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Bike share program gets money it needs

by Lauren Dickey | Sep 07, 2016
START Bike North of Town
By John Spina | September 7, 2016

The Jackson bike share program became fully funded Tuesday night. During its semimonthly meeting the Town Council unanimously agreed to provide $22,558 to help fund the project’s operational budget for the first year. Friends of Pathways also contributed $18,000.

The program will kick off in April and run through the end of June. After a truncated first year the program is expected to expand in 2018 and runfor the entire summer.

“We needed the money to pull the trigger and begin operations next spring,” Katherine Dowson, executive director of Friends of Pathways, told the News&Guide. “We want to thank the Town Council, county commissioners and mayor for their incredible leadership. Bike share could have big impacts for Jackson in terms of traffic congestion.”

Friends of Pathways and START estimated that a full year’s operational budget will be $60,000. Depending on the popularity of the program, they expect half of the $60,000 to be funded by user fees.

“Different systems we’ve talked to in Idaho and Colorado were very conservative in their first year,” Darren Brugmann, director of START, told the Town Council on Tuesday. “But they all told us these bike share programs are very popular, and they are now looking to increase the number of bikes.”

During the bike share’s pilot program, which ran from July 15 to Aug. 5, 2015, the program proved to be a viable option for sustainable transportation throughout town. According to data collected by Shared Mobility Inc., during the 21- day trial period 382 people registered to participate and logged 821 trips. Traveling a total of 2,119 miles, riders eliminated 2,431 pounds of carbon emissions from the air and saved $1,599 in gas.

Brugmann also noted that the Federal Transit Authority is considering making grants available for towns operating bike share programs. If money does become available START officials said they could supplement the operations budget without aid from the town and county.

Funds to purchase the bikes and bike racks, maintain the equipment and pay service fees for the bike share’s data collection program were covered in START’s annual budget allocation from the town.

“Obviously we want to make sure we have operational funding for this,” Brugmann said. “On the capital side we’re ready to go ahead and purchase the bicycles so we can have the bikes for an abbreviated season this spring.” In addition to securing the last piece of funding, the Town Council agreed to a memorandum of understanding between START and Friends of Pathways that officially created a working partnership.

“The partnership is a way for us to share information,” said Jack Koehler, program director of Friends of Pathways. “START will be great at running the program. We’re here to share our expertise about bike sharing and get the system up and running.” Once the bike share program has successfully operated for a year, START said it will look to hire a third-party operator to run the program and ensure bikes are properly maintained.

“It’s an exciting time for bike share programs,” Koehler said. “There are more and more options open to us [for service providers and operations managers], which should add some downward cross pressure."

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