After Contentious Discussion, Metro Board Approves Bike-Share Contract

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms
Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share, which is operated by Bicycle Transit Systems. Today the Metro board approved its bike-share contract, bring a 1,000-bike system to DTLA in 2016.  Image via Streetfilms

This morning, the Metro Board of Directors approved its $11 million contract with Bicycle Transit Systems to install and operate a pilot downtown L.A. bike-share system. The downtown system is expected to debut in 2016 with 60+stations and 1,000+bicycles.

The road getting this far has been a bit messy. The cities of Santa Monica and Long Beach got out ahead of Metro, with Santa Monica’s 500-bike “Breeze” bike-share system opening this summer. When Metro got up to speed, it pushed new rules that isolate the Santa Monica system, and discourage its expansion into nearby jurisdictions. This triggered a rift between Westside leaders and Metro, evident in this editorial.

Today’s discussion was the longest and most contentious of any bicycle-related items ever before the Metro board, with four different directors offering amendments. A few of the amendments were relatively tame, including directing consideration of additional docking stations at Mariachi Plaza and the Expo/Vermont Station, moved by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, respectively. However,Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who was elected to the Board by government leaders in the Westside and South Bay, introduced a multi-part amendment that included delaying bike-share contract approval for five months. In addition, Butts’ motion directed Metro to meet and work closely with other cities, mainly Santa Monica and Long Beach, each of which is moving forward with separate bike-share systems.

Discussion ensued, with directors expressing concerns over multiple bike-share systems being quicksand, cannibalized, and balkanized. Electeds from in and near Santa Monica and Long Beach expressed strong concerns. County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Long Beach, portrayed Metro’s approach as “my way or the highway.”

Ultimately, L.A. Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti negotiated an amended motion accepting portions of Butts’ proposal, but not delaying contract approval. Even with the negotiated solution, Knabe continued to press to delay bike-share approval for one month to work out final language.

One sticking point is Metro’s restrictions on use of Metro Call for Projects (Call) funding. The Call is an every-other-year process where Metro distributes federal transportation monies to cities. In the past, Santa Monica received Call funding for its bike-share system. Starting with the current 2015 funding round, Metro is placing restrictions on use of Call funding for bike-share.

Metro’s new rule requires cities using Metro Call pass-through funds for bike-share to implement Metro bike-share, as opposed to selecting a different vendor. For example, the city of West Hollywood is considering implementing a system similar to Santa Monica’s, but would not be able to do so under Metro’s new restriction. Butts’ amendment proposed undoing this restriction. That policy decision was put off to next month’s board meeting.

The final amended bike-share motion was approved 8 to 3, with Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Knabe, and Lakewood City Councilmember Diane DuBois opposed. Lakewood is adjacent to Long Beach.

The good news is that downtown L.A. can look forward bike-share on the ground by spring of 2016. The bad news is there is an unproductive rift between a centralized Metro system and the more nimble jurisdictions that took initiative before the countywide agency got its program together. Hopefully, all parties can work together to ensure ease of use, and to rapidly expand bike-share to serve communities throughout the L.A. County.

  • Jake Bloo

    Bike-share in DTLA and the entire Expo Line opening up will make 2016 a big year for Metro, and what I suspect will be a big moment for a greater adoption of the system. (Which will be further pushed by the Regional Connector)

    This is just one of those relatively lower-cost projects that Metro should be pushing while they build heavy rail: Bike-share, bus only lanes, better bus shelter with improved data. While Bike-share is “sexy,” I hope Metro continues to find the necessity in the unglamorous but very helpful cheaper endeavors.

  • bikecar101.com

    Implementing a bike share program seems to be a good step in motivating more people to engage in either bicycle commuting and/or bicycle tourism (active transportation). Although, we would hope that Metro still incorporates into their new rail car design:

    1) Greater space for bicycle storage

    2) Easy conversion to a bikecar (folding seats? easily removable seats, etc.)

    We want to encourage Metro to accommodate a growing ridership who choose to bring ‘their own’ bicycles on the train for any reason. Additionally, during special events such as CicLAvia, Metro should be able to move large amounts of people with bicycles around the city (with regional support from Metrolink) to enjoy wonderful events that encourage active modes of transportation.

    We hope the bike share program add to the movement toward active modes of transportation and does not dampen the momentum of bicycle ridership in the region.

  • Transit is about moving people, not them and their bikes. Metro (and other agencies) should focus their resources on providing better biking conditions on the ground and better bike parking at the stations.

  • bikecar101.com

    That goes without saying. Although, tell that to the people in the picture below engaging in bicycle tourism. These people rode their bicycles from Anaheim to San Juan Capistrano to catch the Metrolink back to Union Station.

    How would a bike share program help these people? (Unless you could move bike share bicycles between stations that are 35 miles apart).

    The logic that you are stating is part of the reason why ridership is low over the last few decades. If the logic was accurate — then:

    1) Why is Metro making more room for bicycles on each bus?

    2) Why is Metro considering bicycles into their design of new rail cars? (which we are thankful for!)

