Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on March 27th, 2014 at 10:49 am
A Wall Street Journal report last week that New York City’s wildly popular bike share system has been operating in the red has, understandably, rattled the Portland transportation world as we wait for a similar system here.
I’ll start by rounding up the burst of media coverage, then offer some quick analysis.
The Journal report last Thursday, which we linked to in this week’s Monday Roundup, kicked things off. An Oregonian news roundup followed focused the blame on Alta, the Portland-based company that manages Citi Bike and has the contract for Portland’s future system. A follow-up editorial from the Oregonian called on the city to scrap its plan and put the money to other bike projects, seemingly misreading a recent bike sharing study to draw the conclusion that a Portland system is “almost certain to require a hefty annual operating subsidy from Portland taxpayers.”
On Monday, Alta followed up with a statement of its own adding that it is “talking to investors about expanding our own operations,” which might or might not mean it’s still trying to purchase the bankrupt Montreal-based equipment and software supplier whose problems have been entangled with Alta’s.
On Thursday, Oregon Public Broadcasting did a segment focusing on the subject, and scored a call-in interview with Alta executive Mia Birk, who’d been publicly silent until then. (She avoided saying anything new.) I was a guest, too, and talked about two keys to profitability for bike share systems: dirt-cheap operating costs and lots of tourists.