social-bikesProgram likely to start next summer

Fresh off gaining oversight of taxi service in the region, the Capital District Transportation Authority is working to launch a bike-sharing program in Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Saratoga Springs.

CDTA received applications from three contractors to run the service that would let users borrow bikes in the four cities.

“It would be a regional bike-sharing program with stations at major activity centers like colleges and universities, downtowns, health-care centers,” said Carm Basile, CDTA’s chief executive officer.

The agency expects to select a contractor within six weeks and hopes to launch the program next summer. Users would pay for membership and for renting bikes in half-hour and hourlong increments.

Many details on how it will work will be determined once an experienced contractor is in place, Basile said.

“They come in, they work with you to decide you need a 12-bike rack here or an eight-bike rack there,” he said.

The contractor would own and maintain the bikes, which would be available except during the winter.

“They are specialized bikes,” said Lauren Bailey, CDTA’s mobility manager. The bike chain isn’t exposed, and the pedals are firmly secured to prevent tampering. The bikes also typically are equipped with GPS locators.

A borrower would be able to return them to a designated bike hub or to another bike rack that is logged into a system that the contractor would create.

For people who don’t own a bicycle, the program gives them a chance to use one, Bailey said.

“For people who own bikes, this creates a one-way option,” she said. A person could ride to meet for friends for dinner, then lock up the bike and get a car ride home.

The Capital District Transportation Committee, the agency that oversees distribution of federal transportation funding, ran a pilot program for bike sharing in 2014.

CDTC paid Buffalo BikeShare $50,000 to make 25 bikes available for one week each in Albany, Schenectady, Troy and Saratoga Springs. More than 250 people took 711 rides.

Last year, CDTC sought bids for running a program in Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga Springs. That agency envisioned a program with 260 bikes and startup costs of $500,000 to $1.5 million. To run the program for five years, CDTC estimated would cost $1 million to $3.4 million.

After discussions between the two agencies, it was decided CDTA had the experience running regional transportation programs and would oversee creating a bike share.

Basile said the startup costs are now estimated to be between $500,000 and $750,000. Operating costs are still to be determined working with the contractor.

CDTA has some money available, he said, but it also is seeking sponsors. In other communities, he said, banks, health care providers and colleges have sponsored bike shares.

“The target demo is millennials, but I see opportunity well beyond that,” Basile said.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature authorized CDTA to oversee taxi service in the region. Basile sees that decision and the bike-sharing program as a consistent extension of CDTA’s providing transportation alternatives to cars like its bus fleet.

“It’s a way for us to be committed to developing mobility options in the region,” he said. “If you want to see a regional bike share program happen, it makes a lot more sense to have a regional entity like CDTA (oversee it).”

Updated 10:12 pm, Monday, October 24, 2016