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Bike share trial effort is deemed a success

by Lauren Dickey | Sep 26, 2017
START Bikes on Town Square

 With summer officially over so too is the initial trial run for the START Bike Share program. Despite some hiccups early on stakeholders were pleased with the equipment and overall usage. “The number of people using the START Bike system shows that it is a great option to get around in Jackson during the busiest hours of the summer,” said Scott Horn, START board chairman. “We’re excited to be a part of making summer travel more convenient and to be providing commuters with more options to complement our town and commuter bus services.”

Only 20 bikes were in use during the trial program, which began in April for selected users, opened to the public on July 21 and closed Sept. 22. Two hundred and seventy-one accounts were opened and bikes were checked out more than 4,000 times, though some of the checkouts were used solely for testing the equipment and gathering data.

Seventy-five percent of the memberships were sold to people with nonlocal ZIP codes, while riders with local ZIPs took 60 percent of the trips logged. According to START, that pattern is in line with other cities, where bike shares serve as essential services for locals while also providing short-term transportation for visitors.

“This winter, START will hit 1 million riders during 2017. START Bike is a cost-efficient program that can encourage more people to use public transportation. We’re excited to see how that can help us meet our goal of increasing overall ridership,” said Darren Brugmann, START director. “We are grateful to everyone who took part in the demo program and provided feedback to make our full bike share program a success.”

“It is a healthy, sustainable and affordable form of public transportation,” said Jack Koehler, program director at Friends of Pathways. BCycle, a subsidiary of Trek Bicycles, chose Jackson as the first community to test its new app and bicycle called the Dash, a smart bike with all the brains built into the bike rather than the docking station. Users during the pilot program helped work out the kinks in the new technology.

Each bike has a cellular modem that communicates with the server. During the pilot program, administrators told the bikes to communicate more than normal to collect as much data as possible. The extra data collection did use more power than anticipated, but Koehler said, “I’ll be talking with them to make sure this bug was fixed and the permanent system will be self-sustaining.”

A permanent system, funded by Energy Conservation Works and the Teton Conservation District, will hit the road April 9 with 55 bicycles. During the trial period passes were sold at a reduced rate of $5. Once a permanent system is in place this spring a one-day pass that allows for 30 minutes of rental time will cost $8, a three-day pass allowing for 30-minute rentals each day will cost $20, a season pass allowing for 60 minutes each day will cost $50, and a founder’s pass, which allows for 90 minutes each day, will cost $90.

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