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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. Read more…

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Opinion: Let Bike-Share Flourish in DTLA, Santa Monica, and Long Beach

The city of Santa Monica's bike-share system "Breeze" is expected to go live this fall.

The city of Santa Monica’s “Breeze” bike-share system “Breeze” expected to go live this summer. Photo: Santa Monica Next

Earlier this week, we ran an editorial by Assemblymember Richard Bloom with other Westside elected officials calling on Metro to “delay its decision” on a 1,000-bike bike-share system slated to open in downtown Los Angeles in early 2016. Metro has the bike-share contract on its board meeting agenda for today; it was approved by Metro’s planning committee approved last week.

It’s my hope that my editorial today might be able to play a small role in bridging the rift between Metro and these Westside leaders – allowing multiple bike-share systems to thrive. I urge the Metro Board to approve its bike-share system today. I fully expect that a year from now, we’ll have flourishing bike-share systems running in Long Beach, Santa Monica, and downtown L.A.

Bike-share is great. It works in hundreds of cities all over the planet. As Metro Boardmember and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin stated, it’s “long overdue” for L.A. County. There is a broad consensus on this. Elected officials, cities, agencies, and the public all want it.

Early poorly-planned attempts failed to bring bike-share to the city of L.A. By fall of 2013, Santa Monica had already approved moving forward with bike-share. Soon after, Mayor Eric Garcetti and others directed Metro to lead efforts toward a regional bike-share system. Despite Metro pressure to delay, Santa Monica moved forward with its 500-bike system, debuting next month. Santa Monica’s “Breeze” system is largely funded via Metro’s Call for Projects. Long after Santa Monica got things underway, and probably partially in reaction to Santa Monica’s initiative, Metro pulled together its plans and initial funding. In late 2014, Metro initiated its vendor selection process for a downtown L.A. pilot. Last week’s committee meeting included not only the Metro DTLA pilot but also new “Interoperability Objectives” guidelines [PDF] that would, in effect, force all new L.A. County bike-share under a one-size-fits-all Metro umbrella.

Santa Monica and Long Beach bike-shares selected vendor CycleHop, a “smart bike” system. Metro selected Bicycle Transit Systems, a “smart dock” system. These systems are not compatible, not “interoperable.” No rider will be able to check out a bike in Santa Monica, and ride it ten miles to downtown L.A. and dock the bike there. But then again, bike-share bikes are for short hops; they’re bulky and not really suited to 10-mile trips anyway. In the event that the service areas expand over time, which they will, some day there will be a need for interoperability – whatever form that takes – but the need now is to get these systems implemented and get on-the-ground experience.

Bloom’s editorial states that Metro’s smart docks are “old technology” and Santa Monica’s smart bikes are “cutting edge.” In her testimony last week, L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds emphasized that all bike-share systems are “very much a start-up.” Start-ups are risky. If other cities’ bike-share implementation experience is telling, it’s possible that one or both of these these companies will experience hiccups. This could mean delays, supply issues, or worse. At this early stage, I think it will be beneficial to have multiple systems would operate within L.A. County, just in case one system has problems. There may even be new technology right around the corner, too, so it just doesn’t make sense to put all our eggs in one countywide basket today.

Here’s what I’d like to see in bike-share’s near future:

  • The DTLA, Long Beach, and Santa Monica systems all get underway, with bikes on the ground in the year ahead.
  • Each of these systems gradually expands to contiguous and nearby areas. (Councilmember Bonin and LADOT are supportive of expanding Santa Monica’s Breeze system into Venice; an initial roll-out plan includes three stations in the city of Los Angeles and more Breeze stations throughout L.A.’s Westside makes sense. Metro’s DTLA system expands into Pasadena and Hollywood.)
  • Metro supports all bike-share systems that meet a minimum standard, but not set up restrictive one-size-fits-all rules.
  • Service coverage grows over the next 5-10 years to the point where we have the “problem” of further integrating a small handful of excellent local bike-share systems.

