The City of Portland is currently lining up official schedules to set a date for its announcement of private sponsors for Portland’s bike share system, two sources familiar with the plans said last week and Tuesday.
“We could announce any time,” PBOT Active Transportation Director Dan Bower confirmed in an interview Tuesday. “We’re really looking for a good venue.”
Bower also said, in the city’s most certain terms to date, that the city expects to again delay its launch date, this time to spring 2015. “To get it done this fall, I would need to be at city council tomorrow,” Bower said.
The scheduling of a sponsor announcement, which Bower said will certainly happen by the end of April, will be a key moment for the 750-bike, 75-station system — a sign that its main obstacle is no longer a source of money but rather the need for Alta Bicycle Share to pair working hardware and software in the wake of its main supplier’s bankruptcy.
Also Monday, Alta Bicycle Share confirmed for the first time that it has “successfully secured” a “soon-to-be-announced sponsorship team” for the system, a choice of words suggesting that multiple sponsors have agreed to put substantial private money behind the system in exchange for logos and other branding on the system’s equipment.
The city still doesn’t have a “signed sponsor agreement,” spokesman Dylan Rivera said in an interview Monday. But with staffers down to brass tacks on announcing a sponsorship deal whose contours were verbally agreed to months ago, it’s clearer than ever that the delay isn’t due to a lack of private sponsor money.
Instead, several signs suggest that the city’s main obstacle at the moment is somewhat subtler: the chance that Alta’s new equipment might not work properly.
First, let’s add up the factors behind the city’s one-year delay.
The Portland Mercury has reported several times on the likelihood of a second delay. On Monday, The Oregonian quoted Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick as saying the city is “uncertain as all get-out” that a 2014 launch is possible, due to problems with Alta’s equipment. In its winning proposal to the city, Alta said that bike share systems require at least six months between announcement and launch — timing that would, assuming an April launch announcement, bring Portland bike share into operation by October 2014 at the soonest.
In other words, Portland bike share would launch just as the rain begins, and at the exact time that Portland voters could begin voting on the biggest transportation ballot issue of the decade. (Rivera said Tuesday that Mayor Charlie Hales currently thinks the city council may actually pass a revenue measure in June rather than putting it to a public vote.)
How unlikely is the city to launch bike share immediately before a public ballot issue? Before you answer, consider consulting this Copenhagenize chart that attempts to summarize the usual pattern of public sentiment toward new bike share systems.
A delay into 2015, though embarrassing given the system’s original 2013 launch date, would have two obvious advantages for the city, Alta, and the system’s sponsors:
- Time to get working software out of Alta’s recent deal with 8D, the company that created the imperfect but functional software behind the country’s most successful bikesharing systems: in Washington DC, Minneapolis and Boston.
- A chance to more clearly disentangle the federally and privately funded bike share system in the public mind from the ballot issue.
In a statement emailed to BikePortland and the Portland Mercury Monday, Alta executive Mia Birk alluded to the first possibility:
We are very excited about our alliance with proven technology leader 8D, the original supplier of technology to the Bixi systems. We have worked hard and successfully secured a top-notch, soon-to-be-announced sponsor team. Although we are ready to launch bike share in 2014, we understand the city’s goals and desires to do our careful research and due diligence.
We are also proud of the phenomenal success of bike share in the eight cities in which we operate currently and know that Portland — whenever it launches — is going to be a phenomenal success as well.
Bower said Tuesday that the city’s desire to delay is due only to a desire for certainty, rather than a feeling that the equipment is actually unlikely to work.
“We think Alta’s supply is going to be good; everything we’re hearing about it is good,” Bower said. “What they’ve offered us is actually pretty exciting. It’s got some good features.”
One thing neither the city or Alta seem to be telegraphing, at least at the moment, is the possibility of putting the entire bike share system on the November ballot as part of the city’s revenue proposal.
“We’re confident that we’re launching this system,” the city spokesman, Rivera, said Monday, adding: “The city is more concerned about the quality of the launch than the timing of the launch.”
That’s an attitude that seems to be shared, one way or another, by all the major players.
