City Council will vote Thursday on a five-year contract with a newly formed nonprofit organization, Bike Share of Austin, to operate the system.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded Austin a $1.5 million grant last summer that would fund most of the project. Bike Share of Austin, the only organization that applied for an operating contract, would provide $500,000 in matching funds. Officials hope memberships, grants and sponsorships will sustain the system, which they say would cost about $225,000 a year to operate.
Proponents say bike sharing would ease traffic congestion, help close transit gaps in the bus and rail systems, offer an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles and improve users’ health.
“This is no longer one of those things that’s out on the edge. It’s becoming a fairly standard part of transportation infrastructure for cities,” said Council Member Chris Riley.
Bike-share programs operate in about 20 U.S. cities — including San Antonio, Denver, Miami and Washington — and more than 400 cities worldwide. Houston and Fort Worth are putting in systems, too. Most municipalities team with a nonprofit or private-sector partner for operations.
Houston of course already has a system, which as we know is about to be expanded. I’m one part amused and one part amazed that it’s taken as long as it has for this to come to Austin given its overall proclivity for biking, but hey, you never know.
Austin’s plans call for 40 stations and 400 bicycles. If approved, the system could launch as soon as late spring or summer.
Exact station sites haven’t been set, but they would be focused in downtown and popular destinations such as Zilker Park, said Adrian Lipscombe of Austin’s Public Works Department, which would implement the program. Stations would be an average of two or three blocks apart.
Austin is hillier than downtown San Antonio, though, and some have questioned whether users can handle the 40-pound bikes on the city’s rolling terrain. Some downtown streets are not what many would consider beginner-friendly, either. But proponents say the city’s young workforce and mild climate make it a perfect fit.
San Antonio’s pretty hilly overall, though, and I don’t know that its downtown streets are any beginner-friendlier than Austin’s. I’m sure Austin will take to this just fine. Took ‘em long enough, that’s for sure.