Metro Board Discusses Bike-Share; Report and Transit-Bike Transfers Both Due in September

Metro Bike Share lowered prices earlier this month. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Metro Bike Share lowered prices earlier this month. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At yesterday’s Metro board meeting, a couple of announcements and some boardmember discussion offered some hints regarding the future of Metro Bike Share. Further decisions on the fledgling system will be the subject of a staff report due back at the board’s September meeting.

As part of her board chair remarks yesterday, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl announced that Metro Bike Share walk-up usage is up 50 percent since the agency reduced prices in early July. Kuehl also announced that “bike-transit transfers” would be available this September: “With TAP card integration, transit users will be able to ride our bikes after their transit ride without any extra payment.”

More of the board’s positions on bike-share became clearer when a narrow bike-share staff report back grew into a broader discussion. Metro staff were responding to a request from boardmember and Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian for Metro to push legislatively to have bike-share trips count as transit transportation. While bike-share is eligible for some governmental funding programs, including many California greenhouse gas reduction programs, bike-share is not uniformly eligible for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds. Metro staff recommended that Metro support Oregon congressmember Earl Blumenauer’s bill H.R. 3305 which would clarify that bike-share is eligible for FHWA funding.

The brief discussion on the funding triggered a broader bike-share discussion among the Metro board:

  • Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, whose city operates Long Beach Bike Share a smart-bike CycleHop system, decried Metro’s over-reliance on funding its smart-dock system. Correction 7/30: Long Beach bike-share system was initially operated by CycleHop, but the city took over operations in August 2017.
  • Duarte Councilmember John Fasana, citing ofo private dockless bike-share’s withdrawing from the U.S. market, questioned whether Metro should be directly operating bike-share especially in such a dynamic market.
  • County Supervisor Kathryn Barger expressed her disappointment that Metro was consistently “one step behind” on bike-share, citing Pasadena’s decision to withdraw.
  • L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin, a major champion of bike-share, expressed that Metro shouldn’t lock into any one bike-share technology, and stressed the importance of TAP integration and inter-operability among multiple systems.
  • County Supervisor Hilda Solis stated that bike-share needed to advance equity by serving commuters, not just “leisure” use. She also pushed for Metro to work with the county bring bike-share to the East L.A. portion of her supervisorial district.
  • Chair Kuehl outlined her vision that Metro riders would utilize multiple systems, where “at every station something would be available but it’s not necessarily ours.” She also proposed that Metro look into TAP integration with e-scooters.

Metro staff emphasized that the Metro Bike Share program did make recent changes, and that staff are due to report back to the board in September. A performance report and a full discussion on the program’s future will take place then.

Metro bike-share staff are in an unenviable position. Their systems compete with private sector mobility devices – dockless bike-share, e-bike share, e-scooters – that are subsidized by venture capital. These private companies have the ability to more-or-less turn on a dime responding to situations on the ground. Metro Bike Share is nowhere near that nimble. It must be responsive to directions of thirteen Metro boardmembers who meet ten times each year. Proposed changes must be vetted with agency and board staff, approved by the board, then rolled out; the process can easily take a few months. Metro is working to expand the system, and to convert the Venice fleet from smart-dock to smart-bike, but these upgrades will still be underway in September.

Metro’s September discussion will likely be based on only a couple months’ of utilization data under the new pricing structure. Though the system is working well in Venice and adequately in central Los Angeles, this may not suffice for the approval of boardmembers who represent other parts of the county.

Metro Bike Share certainly has some flaws. Among these are an inability to serve the mobility needs of low-income people, and a lack of utility in that it covers only a fairly limited geographical area. But Metro’s freeway projects, which cost several orders of magnitude more than Metro’s bike-share investment, also fail to serve the needs of low-income Angelenos. These highway expansions generate greater pollution burdens for low-income communities – a drawback that bike-share does not share. Metro’s rail system has been criticized for its limited geographic reach, even after 25 years of growth.

To make Metro Bike Share effective, the board and staff will need to keep on top of the dynamic market. Bike-share ridership growth will take time. Investment and expansion need to be strategic. As Garcia, Bonin, and Kuehl have asserted, a single rigid one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to succeed, especially in a quickly changing mobility environment. Over time, though, bike-share has the potential to serve as a key ingredient in a rich mix of mobility options open to all Angelenos.

  • Gregg V

    LOL – Exactly the reason why Metro bike share should not be competing with private companies. As for subsidized by Venture Capital?! LOL – It is financed by rich VC hoping to make a profit and if not a loss and bankruptcy. The only company subsidized is Metro by the stupid state who has no idea how to run a business – please. The idea that the government can run a better business than Silicon Valley is a joke and a waste of taxpayer money. Stick with crappy governing rather than failing at competing with businesses. Let’s compare – Fed Ex & UPS vs Post Office? Who wins and does it better and cheaper? Private Hospitals vs VA hospitals in terms of seeing patients before they die? Nothing the government does is better and cost-effective than a private business that has to do it right or go bankrupt. The government can just bail it’s self out over and over again.