Alta, for its part, essentially forced Bixi into bankruptcy itself when its affiliate operations in Chicago and New York withheld payments to their supplier in protest of Bixi’s failure to provide fully functional software. Among other things, this opened the door to Alta’s deal with 8D, the success or failure of which seems crucial for Alta Bicycle Share.
And then there’s the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Portland advocacy group that got enthusiastically behind bike share in 2011 and would again be involved if the city decides to announce a sponsorship deal at the April 21 Oregon Active Transportation Summit, which the BTA hosts. A source outside the BTA said last week that this was one of several dates being considered.
BTA Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said Monday that he can’t blame the city or its sponsor for waiting to launch until Alta has a set of equipment in working order.
“The best we can do is put out the best product we can,” Sadowsky said.
Correction 5 pm: An earlier version of this post misattributed to another speaker Rivera’s statement that Mayor Hales doesn’t currently expect a revenue ballot issue in November.
[Sigh] Alta’s Portland bike share, the Duke Nukem of the bike share wold
I was gonna say Chinese Democracy, but I think yours is better.
“When it’s done.” :-/
Bad OATS link above. It should read http://oat-summit.com
Got it – thanks, Dan.
On the bright side, Portland now has another year where downtown won’t be clogged with tourists on bikes with no urban riding experience.
“clogged” is the word you’re going to use here?
Umm are the surreys going away? I’ll gladly trade bike share to get rid of the surreys.
Is that some sort of segue-way?
Sorry, but the Esplenade and Waterfront Park are not bike commuting superhighways, they are recreational paths…the surreys, while annoying, travel at about the right pace for the Esplenade and Waterfront Park. What is your perspective on cargo bikes?
Really tourists are a benefit to Portland, in all their clueless biking ways. They are provided a relatively safe space for them to enjoy pedal-powered, fun transportation.
Oh right, what a terrible thing to have lost tourists biking around downtown. So much better to have lost tourists driving around in rental cars. That doesn’t clog things up at all! /sarcasm
What kind of tourists to Portland are going to ride the typical bike share type of bike, and where do people think they would ride them?
Lots of events at the convention center across the river. Is that who it’s thought will ride these bikes? Or is it thought that lots of tourists will be using the bikes to loop it around the waterfront esplanades and out the Springwater Corridor Trail?.
Seriously, how many people will be interested for example, in riding these bikes from downtown, up to Washington Park or to the zoo? From past comments to bikeportland, I know that some people think people will use the bikes to commute back and forth to work. Use of the bikes for commuting may be some of the use the bikes are put to, but how much? Seems as though people commuting would prefer their own bike, chosen for and set up for their specific riding needs.
For Portland, I just wonder how well thought out an idea like bike share is. If the system can do something really good for the city…great! Build it! If it’s mainly going to be some token thing that turns out not to justify it’s existence, the city will probably wind up either scrapping all those clunky bike share bikes, or trying to sell them for pennies on the dollar to…who knows?…maybe NYC will want them. I guess we’ll see, maybe in 2015.
I’d prefer that they do this right rather than fast.
I don’t expect to use the system much since I bike most places already, but I don’t want anti-bike sentiment to be justified by a crappy roll-out of bike share.
OK, this may sound preposterous, but please hear me out. How about if Portland just didn’t implement a bike sharing program in the first place?
Think about it, resources would not be squandered; and, instead, would be used for more worthwhile projects. Also, the possibility of having the anti-bike sentiment being further justified would be avoided.
The only people who would object to my proposal would be by those ignorant enough to think that bike sharing will have a significant impact in making streets more livable. Oh, and, there are those who would object because they would miss out on a political and/or financial opportunity.
Time to pull the plug (or is it, deflate the tires) on this project, otherwise, it will be the undoing of all other more worthy projects.
^^^^ THIS!!! ^^^^
In addition, people need to realize that even though bike sharing involves bikes, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be good for the bicycling community.
NO TO BIKE SHARING!, YES TO PEOPLE WHO RIDE THEIR OWN BIKES!
Haven’t you heard? There is no “bike community”. We’re just “people with bikes”.
