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. After a contract is awarded, expected June 2015, an initial two-month 10+ docking station “test” launch will open in four months. Theoretically that will be October 2015. The full system, including 65 docking stations and 1,000 bicycles, will be implemented within six to nine months of the expected June contract approval. Metro anticipates full downtown implementation to be completed by Spring/Summer 2016.

Map of recommended Downtown Los Angeles bike share docking stations. Image via Metro RFP, Attachment A (which also includes a detailed list).

The recommended initial downtown Los Angeles bike share service area (see map) is a little convoluted; it is shaped like a backwards letter N. It includes Union Station, Civic Center, Little Tokyo, Arts District, Broadway, Financial District, Figueroa Corridor, Staples Center, L.A. Trade Tech College, and USC. Metro Blue, Red, and Expo line stations are well-served. Most of Skid Row, Chinatown, Fashion District, and Central City West are not included.

If bike share goes well downtown, the Metro board can choose to extend the duration of the contract there, and can expand the system to other locations.

What Near-Term Bike Share Expansion Will Look Like

Slated to be first in line for regional bike share expansion will be the city of Pasadena.

Pasadena bike share map
Map of recommended Pasadena bike share docking stations. Image via Metro RFP, Attachment B (which also includes a detailed list).

The recommended Pasadena bike share station map (above) includes 34 stations primarily in commercial areas south of the 134 Freeway, including all Metro Gold Line stations in Pasadena.

Though some Metro Gold Line riders might use the system at both ends (the first mile / last mile) of a rail trip between L.A. and Pasadena, the overall system utility would likely be better served by expanding contiguously with downtown. Density of stations in a single area yields the greatest transportation utility for the least cost. Metro is a county-wide authority, hence under some political pressure to make sure their systems go beyond just L.A. city boundaries. So, Pasadena is slated for the initial system expansion area, possibly in late 2017, pending Metro board approval.

Possible future Metro bike share expansion areas, pending Metro board approval. Image via Metro RFP, Attachment C
Possible future Metro bike share expansion areas, pending Metro board approval. Image via Metro RFP, Attachment C. (Note: map shows USC “University Park” area as expansion, but USC area has been moved up into the initial downtown L.A. implementation.)

After Pasadena, again pending Metro board approval, the downtown system would expand west into Koreatown, MacArthur Park, and Echo Park. This would be followed by Hollywood and West Hollywood. Then potentially Venice and Marina Del Rey, North Hollywood, Huntington Park, and/or East Los Angeles.

If all goes as stated in the RFP, then the overall regional bike share system will have 254 stations and 3,812 bicycles.

Metro Bike Share Not All Good News

Though it is important to get something on the ground, and expand from there, just 1,000 bikes is not quite a serious big city bike share system. L.A.’s downtown system will be the same size as Minneapolis-St.Paul’s Nice Ride system, and smaller than systems in Washington D.C., Montreal, and, of course, New York City.

Metro’s regional bike share system is repeatedly emphasized as a “pilot” with possible liquidation after two years. That two years includes nine months to set up, so the Metro board could conceivably pull the plug after only 15 months of operation. Metro has not demonstrated this tepid a commitment to, say, rail service on the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line. Any bets on whether bike share or the Gold Line extension will have greater overall ridership? Metro operations and maintenance cost for Metro Gold Line free parking lots may rival the ongoing costs for downtown bike share. Both the Gold Line and the regional bike share system are important components of a robust transportation network. Metro should show similar long-term commitment to both.

Metro has backed off from a few ill-advised aspects of their initial plan.

Initially Metro’s RFP stated that helmets would be “required.” A late December 2014 RFP amendment modified this to “encouraged.” This week, Metro staff verbally downgraded that to “suggested,” in relation to a possible discount helmet purchase program at local bike shops.

Metro’s RFP requires the bike share system to be compatible with Metro TAP fare cards. It is very unclear how this would work, even to Metro. Basic TAP cards can be purchased for a few dollars and bike share systems elsewhere uniformly require a credit card. A significant portion of bike share user fees are for year-long memberships with most individual trips requiring no additional cost. TAP is set up very differently; it mainly deducts fares on a per-trip basis. Also, some TAP technology is proprietary. In a second RFP amendment yesterday, Metro staff clarified that full TAP integration, whatever vague shape it might take, will not be required in the initial phase downtown, but that “Metro’s goal is that the Bikeshare may be fully integrated into the TAP system in the future.”

To Be Continued

Many SBLA readers already know that both Santa Monica and Long Beach are implementing bike share systems independent of Metro regional bike share. Last November, Santa Monica approved a 65+station, 500-bike system.

There are a lot of steps to go before Metro bike share rides onto Southern California streets. Keep your browser tuned to SBLA to follow how this important new transportation system rolls out.

  • Fakey McFakename

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea to have multiple “cores” in the early stages, and then working on contiguity later. LA’s a polycentric metropolis, and this reflects that and builds a regional brand; the gaps can be filled later. Note too that Phase III is an addition of 37 more stations to the Central/University Park region.

    And I strongly suspect that the pilot program will be made permanent–it’s pretty standard to start a move into a new area with a short term contract so as to maintain flexibility, but I doubt it would be completely pulled unless it’s massively loss-making. I imagine Metro will learn from the first couple years and make tweaks when it next puts the system out to bid–that’s the benefit of starting with a short contract.

