Metro staff recommends bikeshare vendor

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The Metro Board of Directors this month will be considering a contract with the company Bicycle Transit Systems (BTS) with Bcycle as a partner for a regional bikeshare program. Under Metro’s plans, bikeshare will begin next spring in downtown Los Angeles with 65 stations and more than 1,000 bikes.

Eventually Metro’s bikeshare program will include 4,000 bikes spread around nine cities and communities in Los Angeles County, including Pasadena, West Hollywood, Venice and others (see the map above). Bikeshare allows users to take a bike at one station and return it to any other station. In other words, bikeshare is really good for short trips that can often be made easier on bike than by car — one-way or round-trip. Bikeshare is also a great way to travel to and from transit.

As for the BTS/Bcycle team, Metro selected the Philadelphia-based company after a rigorous procurement process in which Metro staff evaluated several bikeshare companies. Among the reasons they were chosen by Metro:

•BTS and its partner, Bcycle, have delivered bikeshare systems on-time in other cities and they have a good track record with those cities and with customer satisfaction.

•The BTS/Bcycle staff have expertise implementing large bikeshare programs in other cities, including Philly, New York and Washington D.C. BTS operates bikeshare systems in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. Bcycle, in separate partnerships, has bikeshare systems in Denver, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and others.

•Metro believes the BTS/Bcycle team has the greatest ability to deliver more than 1,000 bikes and 65 kiosks for Metro’s pilot program in downtown L.A.

•The BTS/Bcycle team has also been working on allowing payment for bikes with transit fare cards in Philadelphia and Santiago, Chile. Metro wants its riders to be able to use TAP cards to pay for bikeshare memberships or rentals.

A Metro staff report detailing the procurement process will be posted online later this week. Here is a video by BTS that gives you an idea how bikeshare looks in Philly:

There is another significant issue involving bikeshare in our region. Prior to the Metro Board deciding in 2014 to pursue a regional bikeshare program, two other cities — Long Beach and Santa Monica — were already planning their own bikeshare programs. The start dates of bikeshare in those cities is still to be determined but the cities have chosen different vendors, thus raising the question whether their bikeshare systems will be compatible with Metro’s.

Metro’s unequivocal response: the agency will continue working with Long Beach and Santa Monica to ensure “interoperability” and a good customer experience for those who want to use the different bikeshare systems. That means Metro will be discussing common fare structures (including use of TAP as a membership card) as well as inclusive bikeshare memberships, consistency in marketing and possibly co-locating some bikeshare facilities for those traveling between Metro’s bikeshare kiosks and Long Beach and/or Santa Monica.

The Metro Board will first consider the bikeshare contract with the BTS/Bcycle team at its Planning and Programming Committee meeting on June 17. The full Board could consider the contrast as early as its meeting on Thursday, June 25.

21 replies

  1. Metro is pathetic. They need to be “contracted” out along with our elected officials. This message will probably get edited or deleted by their “Media Spin Police”.

    Bikeshare around the world—!!

    Mexico City – 444 stations with 6,000 bicycles – 25,000 daily riders – 400,000 monthly riders – 100,000 registered users

    Bike share boom: 7 cities doing it right! Of course not LA!

    • OK, this is genius. That article you linked (from 2013) about cities doing bike share right includes Montreal. Since you’re apparently oblivious, I’ll note that Montreal is where the public version PBSC demonstrated how amazing bike share can be in order to sell the model overseas. Did it work pretty great at first? Sure, right up to the point where the entity racked up some $40 MILLION in debt and had to file for bankruptcy. I’d say a delayed system is doing bike share much better than that.

  2. As a bicyclist and a motorcyclist, agreed that municipalities shouldn’t be regulating which bike-share vendors to be the sole monopoly in that area.

    The concept is too dangerous and hurtful for consumers. If only bike-share vendor is able to operate in a single municipality, then they can charge whatever outrageous price they want without fear of a competitor. They can do stuff like $20 per hour or whatever they feel.

    Can you imagine what car rental companies would do if they run like that? Only Hertz is authorized rental car in LA. No Enterprise, no Avis, no other competition so Hertz can charge whatever price they want.

    Bad idea. Leave government out of regulating which bike share can operate in what municipality.

  3. “Metro wants its riders to be able to use TAP cards to pay for bikeshare memberships or rentals.”

    This is a great big first step in expanding TAP payments than just using it for public transit fares. TAP needs to evolve to become similar to Octopus Cards in Hong Kong. If done right, the opportunities that exist for TAP is huge that it in itself can become the regional payments system for many businesses in Southern California and provide basic financial services for the unbanked.

    I imagine one day only carrying a TAP card (or a TAP app on my smartphone) and using it pay for everything from Metro to bicycle rentals to buying a bottle of water at 7-Eleven.