Haven’t you heard? Everyone walks.
And probably the undoing of all civilization, too.
While the delay is unfortunate, all signs point to a better deal for Portland in the end. It’s also worth noting that this gives PBOT more time to install some additional infrastructure to accommodate all those Bike Share trips in safest possible manner… Okay, I’m not holding my breath, but it sure would be nice to see some upgrades to the central city ‘bikeways’ before spring of 2015.
I’m looking forward to a possible northward bike lane from PSU to the Broadway Bridge. The only sensible option in my opinion is the Montgomery/Vista/Westover/Johnson/Lovejoy passage.
Yes! Let’s take advantage of the delay and roll out some sorely needed infrastructure in the meantime.
Left-side cycle track on SW 4th, pretty please.
i would strongly support a lane reduction of 4th. the more difficult we can make motorvehicle use downtown, the better.
So, I’m all for things bikey, but having used the bikeshare system in Boulder I just have to ask (almost certainly not for the first time), (1) who is bikeshare’s intended user and (2) are there enough of those user’s in Portland? It was fun to use the Boulder bikeshar system. We bought a one-day pass, switched bikes before the end of the first hour to avoid the longer-use surcharge, and had bikes that were in good-enough shape.
But we saw hardly no bikeshare bikes on the road. Other than some particular circumstance of location, anyone who lived there has a bike of their own rather than an annual (or monthly) pass. So, to repeat what has almost certainly been posted here, where are the links to the feasibility studies that show that these work??
well said…100% agree
I should point out that Boulder is a very different city than Portland (in many ways, not the least important being size). Time of day can also be a pretty big shift in use (like as a tourist you are likely touring around during the day and not during peak commute hours). Not to mention the system is still pretty new in Boulder, right?
Compare that to the system I rode in Minneapolis (which is a more similar size to Portland, has a good size university right by downtown, and is also pretty bike crazy), that has been operating for a few years and seems to be doing pretty well (and expanding).
I think the fact that many cities are starting bikeshare programs is all the feasibility info one should need. I don’t think cities are spending money (private or public) on things they don’t think will work or be useful.
Ditto. I finally tried the Minneapolis/St.Paul system last summer, and thought it worked great. You see people out on the “Nice Ride” bikes all over town.
I had my reservations about using public dollars to subsidize bikesharing, but after trying it out, it’s harder for me to see how this wouldn’t be a huge asset to the community. Compared to some of the things we subsidize, it seems like a good investment. Yes, it will highlight equity and access issues, but you’ve got to start in the core where bike-trip demand is densest and immediate ROI is highest, and work your way outward.
Based on the data from other cities with bike share and Alta’s statements in their bid, something like 80+% of the users will likely be annual subscribers. So that means they are locals who use the system regularly. They may commute into the central city by transit and then use Bike Share to get around once their, or they may live in the central city area and either not own a bike, or own a different style of bike (e.g. mountain or touring) that is less practical for some of their local trips. Or they frequently make mixed modal trips (bike to the store, take transit back; walk to work, take bike to go to lunch, walk home; etc. ) Bike Share may not be used much by the 5-6% of the population that currently commutes by bike and bikes frequently, it will pick up quite a few people from the 95% of the population that does not though.
Also, 80+% of the revenue from the system will come from short term users, like you in Boulder, these are tourists, business travelers, convention goers, suburbanites coming to the central city for shopping and eating. Judging by the number of hotel rooms in the central city that are usually pretty well occupied there will definitely be significant demand from this end as well. Keep in mind that because Bikeshare is point to point it works differently than bike rentals, so will pick up people who would be hesitant to rent a bike because they don’t want to keep track of it all day.
And I’m not sure if there are any more detailed feasibility studies at least for Portland, but you can find Alta’s bid (minus some confidential information) posted online and they have worked out the feasibility of Portland to determine their revenue model and funding requriements, there’s quite a bit of info on Capital Bikeshare and Citibike as well.
I’ve had the same thought- its hard for me to understand why people who want to bike won’t just buy a bike, or rent one from any of the many bike stores around town. But apparently some people do want to use these bike share programs, so wemight as well build it for them.