The scenario I most fear is that the Westside electeds get their way, delaying Metro bike-share today. Then Metro could retaliate, isolating Santa Monica’s fledgling system. Instead of having two or three or more functional bike-share systems, we could end up with none.

I urge the Metro Board to approve Metro bike-share, and urge all parties to work together respectfully to continue to expand bike-share coverage throughout the county.

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Guest Opinion: Metro’s Proposal on Bike-share Heads in the Wrong Direction

The city of Santa Monica's bike-share system "Breeze" is expected to go live this fall.

The city of Santa Monica’s bike-share system “Breeze” is expected to go live this year. Photo via Santa Monica Next

Greater Los Angeles is about to join cities and regions around the world that have implemented bike-share programs. But, in our complicated world of 88 cities and a county, will we get it right?

Bike-share provides residents and visitors with easily accessible, shared, short-term bikes, making it easy to get from point A to point B, whether or not those points are within a single city.

Bike-share has proven successful throughout the world. Residents like bike-share and it’s good for business and tourism. Our environment benefits, too: it’s a carbon-free mobility alternative for congested cities. Bike-share extends the reach of rail, bus, walking and carpool trips, increasing the efficiency of our public transportation system.

Thoughtful, coordinated planning is essential to make sure Bike-share works. Bike-share systems commonly span multiple jurisdictions. In every corner of the world, this has meant building truly integrated systems that are interoperable and have common characteristics, no matter where the bike or docking station is located. So, if you are visiting a friend in Venice, and want to shop on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, then take the coming Metro Expo Line to Culver City, you should be able to do so by accessing one brand of bike and using one, easy to understand, payment system.

Seems obvious. But, Metro planners are advising their board to approve technology that is incompatible with systems already chosen and underway in Santa Monica, Long Beach and, likely to be implemented in other Westside cities. Departing from best practice, Metro is recommending a very different technology that will require two, parallel, systems. This is a bad deal for taxpayers and users alike. In a regional system that must mesh, Metro has failed to explain how these two systems would do so. Instead, they are deferring that discussion until after Metro selects a vendor which necessarily will be incompatible with existing Bike-share programs which are already operating in the region.

Metro staff seems comfortable that this means many, if not all, participant cities, including Los Angeles, would need to maintain two sets of “docks”, two different kinds of bicycles and two different fare structures and payment systems. The resulting customer experience will be confusing and an embarrassment to our region. Instead of taking advantage of momentum already created by local cities, Metro is imposing an older technology over locally preferred systems.

What happened?

In 2011, Santa Monica received a Metro Call for Projects grant of $2 million for planning and implementation of bike-share. This allowed Santa Monica to jump-start planning. Santa Monica is a great place to start bikeshare. The city has excelled at building a multidimensional bike infrastructure. It has robust tourism and a bike-friendly culture. In addition, the arrival of the Expo light rail in early 2016 is an opportunity to create new connections to stations that will help increase ridership.

Long after Santa Monica began its planning and implementation, Metro inexplicably began its own plan. Understanding that regional operability would be a key to success, Santa Monica used its seed money wisely and reached out regionally during its thorough process. Broad input was received and incorporated into a request for proposals that, again, was circulated widely for input. Ultimately, Santa Monica selected a cutting edge vendor who will begin deploying bikes in just a few weeks. Long Beach has adopted the same technology. West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and UCLA are not far behind.

If Metro insists on its own system, it should prioritize interoperability so proposing vendors must explain how they would achieve that key goal. Instead, the agency weighted its bid process by prioritizing other criteria. The result of Metro’s process was three finalists, none of whom will produce a product that is compatible with the technology which will be used by Santa Monica and other Westside cities.

This week, the Metro Board will vote on implementing a system that is incompatible with existing systems and will ensure inferior experience for all bike-share customers.

