Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/
Metro bike-share vendor Bicycle Transit Systems has a new L.A. webpage. Image via http://www.bicycletransit.com/los-angeles/

Last month, after a fairly lengthy debate, the Metro Board of Directors approved an $11 million contract to bring bike-share to downtown Los Angeles. Though there is a lot of interest in bike-share on the Metro board, there’s not a lot of agreement on exactly how to move forward.

Though Metro bike-share, run by vendor Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS), will begin in Downtown Los Angeles, multiple future phases are planned, but not yet fully approved nor funded. Elected officials are doing their job, jockeying to make sure future bike-share phases will serve areas they represent. With Santa Monica and Long Beach already moving ahead under contracts with a different vendor, Cyclehop, so there are also questions about inter-operability.

Below is a brief run down of the latest in the multi-faceted world of L.A. County bike-share systems. There are already a lot of moving pieces, and there is yet to be any live bike-share bikes on the ground. Bike-share may get less complicated when the bikes arrive and Angelenos can see and experience how bike-share really works:

> In Metro bike-share news: Metro’s full board of directors will meet tomorrow and decide on a handful of follow-on motions nailing down some of the specifics pertaining to Metro bike-share.

  • Inglewood Mayor James Butts is following through with a motion [PDF] that is a modified version of what he pressed for at last month’s board meeting. Butts motion would get Metro to meeting regularly with other bike-share cities, especially Santa Monica, and coordinate things like expansion, pricing, inter-operability, etc. While coordination among multiple bike-share systems within L.A. County is undoubtedly a good thing, too much consistency may not be needed. One interesting thing about the Butts motion is the way it circles the wagons around the two systems already being implemented. While it probably wouldn’t be good for L.A. County to have dozens of bike-share operators, it seems like a city far from other operators, say Burbank or Pomona, should still be able to, via a thorough process, decide to contract with another reputable bike-share vendor. Metro is trying to shut the door and squeeze out Santa Monica and Long Beach. Butts’ motion does not appear to open that door very wide; it brings in Cyclehop, then shuts out others. Worldwide, bike-share systems are really only a dozen years old, with new technologies emerging and recently-new technologies continuing to be refined. The future may belong to smart-bike (Cyclehop’s model), smart-dock (BTS’ model) or even smart lock. To try to put too many bike-share eggs in too few baskets could be more risky than trying to solve universal inter-operability before systems are even operable on the ground.
  • New board chair L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has a motion [PDF] requesting that Metro’s downtown L.A. pilot, which is planned to extend from Union Station to the northeast parts of USC (see map here), also include a docking hub at the Vermont-Exposition Metro Expo Line Station, located at the southwest corner of USC. Though this site probably OK, being adjacent to the DTLA service area, it is probably not a good precedent to have directors doing a lot of siting of individual hubs. The reason for this is that bike-share docks operate as a network saturating an area. A single station does offers some utility, but if it is at the periphery of (or outside) the core service area, it will serve limited trips and could see very little usage. Supervisor Hilda Solis also requested a station at Mariachi Plaza, which is farther from the core DTLA system. Neither Mariachi Plaza nor Expo/Vermont are awful sites but, especially if they replace a core station, they could weaken the overall utility of the initial core DTLA coverage. Metro and BTS will likely have a much better sense for dock siting once a system is up and running and usage data is available.
  • Directors Sheila Kuehl and Mike Bonin put forward a motion [PDF] that directs Metro to identify funding to accelerate implementation of bike-share, including in Venice and Playa Vista. Though future phases are still a ways off, the motion’s inclusion of specific Westside communities sets up a potential confrontation with the adjacent Santa Monica bike-share system which might more logically expand into these communities, offering greater utility.
  • Related to the Kuehl/Bonin motion, Metro also published a chart [PDF] that quantifies planned future phases, with numbers of docks, bikes and overall estimated costs. For Metro to accelerate implementation schedules, now that a contract has been awarded, it will require negotiating terms with BTS. It’s certainly not impossible, especially if there were a big chunk of funding directed toward this, say, maybe in a 2016 transportation sales tax Measure R2?

> In Santa Monica bike-share news: The city of Santa Monica’s bike-share system, now called “Breeze”, is slated to begin with a six-station test in mid-August.

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> In downtown L.A. bike-share news: The Metro BTS 1000+bike downtown L.A. system is slated to open in early 2016. Metro reports that Metro, BTS, and the city of L.A. are beginning work firming up plans for dock siting (see preliminary map here), TAP integration and potential inter-operability. The system includes a cost-sharing component with the city of Los Angeles. That contract needs to go to the L.A. City Council for approval. It is tentatively slated to be heard at Transportation Committee on August 12. BTS has anew webpage announcing their planned 2016 launch in downtown L.A. and the systems’s later expansion “including Pasadena, West Hollywood, Venice.” Those later-phase locations are in the Metro-BTS contract, but they’re still pending future Metro and cost-sharing approvals.

> In Long Beach bike-share news: The city of Long Beach last announced that its bike-share system is expected to launch some time in 2016.

Streetblog Los Angeles will continue to follow and report on all of these systems. Follow SBLA coverage of tomorrow’s Metro board meeting on Twitter at @streetsblogla.