  • Guy Ross

    It wasn’t a great argument to start with but VA/private hospital argument was really ill-advised to bring up: The VA is example used in international circles to highlight the abject failure of private healthcare in the United States. The VA’s cost per unit of care is lower, the population it serves is healthier and it’s quantifiable outcomes are better than any private healthcare delivery system in the United States. Oh, and those who use the system love as evidenced by randomized surveys of both patient groups.

    That you would bring it up is more an indication to your existing dogma than your desire to develop solutions to complex problems.

  • Gregg V

    No VA scandals – really – what planet are you on? Did you google it – https://www.cnn.com/2014/05/23/politics/va-scandals-timeline/index.html Long wait times, dead patients, false records, etc? I’m not even going to waste my time with you. No one – Democrat or Republican Congressman or Senator think that the VA is fine. Why do you think they are offering private doctors to reduce wait times and death? I guess that is a conspiracy theory. Look in the mirror, Mr Dogma. Links are both left and right.

    More links for you -https://www.cbsnews.com/news/los-angeles-veterans-affairs-hospital-patients-died-waiting-for-care/

    I recommend you sign up Guy assuming you would even serve our country – https://www.cnn.com/2015/09/02/politics/va-inspector-general-report/index.html

    As for solutions –
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2018/05/08/veterans-affairs/#44da7ee72d15

  • Guy Ross

    Please, tone down the rhetoric and your flag waving ‘you should serve’ nationalism and we might be able to get to the bottom of this.

    1) Correct: you started with a poorly developed argument and ended with the VA. We agree there.
    2) Never made that claim
    3) the rest:

    You sent me news clippings of ‘tragedies at the VA’. Those are good ledes and tell a truthful, if incomplete, account of problems at the VA. I never made the assertion these such problems don’t exist. You were making a comparison between private health systems and the VA.

    The very social and lobby organization for veterans’ rights, The Legion, agrees with my claim. Especially notice points 4 and 5 in the executive summary. https://www.legion.org/legislative/testimony/225841/examining-quality-and-cost-va-health-care

    If you can present me with actual information about private healthcare providing either better care or lower costs than the VA on a systemic level, I’d love to see it. I have yet to be confronted with said info.

    Now, back to bike share…..

    Thanks.

  • Andrew Yip

    I was at the one of the early board meetings where they presented on bike share and proposed fares. Many people spoke up against the high fares since it a DASH bus was only fifty cents. They went ahead to adopted the fee schedule as proposed. -_-

  • ExpoRider

    I’m very excited by the (long overdue) announcement that “bike-transit transfers” would be available this September! This is one chance for Metro Bike Share to be a leader in the industry. It will also allow MBS to achieve a level of equity that the current service has struggled to solve.
    I’m also excited by the pending conversion to a smart-bike technology in Venice. These changes will give the system a chance to finally achieve respectable performance measures.

  • Gregg V

    Guy, Please tone down your anti-capitalism and socialism RED flag waving rhetoric. Private Enterprise beats Government enterprise all the time.

    Metro-bikes is complaining that they can’t adapt or raise more taxpayer capital to compete – QED. I saw a few birds right next to a full rack of metro-bikes on Lincoln/Venice today. If the birds don’t rent, they move overnight. Government bikes will sit and rot. (Note the government took a few valuable parking spaces away from business and the public for this folly.) Remember the Yugo – a great government built affordable car or a USSR built airline vs USA or European airlines?

    If the government businesses do so well, please name a few more successful businesses selling their product globally – other than OIL, GAS, which are more of a subsidized or nationalized commodity – usually drilled by US or UK oil companies. I’ll give you the cheap weapons like the AK-47 do well on the terrorist market vs more expansive and regulated M-16s, etc.

  • Gregg V

    Guy, Please tone down your anti-capitalism and socialism RED flag waving rhetoric. Private Enterprise beats Government enterprise all the time.

    Metro-bikes is complaining that they can’t adapt or raise more taxpayer capital to compete – QED. I saw a few birds right next to a full rack of metro-bikes on Lincoln/Venice today. If the birds don’r rent, they move overnight. Government bikes will sit and rot. (Note the government took a few valuable parking spaces away from business and the public for this folly.) Remember the Yugo – a great government built affordable car or Russian built airlines vs USA or Europe?

    If the government businesses do so well, please name a few more successful businesses selling their product globally – other than OIL and GAS which are more of a subsidized or nationalized comodity – usually drilled by US or UK oil companies. ;-)

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