    • Or the T-Money Card in Seoul. You can buy almost anything with that card in Seoul and is the only “cash” you need to have to pay for everything. So sad that LA is lagging behind everyone else in these things. Then again, it took them decades to realize we needed to have a rail line to our main airport and that the honor system was a dumb idea so what do you expect from Metro?

  4. Why are Silver Line and Orange Line stations not included in this map? Are they not just like rail?

    • Following your transit example (and other similar examples around the country), the frustration is warranted and the actions seem a bit short-sighted for your valid reasons, but it doesn’t convince me that a sole source solution is best for the whole region, even if interoperability is an important part of the picture. I guess my hope and expectation is that bike share won’t follow transit patterns because of its unique nature and low costs. If you look at what’s changed with bike share in 5 short years, the possibilities of 10 or 20 years from now are pretty wide open.

      And it may be naive and a bit counter-intuitive to my original argument, but I truly think we’ll avoid the fragmentation problem because lacking interoperability is actually a much bigger deal with bikes than with buses. Making a transfer on a bus is OK because you leave the first bus behind; with bike share, you can’t do the same, because there’s no way to return your first bike when you pick up the second, unless there’s a B-cycle station and a SoBi station next to each other at the jurisdiction border. So, with necessity breeding invention, I believe these supplier/operators will do better than fare card compatibility in the long term.

      Another reason I think this is likely, even though it doesn’t happen with transit, is that the players are private companies. There’s no public bike share district taxing or assessing us and then vigilantly preserving its own future; these systems are supported by user fees, sponsorships, private investments, along with Metro funds. Certainly, Metro has its own interests, but B-cycle and SoBi have an active interest in playing nice in the long run, so I think we’ll see a lot of innovation in cross-system integration, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see mergers, either.

      Finally, bike share is just plan cheap, so I don’t believe that decisions made today destroy the possibilities 10 or 20 years down the road. If Santa Monica watches B-cycle succeed tremendously for five years, who’s to say they don’t replace their equipment (5-10 useful life is very short) with B-cycle next time around? Or vice versa with SoBi? Or maybe a big operator comes in and provides a large-scale, no-cost system for the whole region and replaces everything (see: Bay Area).

  5. I am the State Assemblymember for a large portion of the area’s discussed in this post and this is a topic of great interest and concern to me. My office has been working on Bikeshare since 2013 with all stakeholders including Metro, Santa Monica, the County and others in order to avoid multiple, incompatible, systems. I will try to write more as time allows, but there are a few items that I will address quickly: Santa Monica will be deploying its pilot project with its vendor, Cyclehop, in a few weeks and plans a full rollout in November. Long Beach has also selects Cyclehop. West Hollywood, Be early Hills and UCLA are all moving forward with intention to go with Cyclehop. That changes the map considerably. Santa Monica has worked diligently to promote a single system for the Los Angeles area. It was the lead agency on bikeshare, due to its having received a $2 million grant for planning and implementation. Thus, the issue is not whether Cyclehop will be compatible with Metro’s system. The is sue is whether the vendor Metro chooses will be compatible with Cyclehop. As far as I am aware, it is not. The kind of compatibility required for interoperability was not part of Metro’s Request for Proposals.

    • This whole situation reminds me of the steamroller scene in Austin Powers.

    • “The [issue] is whether the vendor Metro chooses will be compatible with Cyclehop. As far as I am aware, it is not.”

      It’s not that easy. CycleHop uses bikes made by Social Bicycles (SoBi), which are noticeably different than the bikes made by B-cycle. SoBi bikes have technology on each bike; B-cycle bikes use technology at kiosks with docking points. SoBi’s smart bikes therefore don’t need expensive point-to-point stations, making it a cheaper option. B-cycle’s stations, however, are easier to use for walk-up cyclists and offer more permanent sponsorship opportunities. There are plenty of trade-offs to consider.

      It may seem unfortunate that two different supplier-operator pairs were chosen, but the models likely made the most sense to the respective agencies that chose them. The fact that Santa Monica went first shouldn’t dictate that SoBi/CycleHop is the only bike share provider for the whole region.

      It’s also very possible that interoperability on some level will be possible with the fare card, as the article stated. If you mean interoperability in terms of riding a bike from downtown LA to Santa Monica, and having that bike be consistent the whole way, I would argue that’s not the intent of bike share, nor does it make much sense to most users.

      • All fair points. The frustration, for me, stems from the fact that compatibility between the various bike-share programs is so obviously the ideal case for all parties and for the public, and it was identified as such so early on, and yet that goal seems inevitably to be lost in the bureaucratic muck.