There is an alternative. The Metro Board should delay its decision until the Santa Monica-West Hollywood-UCLA-Long Beach-Beverly Hills system is up and running. If that roll-out is successful, Metro can build on an existing successful system. If that initiative falls on its face, Metro can implement a new regional alternative. The hope and expectation is that the public embraces the Santa Monica-West Hollywood-UCLA-Long Beach-Beverly Hills bike-share program and it functions as well as expected. If that is the case, Metro should focus on what is best for users and taxpayers and work collaboratively to integrate other communities into a singularly exciting new transportation option.

* * *

Assemblymember Richard Bloom is a member of the California State Assembly representing Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood and surrounding West L.A. areas. He is the former Mayor of Santa Monica.

Councilmember John Heilman is a member of the West Hollywood City Council and former Mayor.

Councilmember Dr. William Warren Brien is a member of the Beverly Hills City Council and former Mayor.

All three authors are former chairs of the Westside Cities Council of Governments, a regional agency focused on, among other things, on improving transportation on the Westside.

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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.  Read more…

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Metro To Vote On Bike-Share Contract With Vendor Bicycle Transit Systems

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter rides Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms

Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter riding Indego bike-share. Image via Streetfilms

At its June 25 monthly meeting, the Metro Board will be voting on the contract for the initial phase of what is now optimistically called “Metro Countywide Bikeshare.”

SBLA previewed the regional bike-share system in this earlier post. The initial phase is planned to include 1000+ bicycles at 60+ docking stations in downtown Los Angeles, expected to be operational in early 2016.

According to the recently posted board agenda look-ahead [PDF], Metro has selected bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems. The $11.8 million contract is “contingent upon the execution of an MOU between the City of Los Angeles and Metro” and “future phases will be brought back …for Board approval contingent upon successful completion and operation of the Phase 1 Pilot.”

Bicycle Transit Systems is a somewhat new presence in the bike-share industry, though captained by experienced leadership. The company is based in Philadelphia and headed by former Alta Bike Share CEO Alison Cohen, who led NYC CitiBike during its rocky start-up. To date, the company’s big bike-share implementation success has been Philadelphia’s Indego, which launched in April 2015 with 600 bikes at 60 stations.

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What Should Downtown L.A. Do to Get Ready for Bike Share?

New bike lanes on 3rd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New bike lanes on 3rd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro regional bike share is coming soon. If all goes as planned, a year from now, downtown Los Angeles will have system on the ground. It will include about 1,000 bikes at 65 docking stations. The system will extend from Union Station to USC. For more detail, see SBLA’s earlier preview.

It’s not too early to ask Streetsblog L.A. readers — are Downtown Los Angeles streets ready to make bike share a big success? If not, what changes should L.A.’s Transportation Department (LADOT) prioritize in the coming months?

Let’s start by celebrating. Downtown has come a long ways in the last half a decade.

Back on October 10, 2010, there was this event called CicLAvia that flooded central Los Angeles streets with bicycles. At that time, there were no bike facilities in downtown Los Angeles.

In fact, there still were no bikeways downtown through July 2011. In August 2011, the 7th Street bike lanes arrived, dipping their toes across the 110 Freeway into downtown.

Green pavement bike lanes soon followed on Spring Street. Then, buffered bike lanes on Los Angeles Street and First Street.

In 2012, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar and LADOT announced the coming Downtown L.A. Bikeway Network. Other than a few facilities that the city spent a lot of time and money to study (Cesar Chavez Avenue and Venice Boulevard), the downtown network was built out. And then some — downtown now boasts one of the most complete bikeway networks in the city. 

It’s not Wilmington, but downtown is a great place to bike. Even when LAPD vehicles park in some of the lanes some of the time.

Downtown’s increased bikeability is a subject of some controversy. Read more…

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Some Highlights From Yesterday’s Live Ride Share Conference

Charting the number of cars per renter household in five Southern California cities. Image provided by Mott Smith [PDF]

Charting the number of cars per renter household in five Southern California cities. Image provided by Mott Smith [PDF]

Yesterday Transit Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), Move L.A., and the Shared Use Mobility Center, joined forces with two dozen other organizations and businesses to host Live Ride Share. The conference was billed as the “first to focus on shared mobility in Southern California [and] highlighted the profound changes occurring in transportation around the world and the economic, political and lifestyle ramifications of these developments in SoCal.”

