the ground will show where these systems work. I fear that Bloom/McKeown/SM’s current push could result in Metro boardmembers delaying Metro’s system. Then Metro retaliates and we’re left with scorched earth. Two systems will be way better than none.

    5. I think that the Santa Monica system should be expanded into contiguous walkable parts of Venice, as soon as possible. I understand that SM, Mike Bonin, and LADOT are at least verbally ok with this. This can happen relatively quickly.

    6. Bike-share systems work best across a continuous “blob” – see explanation here: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/02/18/the-common-mistake-that-undermines-american-bike-share-systems/ It makes most sense to gradually grow that “blob” service are contiguously… not to jump from DTLA to Venice (or Pasadena, frankly.) Each of the blobs should serve basic walk-sheds – pedestrian-friendly downtown-ish areas. Given this, it just doesn’t make sense to me that the downtown L.A. blob will reach Venice (or the SM blob will reach DTLA) in the next 4-6 years. I hope I am wrong (maybe Measure R2 puts hundreds of millions of dollars into bike-share every year.)

    7. In the best case scenario where Venice and Santa Monica have two awesome active thriving bike-share systems – how can they be interoperable? There are a bunch of good scenarios:

    – put lots of docks from both systems throughout both Venice and Santa Monica

    – put co-located stations all along the border, switch bikes in that area

    – have Metro spend some money to inter-connect the two systems – there’s no incompatibility here that a few million Metro dollars couldn’t solve.

  • Joe Linton

    There will be, in the foreseeable future, a separate membership fee for each system. If you live in Long Beach, and you go to Santa Monica once a month, it’s easy enough to buy a day-pass on the days you’re actually in Santa Monica.

  • Joe Linton

    I don’t think that seamless fare analogy is very applicable. Is the lack of seamless fare systems really an impediment to using transit across the multiple transit operators in L.A. County? It is better/easier to have everyone on TAP, but riders have used inter-agency transfers for, what, 50+ years? Has TAP compatibility increased ridership?

  • Salts

    Imagine if the CVS in Santa Monica required you to get a new membership because you only have a CVS membership card from a location in Los Angeles. And you would need a different one if you’re in Long Beach, should you ever go there.

  • brianmojo

    Exactly.

  • Qrys

    This is a pretty good argument, especially point #2 about technology normalization. I think #3 is unprovable, however, since each system is “balkanized” by areas of operation – they will never directly compete. It may be beneficial to Metro to negotiate a nominal “transfer fee” to get people from one system to another without incurring another full-fare.

  • M

    Are reduced price/hassle-free transfers between the bike share systems part of the plan?

    And I can assure you that the disjointed public transportation systems in LA do:
    1)make people think the public transportation system in LA doesn’t go as many places as it does
    2)adds barriers to understanding/transfers (even today I see so many people repeatedly angerily slap their TAP card onto the card reader on the LADOT buses and then get pissed off when they find out their card doesn’t have the right type of pass/stored value to ride a non-metro bus)
    3)affect the decisions of those that are more price sensitive.

  • Joe Linton

    For the NYC Citibike system, there is no “full-fare” – it’s a membership system, you join for a period of time (a day, week, month or year) then all the rides under a certain time limit (30 minutes) are effectively zero fare. My opinion is that (for the forseeable future – like 10 years) it will be better for DTLA, SM, LB systems to each focus resources on expanding their contiguous service areas, rather than expend resources on interoperability.