Sharing the Road
TAMC pedals forward with Peninsula bike-sharing service; bike shops balk.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
You may have heard of “carsharing”: a service like Zipcar that lets members pick up a vehicle from an automated station, use it for a few hours, then return it. It’s a short-term, self-service rental.
Monterey County doesn’t have carsharing yet, but it is considering a similar model with bikes. In late October, the Transportation Agency of Monterey County received a draft bicycle-sharing plan that evaluates how the concept could work in Monterey County. The study was funded by a $57,000 grant from the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District.
The consultant, Walnut Creek-based Fehr & Peers, proposes an initial phase of 24 stations, each with five bikes and 10 bike docks, in the already bicycle-friendly areas of Pacific Grove and Monterey. Fehr projects a ridership of about 3,000 trips per month.
“We’re excited about this being a way to increase enthusiasm for biking around Monterey County,” TAMC Associate Planner Andy Cook says. “And businesses benefit from bike-sharing stations being located nearby.”
Here’s how it works: People sign up for memberships by the hour, day, month or year. Members go to a self-service station, slide a card into the electronic payment kiosk, take a bike, ride it, then return it to any of the stations in the network.
The fee structure is set up to encourage short rentals. Trips under 30 minutes could be free, but the hourly rates increase the longer one keeps a bike, driving customers to rental shops for longer uses.
Such a system would cost about $1.1 million to launch and $180,000 per year for operations and maintenance, Fehr reports. Membership and user fees would generate 18 to 70 percent of the annual operating costs, depending on how many people sign up; the rest would come from sources like grants and advertising.
The perks: Individuals save money and improve their health. The community sees less traffic congestion, better links with public transit, a few new jobs and possibly a bump in business.
But at least one local bike-rental shop is concerned about the competition. “This was not meant to be used in a tourist area unless you want to put the legitimate recreational rental businesses out of business,” Michelle Knight, co-owner of Adventures by the Sea, writes by email. “If you provide a free bike to ride from the wharf to the Aquarium, how many people will rent bikes?”
The Fehr report shows mixed impacts on local bike-rental shops. Cook says they could partner with the bike-sharing system to provide merchandise, long-term rentals and repairs. “This is a commuter-oriented service,” he says. “It’s not intended to compete with tourist-serving bike rentals.”
A community workshop on the study was held Wednesday, Nov. 28; the draft is open for comment until Dec. 21.
TAMC’s bike-sharing idea was seeded by a query from CSU Monterey Bay, but the Fehr report concludes CSUMB would do best to pursue its own system.
“It’s relatively isolated,” Cook says. “We don’t think there’s enough interest in bike-sharing between the campus and the core zone.”
Megan Tolbert, CSUMB’s transportation planner, says even a bike-sharing service limited to P.G. and Monterey would help foster a larger bike-friendly community.
“It basically spurs bike culture, and that’s what we want to do,” she says. “You build the local economy, you tap into local resources like the Sea Otter Classic, the Rec Trail and road cycling. It’s a lot better than paying for the widening of Highway 1.”