The main focus was on shared-use transportation, ranging from car share, bike share, carpooling, taxis, to ride-hailing companies (Uber, Lyft), and how these interact with the rest of Southern California’s transportation and livability landscape. Speakers included experts from as far as Helsinki and London, to as near as Boyle Heights and Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Next and Streetsblog L.A. were there. We’re not going to try to re-cap in any comprehensive way, but here are some of the noteworthy things we heard:

Sharing Can Reduce Housing Costs, If We Right-Size Parking

Shared-use mobility, like care share and bike share, could dramatically lower rents in new housing by reducing the amount of expensive parking required in new developments. That’s the message Stuart Cohen with TransForm conveyed on Live Ride Share’s panel on integrating shared mobility into land use and housing. He showed the audience comparisons of a theoretical project first with no parking, then with three different parking configurations — podium parking, surface parking, and underground parking — and the impact each of those had on rents. The rents, based on a seven percent return for the developer, went from $800 a month for a one-bedroom to $1,350 a month (Note: an earlier version of this article misstated the rent figures. It has been updated). Dedicated car share services in new developments could mean that, instead of paying for parking to stow private vehicles that sit idle for most of the day, residents could share a pool of cars when they need it.

Unfortunately the city of Los Angeles currently operates under the opposite strategy.  In L.A., current zoning requires about 60 percent of renters pay for parking spaces they don’t use. Civic Enterprise co-founder Mott Smith, reiterating points from ULI’s FutureBuild conference last month, pointed out that 19 percent of renters in Los Angeles own no cars and about 48 percent own one car, yet zoning requirements mandate we build almost exclusively for two-car households. The cost of parking construction, of course, gets folded into the rents of even those people who own no cars. Why aren’t we building apartments for those people? Why aren’t 19 percent of new units built with zero parking to reflect the percentage of households who don’t own cars? Why are we making one-car households pay for two parking spaces? With working families forced to flee Los Angeles and California because of skyrocketing rents, it seems misguided that we are expecting them to take on the burden of paying for parking they don’t use.

Over-parking our homes and workplaces comes at more than a financial cost. Executive director of Urban Land Institute Los Angeles Gail Goldberg was on the same panel with Smith and Cohen. She put things in perspective, using San Diego as an example. She said if that city keeps building parking based on current requirements, an increase of 1 million people (and the population will grow, she said) would require 37 square miles of new parking. That’s bigger than some of San Diego County’s smaller northern cities, like Encinitas.

Changes Can Happen Relatively Quickly, But Equity Remains Elusive

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin made two great points that elicited sustained applause from the audience. Bonin, a gay man married to his husband, analogized changes in societal attitudes toward transportation to be similar to those toward gay marriage. Bonin recalled that it was difficult to envision legal gay marriage only a decade ago, but that, building on decades of activism, a younger generation has led dramatic changes in acceptance, leading to widespread legalization. Bonin sees similar rapid change coming to transportation.  Read more…

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Long Beach To Put Downtown LB Bike Share Program Out To Bid

Someday my docking station will come.

Someday my docking station will come.

We have been waiting for bike share—for over two years. And it seems, Long Beach, that we are finally in the more tangible stages of receiving it.

According to Nathan Baird, Mobility Coordinator for the City of Long Beach, the City will be going out to bid in the next six weeks to pursue a bike share program that will be launched in Downtown. 50 stations, 500 bikes. The cost? $2.2M through a federal grant.

But what about Bike Nation, Long Beach’s proposed bike share vendor? The company had announced in August 2012 that they would invest some $12 million into a bike share program here in Long Beach was met with astounding cheers. At the time, they had expected some 250 kiosks—yes, 250—with the first ones to be installed in downtown by early 2013. It was touted as a free—yes, free—investment.

As for that whole thing, Baird responded succinctly: “That’s about as much info as I can provide right now.”