        I agree with your point that, initially, when these programs first roll out it will be of minor practical consequence that DTLA, SaMo, and LB all have incompatible programs. Granted, the type of person that would bike between those locations would not likely do so on a heavy bike-share bike. But what about when bike-share comes to Venice, and Culver City, and UCLA, San Pedro, etc? People in those place ARE going to want to bike to Santa Monica/Long Beach

        There are 88 municipalities in Los Angeles County. Many of them, (SaMo, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Culver City, West Hollywood, Pasadena, et al.) are within bike-able proximity to the dense core of the Los Angeles basin. When bike-share expands to those cities, do we really want each of them picking unique operators? I would say no. Fragmentation discourages usage, and I think it’s fair to say that convincing people to ride bikes in Los Angeles is a tough enough sell as it is, even without adding a confusing system of non-compatible bike-share programs to the mix.

        Consider, by way of comparison, the many municipal transit systems we have in the county. Growing up in Mid-City, a trip to the beach down Pico Blvd meant riding Metro west to Pico/Rimpau, and then waiting for BBB to take me the rest of the way. Now, imagine a utopia where both metro and BBB traversed the entire length of Pico. The latter situation is unarguably better for the consumer. Is making an inter-agency bus transfer the end of the world for the bus rider? No. Is navigating incompatible bike-share systems across the county going to be the end of the world for the bike rider? No. But it makes the experience worse, which will hurt ridership over the long run.

        The non-compatibility problem is not one that will manifest itself as such in 2016. It is a problem that will manifest itself in 2026, 2036, and beyond. As we’re planning the future of bicycling in the city, we need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. I totally get that Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Long Beach are going with the operators that make the most sense to them right now. I just wish they would think about what makes the most sense with a vision of the city 30 years from now.

      • “When bike-share expands to those cities, do we really want each of them picking unique operators? I would say no. Fragmentation discourages usage, and I think it’s fair to say that convincing people to ride bikes in Los Angeles is a tough enough sell as it is, even without adding a confusing system of non-compatible bike-share programs to the mix.”

        Or, we can leave government out of it and let free market and competition happen so that multiple bike share vendors are freely able to start their businesses all over LA County, all competing with each other without government interference. What stupid bureaucratic government regulation is there that these companies cannot operate on their own in any market they wish to choose to do so?

        CycleHop vs. B-cycle, why should they be restricted to operate within one city versus another? CycleHop shouldn’t be restricted to operate just in Santa Monica or Long Beach, neither B-cycle should be restricted to operate under Metro either. They should be free to do business where ever they choose to do so.

        So why not this compromise:

        Any bike-share vendor who wishes to do business in LA County will be free to do so and compete among each other regardless of city. The only caveat: they must accept TAP as an additional payment form.

        • Cities get involved for several reasons, one important one being that they can exercise some control where the kiosks/stations are located. I think letting any vendor set up kiosks anywhere could lead to both clutter and confusion among those who use bikeshare. Plus the vendors could just end up driving each other out of business if all allowed to set up in the same place.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • From a Millennial with high-BS meter POV, the arguments that gov’t should exercise control over bike-share vendors sound like this:

        “I think letting any vendor set up kiosks anywhere could lead to both clutter and confusion among those who use bikeshare. ”

        I see a Coca-Cola vending machine right next to a Pepsi vending machine, I’m so confused. We must bring government along to regulate it!


        “Plus the vendors could just end up driving each other out of business if all allowed to set up in the same place.”

        Doesn’t sound really convincing if you put it in this context:

        Not seeing Starbucks and Coffee Bean driving each other out of business when they’re in a similar location close to each other. There’s a Chevron gas station on one side of the road and a Shell Oil gas station on the other, I don’t see them going away. I see a Subway and Quizno’s in the same strip mall. I don’t see them running each other out of business.

  6. Put a bike lane map over the Metro Rail map. There isn’t ONE bike lane that meets the Red, or Purple line! We need bike share AND protected bike lanes! Metro’s got a 5 BILLION dollar budget and there isn’t ONE BIKE LANE to take you to a rail station in Central LA.

    Metro funds bike share but no bike infrastructure. Metro builds rail stations then LADOT widens the road. Metro builds subways but the city won’t let you build anything near them. Same old story. 🙁

    • The 7th St bike lane meets the 7th/Figueroa Red/Purple line stop. The 1st St bike lane meets the Civic Center Red/Purple line stop. The Chandler bike path meets the North Hollywood Red line stop. Union Station, and Westlake/Macarthur Park, and Wilshire/Vermont, are also all within a block of a bike lane. And there are plans for a bike lane on Hollywood Blvd, which would meet a few more Red line stops, as well as MyFigueroa, which should even bring a protected bike lane to 7th/Metro.

      • Yes ok I may have exaggerated some of my claims but my point still stands that once you get off Red/Purple line there isn’t anywhere to safely ride a bike, especially an upright dutch(slow) bike.Metro and city of LA have not been on the same page about the pedestrian environment around their stations and this will be the same story with respect to first/last mile connections.

        MyFig has been delayed like 5+ years and the hollywood bike lane is highly doubtful.