Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 1st, 2011 at 3:34 pm
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(Photo © J. Maus)
Tonight in downtown Portland, the Portland Bureau of Transportation will ask for feedback on their draft list of projects in the running for a key pot of federal funding. Portland is in line to receive $6.6 million in "regional flexible funds" and one of the five candidate projects is the Central City Bike Sharing Program.
Today, we learned that the Chair of Portland Streetcar Inc., Michael Powell (owner of Powell's Books), has sent a letter (full text below) addressed to US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, urging him to support Portland's bike-sharing system proposal with a $2 million funding boost.
With those start-up funds (total project cost is $4 million including user fees and private sponsors), PBOT could move forward with a 740 bike, 74 kiosk system that would provide free/low-cost bicycles throughout the Central City (on both sides of the river).
Back in April we reported that there is some serious momentum for this bike-sharing plan and much of the push was coming from the powerful people behind Portland's nationally acclaimed streetcar network.
This letter from Powell takes that support to the next level. It also confirms that private companies have already committed to sponsoring the project and makes a strong case for why Portland needs a world-class bike-share system. Read the full text of his letter below (emphasis mine):
Dear Secretary LaHood:
We are writing to show our support for the Portland Bikeshare grant proposal under the Transportation Community and System Preservation program.
A safe and efficient transportation system is a system of options. Portland has made significant bicycle transportation investments that allow for up to 8% of our trips to be taken by bicycle, reducing our emissions, preserving capacity for goods and services, and reducing transportation costs for many Portland residents.
Bikesharing is not a hew concept, but no American city can provide the living laboratory that Portland offers; the large-scale bikeshare program supported by this grant will be the fist bikeshare program to launch in a "Platinum: level bicycle city."
We see the PORTLAND BIKESHARE project as a key to supporting a healthy community, by encouraging biking and walking; supplementing transit ridership, and advancing Portland's investment in a Platinum-rated bicycling transportation network. Portland has worked hard to develop a Climate Action Plan and the Bike Plan 2030, both of which recognize the need to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and increase trips taken by foot and bike.
The PORTLAND BIKESHARE project area includes 50,000 households and 100,000 jobs, which will be served by new transportation options. The PORTLAND BIKESHARE network would include 74 stations and introduce 740 shared bikes; providing a seamless array of transportation choices for moving throughout the Central City. This project will transform many occasional riders to regular cyclists and it will be a unique lure to the coveted 'interested but concerned' riders essential to meeting our Bike Plan 2030 and Climate Action Plan goals. In its first 12 months of operation, staff estimates that bike sharing will generate 500,000 new bicycle trips, The City of Portland recognizes the importance of shifting trips to bike to preserve our constrained capacity, increase the efficiency of our current system and reduce our city and region's investment in costly transportation infrastructure.
We support this project because it goes beyond a bike share program: essentially creating a healthy promotion program and exceeds in reducing transportation costs for our residents and impacts on our environment. Bike share systems have proven successful at increasing the number of bicycle trips taken in cities across the globe by providing access to bicycles at a low cost, increasing the visibility and presence of bicycles on downtown streets, and providing a transportation option that connects residents, employees, and tourists to work, home, transit and attractions.
We urge you to support the PORTLAND BIKESHARE project because of the innovative approach to meeting the goals of the program and the multifaceted return on the investment for the community. This project has broad community support as exemplified by the partners in this letter. Importantly, this project has financial commitments and the project development to insure success.
That last sentence makes clear what we've suspected for months now — that private companies have already committed to sponsoring bike-share in Portland.
The letter adds some serious firepower to Portland's efforts to finally move forward on bike-sharing. As we've shared in the past, Sec. LaHood loves Portland Streetcar, so the halo effect of them giving such a strong endorsement of bike-sharing could be significant.
Why is Portland Streetcar Inc. so interested in bike-sharing?
Portland Streetcar Inc. Board of Directors member Chris Smith tells us the letter is, "Very much emblematic of "big tent" thinking about active transportation and the opportunities for mutual support between transit, biking and walking."
But beyond feel-good policy goals, Portland Streetcar Inc. could also have designs on running the system and managing the public/private partnership that will be required to make it succeed (something they've already demonstrated success at with their streetcar system). There's also the idea (of PSI's executive director Rick Gustafson) of using bike-share as leverage to spur a revamp in the entire public transit fare structure.
The current list of candidate projects includes five projects worth a total of $9.75 million.
Will the backing of Portland Streetcar Inc. be enough to push bike-sharing to the funding finish line? That remains to be seen; but it certainly doesn't hurt its chances.