    Probably to adapt to changing times. I was recently talking with a Metrolink Board Member about adding bikecars on Metrolink. His belief regarding changing the system (i.e., adding a bikecar) is that he will support “…anything that boosts ridership on the train.” By the way, he also sits on the Board of Metro. Times are changing, so should the transit system.

  • It’s only “low cost” because Metro moves so much money around. LA has made decisions over the last several decades that $11mn would go farther in providing for those who do dare to ride and attracting more riders than a bike share system in DTLA would. The price tag for this pilot is nearly the same amount as Phase I of the Rail-to-River greenway along Slauson that Metro “is seeking funding” for, which is also in an area of LA where there are already a lot of people on bikes. It’d also build a lot of protected bike lanes all around the County, such as extending the ones on Rosemead Blvd. north into that County area above that city. It’d install quite a lot of quality bike parking at their train stations and bus stops, something that is critically lacking at nearly every single one and could help improve the efficiency of those options. While those locations could then also be bike share access points, they’d serve far more other people as well, which would go a long way toward addressing the inherent inequity issues caused by bike share.

  • Well, it needs to be said because either I’m just blind or I’ve yet to see any decent quality bike parking at any Metro transit location and they’re moving at a glacial pace on other projects that would increase bike usage more in more places than bike share.

    Of course, they are adding more capacity on their vehicles because that’s what people keep saying they should do. I don’t have problem with the concept of providing capacity, but any concerted efforts to spend substantial amounts of money on biking needs to first and foremost go to the built environment, not the transit vehicles. It’s also reasonable to expect bicyclists to pay extra for bringing their bike on board if it takes up space that people would occupy (i.e. Metrolink bike cars), especially during peak times. Those fees could cover both any extra cost incurred by designing vehicles to hold more bikes at the expense of passenger capacity, better bike parking at transit stations, including bus stops (something that is sorely lacking), and can prop up a bike share system.

    Speaking of a bike share system, one would make much more sense in an environment where biking is better supported than is present anywhere in LA (or really, in SoCal period), although at that point, it’ll probably fail. Probably the best part of Metro’s announcement is that they’re looking to integrate the bike share system with the TAP cards, which will be good since I then can finally stop dragging my bike on the train and just get a bike share bike in LA.

  • ranzchic

    Bike share has the most bang for your buck. It can free up capacity in the overcrowded bus system by replacing short hop trips. It also serves to increase bicycle ridership so it is easier to ask for more bicycle, and consequently, pedestrian improvements.

    And the bike share isn’t just gonna be DTLA. Initially it is, but it is planned in other neighborhoods outside of downtown too, and the bigger the system, the better the return.

  • If diverting bus trips is a good reason for spending money on bike share, it’s a great reason for infrastructure, which has an ever better bang-for-the-buck. The overwhelming majority of the people using Metro’s buses (and trains) are the poor, which are the same people who already bike more out of necessity. That means that they already have (access to) a bike. They don’t need another bike to convince them to bike short trips instead of hop on the bus, they need better infrastructure, both on the streets and in end-of-trip facilities.

    As it is, biking gets little support from Metro in the poorest parts of town. Even plans like MyFig, albeit not necessarily a Metro project, stop well short of the areas of the city that are already lower-income and higher biking. Meanwhile, Metro can’t figure out how to pay for the Rail-to-River project that will definitely be welcomed and well-used in the area and actually reduce some bus usage along Slauson.

    Similarly, bike parking, especially at jobs sites of those who are poor, is exceedingly horrific and even Metro’s train stations, again especially in the poorer areas, are woefully lacking in that regard. With $11mn, Metro can help fund an initiative to install a lot of Reseda Boulevards and install a lot of high-quality bike racks at their stations and bus stops in the entire county, not just one small area.

    This is even more important since bike share systems are already so inequitable to begin with. While bike share systems continue to primarily be a nice amenity for the rich, infrastructure serves the thousands who are already riding of all income levels as well as attracts new riders, especially for those short trips that you’re talking about.

    However, I don’t believe that Metro should have no part in bike share, just that they would be better suited to a role of technical assistance and helping all the cities develop systems that are compatible with the TAP card instead of being the main implementer of a system in a single, relatively small location. Metro should work with cities countywide to roll out a bike share system at all train stations, major transfer hubs, and park and ride lots while the cities themselves (or County, as the situation dictates) would be responsible for putting them elsewhere within their jurisdiction that they feel would be a good place for them. Such as system would broadly be a hybrid of the successful OV-fiets model in The Netherlands and the-plethora-of-docking-stations-everywhere-then-move-the-bikes-around-to-prepare-for-rush-hour model that we’re used to here in America. That latter, while popular since our cities aren’t particularly bike friendly, actually has a hard time surviving in places with superb bike infrastructure.

    I’m not saying that a DTLA bike share wouldn’t get used, only that for Metro, it’s putting the cart before the horse, the chicken before the egg, the bike before the cycletrack. If Metro is interested in actually encouraging and increasing biking, they would do better spending the money actually doing something useful on the ground. The growth of cars wasn’t due to Zipcar, it was due to (among other things) actually planning and building infrastructure that makes driving (too) easy and convenient. Biking is fragile and the massive number of folks who vote with their feet or wheels to not bike to the bus or train speaks volumes as to where the problem lies.

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