Velib Station, Paris (wikimedia)

In a recent list of projects PSRC recommended for federal funding was $150,000 for a “King County Bike Sharing Project.” Intrigued, I asked Metro planners Ref Lindmark and Eileen Kadesh about the details.

See also this City of Seattle/UW report on bike sharing.

What is the program’s total cost, and what are the other funding sources?

Grant funding is critical to getting the program launched. The capital cost of launching a program is estimated to be in the range of $3500 – $4500 per bike. Operating costs are estimated to be in the range of $1200 – 1600 per bike, and are normally funded through subscription fees.

King County has been awarded $150,000 in Transportation Enhancement money for 2011 to fund business model development, site selection and right-of-way permitting. Our application was for $1.83 million ($1.68 million for construction)… We will continue to pursue funding opportunities from a number of sources prior to there being an actual program.

County funds are not being proposed to fund this program.

When would it open?

Launch is currently planned for early summer, 2012.

More after the jump…

How many bikes and where would they go?

Phase 1 targets 500 bikes and 50 stations in downtown Seattle neighborhoods, SLU, UW and Redmond. Phase 2 would expand to Bellevue Downtown, Kirkland, Renton, Kent and key neighborhoods tied to Link light rail stations.

How would membership work?

Users would subscribe for an annual, daily or monthly fee, and there would be an hourly cost after the first half hour. Users would swipe a card at the station kiosk to access a bike. Visitors would access the bike by means of credit card, with a a higher hourly rate.

In most cities the annual subscription cost is in the range of $45 – 75, plus an hourly rate. The first half hour is free in most programs.

How would you handle helmet laws?

The vendor would be asked to address the issue of how helmets would be provided. Most users would bring their own helmets; there would probably also be some type of system for checking out helmets.

What are the criteria for expanding beyond the pilot?

Areas for program expansion would primarily be based on the interest of local jurisdictions and major employers in King County, in negotiation with the vendor. It is anticipated that cities and major employers and insitutions would sign their own contracts with the vendor, based on a common template to ensure program consistency. The primary criteria would likely include estimated daily usage at proposed stations, presence of bicycle infrastructure (e.g., bike lanes and separated paths), linkage with transit, willingness to provide right-of-way for stations, and membership guarantees.

28 Replies to “King County Seeks Grant for Bike Sharing”

  1. This will be handy. Now I can lock my bike up at South Bellevue and not worry about whether the rack on the bus is full. When I need a bike downtown I can rent one. No doubt, critics will bitch and moan about the expense – then again, those same people are happily throwing away hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies designed to do nothing more than drive up the cost of Eastlink.

    1. You mean those select four on the Bellevue City Council? With the $200,000-$250,000 they plan on “studying” the B7, new B7, Bellevue Suspension or whatever the heck it is now, they can jumpstart their own bike-sharing program!

      Man that study session yesterday threw me into a fit.

      On a side note, I once went on a local biking trip with two cousins but then Metro buses only had two racks.

  2. “We will continue to pursue funding opportunities from a number of sources prior to there being an actual program.” In other words, in this economy it’s not going to happen unless it hits the grant jackpot. (TIGER got something like $40 in applications for every $1 in available funding…)

  3. The guy who is just leaving bikes around West Seattle has a much better idea. 150,000 could by a lot of used but still functional bikes. Why go through the hassle of registrations and charges?

  4. For this to work in Seattle, there’s going to be a need full time need for people in trucks, constantly shuttling bikes from low lying stations to hill top stations. Or some pretty serious pricing incentives to get people to ride back up.

    I think these share programs are great and I’m not knocking it. I’m jealous every time I visit a city that has one. Just noting a potential issue. Even in relatively flat cities, I’v noticed they require staff to shuttle bikes from popular drop offs back to popular pickups. (These people also seem to do the maintenance on the bikes.) I just think we are going to end up requiring a lot more shuttling.

    1. Slope and diversity of use are to the big issues that cause imbalance of supply and demand of bikes. Slope creates an imbalance of demand while poor diversity of land use creates temporal imbalance of demand.