    Anyway, I hope Metro uses this opportunity to push for more bike lanes in served areas and an end to dangerous road design (wide lanes, one way streets, etc.). The good thing is that when Metro and cities fund bikeshare, they’ll have an economic incentive to make roads bike-safe to maximize revenue.

  • Facepalm Forever

    this is the worst most wasteful idea i can think of. Most of Downtown LA is completely walkable and anyone who lives or works there can AFFORD THEIR OWN BICYCLE AND SHOULD RIDE ONE.
    Lifelong non-driving bicylist from LA and beyond speaking.. MORONIC IDEA. Waste of money. Just GO BUY A BIKE A RIDE IT!!! its not HARD!!!

  • AlecMitchell

    This seems a bit harsh. Comparing the initial Downtown (pop. ~ 55,000, daytime pop. ~ 500,000) implementation with fully built systems in major cities is totally unreasonable. Starting with dense arrays of stations in densely populated/visited areas connected to one another via rapid transit makes a lot more sense than trying to cover the entire metro (or relatively discontiguous portions of it) in one fell swoop. A few more stations in Chinatown and the Fashion/Flower Districts would be nice to have though.

    This sort of system provides a nice alternative to systems like DASH or possible streetcar lines. It’s not realistically going to provide an alternative to major rail or rapid bus lines over longer distances (e.g. Downtown to Pasadena). The price structure of systems like CitiBike even discourage those sorts of longer rides by design.

  • EngrGuy

    Real forward thinking here…

  • Sullivan131

    Not everyone who works downtown takes their bike even if they have one. It can be inconvenient to take it on the Metro during rush hour, and some have trouble finding a place to lock it up (safely). I think its a great idea for short little trips. I used them extensively in Mexico City and in New York when I was there.

    It also very useful for tourist who are visiting the area who are obviously not bringing their bikes with them.

    It’s about convenience. You want to be able to ride a bike and then just drop it off at a designated spot. The online apps will also show you what station has bikes available and racks available for drop off.

    Don’t be so pessimistic about it. There’s plenty of us who welcome this idea.

  • calwatch

    Bay Area Bikeshare is using the multiple core method. Overall they need to get several hundred bikes and dozens of stations on the ground for the first phase, to avoid the failure in Fullerton.

  • BC

    Cal watch, tell us about Fullerton, please. Links?

  • Oren

    I don’t live downtown, but I visit a lot. I’m the perfect customer for bikeshare.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    TAP compatibility would be really nice. In other cities there’s been difficulty with attracting riders from lower-income demographics, and it could well be connected to the requirement to have a credit card. Since TAP can be done entirely with cash, it would be really convenient if a lower-income person could load $20 on their TAP card, and then swipe $8 of it to a daily pass for bike share on a day when it’s needed. It would be better if one could get an annual pass through cash, but it’s a bit harder to see how that would work.

  • Joe Linton

    What’s tricky is renting an anonymous someone a $1000 bike for $8 all cash.

  • The bikes cost $1,000 a pop. $20 deposit wont work.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I can see how that would be a concern. But the bikes aren’t great targets for theft – they’ll be pretty recognizable intact, and it’s not obvious to me how many parts they have that would be sellable. Maybe there’s a way to make them completely useless to would-be thieves.

  • Having a ten station test is just throwing money down the drain and can actually hurt the system perception.

  • calwatch

    Over ten months, out of 11 stations and 69 bikes, there were 945 TOTAL checkouts, or each bike being used slightly more than once a month.

    This is why any pilot program needs to be substantial – 30 stations, 300 bikes at the minimum. Otherwise it’s going to be meaningless.

  • Irwin Chen

    TAP card payment would be nice I can see the arguments on the other side that membership registered with credit card provides the proper security against theft (or someone not returning the bikes to a station).

    How about a compromise?

    1. Membership registration online/mobile with a credit card or debit card – you only need to do it once. After membership is activated, you can link it with your TAP card to pay daily rental.

    2. If you don’t want to buy a membership or register, you HAVE to pay for your rental with credit or debit card.

  • Joe Linton

    there’s no “daily rental” – if you’re a member, and your ride is under 40 minutes then the ride is at no extra cost.

  • Phantom Commuter

    It will likely fail in L.A. as well

  • I think a program that helps finance bikes to those with lower income, disability, or bad credit might be worth looking into as well.

  • Karen

    I think that the positive externalities from a bike share system in LA are the most exciting aspects. 1. a bike share system will hopefully either be accompanied by expanded and improved bicycle infrastructure 2. safe and sensible bike culture will be reinforced for both cyclists as well as drivers 3. the previous two points will greatly improve the situation for those who have or would like to have their own bikes, not just people who use the share system 4. health benefits from integrating physical activity into the daily routine rather than having to make time for exercise. I could list several more points, but these are the ones I’m most excited about. LA will be so much better for bicycling than DC or NYC once we have a little better infrastructure and cultural perception of bike transit.


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

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. […]

Metro Planning Committee Approves Bike-Share Contract

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 […]

Metro Bike-Share Update: 2016 Opening On Track, With No Title Sponsor

A few new bike-share details emerged at yesterday’s Metro Planning and Programming Committee meeting. Overall, Metro bike-share is on track to open in mid-2016 in downtown Los Angeles with 1000+bikes at 60+kiosks. The bike-share item before the committee was just a receive and file update [PDF], with no action taken. Metro published a request for […]