That we are now in 2015 and still have yet to find a single kiosk is more than eyebrow-raising. LA had to ditch Bike Nation after it was discovered that the bike share company did not know the advertising parameters set by the second-largest city in the U.S. This also follows their abrupt leave of their bike share program in Anaheim, where the City of Anaheim claimed Bike Nation “chose to walk out themselves.” This all precedes the cryptic photo of a skirt guard of one of the bikes for the long-anticipated bike share program promised to Long Beach. The caption on the skirt guard—”Long Beach, your bike is waiting”—silently and automatically creates a plethora of jokes. Then yet another photo, albeit still cryptic, of an array of permits issued to Bike Nation by the City of Long Beach. The caption? “Station permits for Long Beach have been issued. Stay tuned[.]”

Let us not forget that Bike Nation was finally kicked out of OC after lacking any form of viability: it generated a measly $5K in a year but cost about $100K.

Long Beach will apparently being joining Santa Monica, also pursuing its own bike share program, and Metro, who announced that they will be creating a county-wide bike share program.

Here’s to hoping, Long Beach.

 

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Streetsblog Talks Bike Share on KCRW 7pm Tonight

wwlaStreetsblog writer Joe Linton appears on KCRW’s Which Way L.A. tonight at 7p.m.

Host Warren Olney interviews Linton and city of Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait about bike share programs.

Metro is currently receiving bids for a 1000-bike downtown Los Angeles bike share system billed as a 2-year pilot. If all goes as expected, bikes will be on L.A. streets about a year from now. If it is successful downtown, then the system is expected to be expanded to various locales throughout L.A. County. Read SBLA’s recent preview article on Metro regional bike share.

The Orange County cities of Anaheim and Fullerton both recently pulled the plug on their unsuccessful small-scale trial bike share systems.

The interview will be broadcast at 89.9 on the F.M. dial and at the KCRW website. We will provide a direct link to the interview in tomorrow’s “Today’s Headlines” post.

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Metro Regional Bike Share Expected To Open In Downtown L.A. In 2016

What does bike share have to do with walkability?

Metro is about to receive bids for its bike share system anticipated to arrive in Downtown Los Angeles in early 2016. Photo of NYC Citibike bike share by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro is moving forward with its regional bike share system, expected to debut in downtown Los Angeles in about a year. Metro released its bike share Request for Proposals (RFP) in December 2014, with bids due January 27. A bike share contract is expected to be awarded by June, with full implementation of a 1,000-bike system in downtown Los Angeles nine months later.

Metro’s RFP is for an initial two-year contract, with possible extensions up to seven years and expansions to nearly 4,000 bikes in expanded service areas.

Though the initial two years are funded, the overall funding picture is not entirely clear. Metro is soliciting competitive bids, so the agency cannot be too specific regarding system funding and cost. In July 2014, Metro’s board allocated $3.8 million for downtown L.A. bike share capital; those funds are from ExpressLanes tolling revenue. Metro officials also mention unspecified state and federal monies.

The initial two-year contract is likely to run somewhere in the ballpark of $10-$16 million. 

Metro will own the system, brand it, and manage it, via contractors, but the system will be located in host cities, which Metro will require to share costs. Initial capital costs are split 50/50 between Metro and the host cities. Operations and maintenance will be split, with 65 percent paid by the host city and 35 percent by Metro. The funding is already in place for the initial two-year downtown L.A. pilot, entirely in the city of Los Angeles. The split funding process could complicate later expansion to other municipalities, which tentatively include Huntington Park, Pasadena, West Hollywood, and unincorporated county communities of East L.A. and Marina Del Rey. (See expansion map below.)

Rounding out the funding picture will be some additional bike share system revenue from system users, including memberships (typically single-use, daily, monthly, and annual) and usage fees. Metro’s RFP specifies that “[a]dvertising or sponsorship revenue shall not be considered or included” (RFP, page 2-102) in the proposals.

What the Downtown L.A. Bike Share System Will Look Like

If the stars align, downtown Los Angeles could possibly see the first bikes on the ground in this calendar year. Read more…