      If pricing can be prove to be an effective way to balance demand (ie charge for going down hill, pay for riding up hill) it might actually be a more fixable problem than poor diversity of land use. With poor diversity of land use you have strong directional flows but charging by time of day and direction is pretty complicated.

      A zone system based on elevation would be simply to understand and I think could actually do a good job a shaping rider use in a way that creates a somewhat balanced system.

      1. For our hills, either they need to have a good range of gears (I don’t see any in the photo) or some kind of battery/motor assist if we expect enough people to ride up our hills, even with a financial incentive. Some of our hills are hard enough on my 27-speed mountain bike.

      2. The rear hubs in the photo look large enough to have internal gearing — lower maintenance and more reliable than derailleur gearing. Nexus 8-speed hubs have a wide enough range for anything short of the Counterbalance, if you don’t insist on a racing high gear range.

    2. So what do you think people will do with the bikes if they don’t want to ride it back up a hill? They could just buy it for $4000 couldn’t they? It seems that you think the bike station at the bottom of the hill will have enough spots for *every bike in the system…

  5. This is super exciting; it’d about time for Seattle , already a leader in bicycle commuting, to joing the ranks of cities with bikeshare systems. It’d be great if they could tie the whole thing into ORCA so you could just tap your card and check out a bike. Tey could have you tap when you return the bikr too in order to facilitate pricing incentives to go uphill.

    1. Completely agree. Unless they have very cheap helmet dispensers (perhaps those 3rd world helmets made with styrofoam and a string, um, but using vegetable-based biodegradable foam), this is unworkable. Requiring people to remember to bring their own helmets or share an old sweaty dirty helmet will not work.

      Our helmet law discourages biking anyway. Repeal it, and let people be responsible for themselves.

      1. I was reading the comments just to see if someone would mention this. Thanks guys. Though, if the law is repealed, I’m not sure what Officer Mulkey will do.

  6. I’m currently living in Montreal where they have a Bixi bike sharing system. There was actually just an article in The Gazette about some McGill U students who have been studying the program. According to their survey 86% of Bixi trips replaced walking/transit/personal bike, 8% replaced taxi, 4% wouldn’t have otherwise been made, and 2% replaced private automobile trips.

    1. Yeah in a lot of cases it helps by giving people a faster option than their slow walking or short transit trips.

  7. Instead of dedicated swipe cards, could ORCA be used for this? Are the planners on board with such an idea?

  8. I’m from Paris and I used Velib extensively in that city.

    I don’t think this will be successful in Seattle though and I do think it’ll be a huge expense, more than the city is perhaps expecting. Money the city does not have to be spending on stuff like this.

    The reason why Velib works so well in Paris is because it’s accompanied by a fantastic public transportation network, the city has great bike lanes all over, it’s way denser, less hills… etc etc etc. Also, Paris pays for the maintenance by selling ad space at all transit stations to JCDecaux – and in Seattle we can’t even put ads on our bus shelters!!!

    This would be a huge waste of money… Seattle should be fixing up their bike paths before ever considering this.

    1. It’s a County program, not City of Seattle, and as it say above, “County funds are not being proposed to fund this program.”

  9. Pingback: Helmets
  10. What about liability issues? If someone who isn’t a very good bike rider uses one of these and gets into an accident (worst case: they tumble at streetcar rails), how can the county or other governing body be shielded from million dolar lawsuits? I’d assume that the only bike designs that would be acceptable would be almost bulletproof, but here’d probably have to be regular inspection/maintenance for every bike in the system to avoid the sort of ‘the brakes were bad so it’s YOUR fault’ sort of excuse following an acccident.

    1. Clearly someone should e-mail the state about this. The liability issues for building roads probably dwarf the ones for renting bikes.

  11. $3500 – 4500 per bike???

    I paid $220 for my Trek 7000 (I think current price is $320).

    You could buy 10 Trek 7000’s less than the low end of that range…and a $1200-$1600 “operating cost!”. That’s another 4 bikes — per bike

    So for the cost of one of these bikes + operating costs, you could just give 15 people their own bike, and have them chain it up downtown and take care of it.

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