Montrealer here. Some scenarios based on my SO’s (who owns and rides several bikes) Bixi usage:
– it’ raining in the morning and nice in the PM -> take the subway to work, ride back
– you go drinking in the evening: bike to bar, take public transit on the way back
– you go to a movie downtown and don’t feel comfortable parking your nice bike there -> take Bixi
– multi-modal trips: take subway then Bixi to your final destination
– traveling out of town: ride Bixi to the train station
(I rarely use Bixi because the bikes are too small for me and kill my knees on uphills)
With Portland’s skeletal late-night bus network, I’d easily reverse the second example you gave. Take a bus to the bar (or a house party) and bike home after. Not intoxicated, of course…
“…I just have to ask (almost certainly not for the first time), (1) who is bikeshare’s intended user and (2) are there enough of those user’s in Portland? …” PdxMark
Good questions. What exactly is this system supposed to do…hoped to do, for Portland? It’s kind of exciting to have new stuff, but if there’s no real indication a bike share system is going to accomplish much worthwhile for Portland, maybe it’s wasted effort to pursue it further.
It’s Portland’s money, so, living out in Beaverton, personally, I don’t really care whether or not the city goes for this system. If the city does go for it, that’s an opportunity to see how it works out for the biggest city in the metro area.
Maybe WeightWatchers will be a member of the “soon-to-be-announced sponsorship team”. I suppose that company isn’t big enough, or hip enough…no jokes…to be on the team.
The experience in larger cities has been that ridership grows quickly after launch. In eight weeks, New York had 60K members and had the same number of trips as those taken using London’s years-old system. The same was true for ridership growth in Chicago.
Hmm, NYC and London posted the same numbers after NYC was up for 2 months? Does that mean that membership and usage hit a wall after the first few months?
Based on what I’ve read about NYC, the bikes are seeing incredibly high utilization, to the point where users are frustrated that they cannot find a bike to ride when they want to. It’s hard to ridership to continue to expand if they don’t add more to the system.
By all measures, NYC’s bikeshare is a huge success. But as a recent NYC resident, I can see how bike share is appealing there in ways that it isn’t here: In New York, there are few places to park a bike, and even fewer to do so securely. Bike share stations are located where people live as well as where they work. As a result, commuting by citibike is an attractive option.
Here, the stations are all concentrated downtown, so most people’s commutes are out, unless combined with a MAX trip or something. Perhaps future multi-moders are the target audience? Or is it the system going to be aimed at people making lots of during-the-day trips around downtown? Are there enough people making such trips? And if so, are the bikes going to really be much more efficient than just walking?
I’m all for anything that gets more people on bikes, but I don’t want bikeshare to be ammunition (whether because of lower than expected ridership, excess cost, or whatever) for the anti-bike crowd.
I got to admit that I got a lot less excited about PDX bike share when I saw where they were putting the stations. I just assumed that there would be one at most of the Trimet park and rides and Max Stations….which sadly seem to have been overlooked other than in Downtown.
I don’t understand why this project doesn’t go back out to bid.
The RFP came out two years ago. Alta submitted a proposal — and was awarded a contract — based on working Bixi equipment.
Michael, good story, but I’d like to know why the City feels obligated, or for that matter what legal grounds they have, to wait for Alta’s “new”, untested, equipment. Presumably much would have changed in the competitive marketplace given how new this “bike share” industry is, and how rapidly it has grown. Everything I hear or read about Alta, it sounds like a pretty dysfunctional organization that is riding a wave, and now it’s going to make Portland its guinea pig?
Almost all the delays have come from the City, not from Alta. Alta has maintained the whole time that they need a certain amount of time (6mo to a year) after funding is in hand to actually roll the system out. That may end up being on the longer end of range due to the Bixi mess, but it’s still in range. Securing funding has been the hold up, and really continues to be the hold up.
Good questions, Frederick. Yes, much has changed in the bikeshare industry since 2011 – some of it reflecting well on Alta (its huge systems in Chicago and NYC seem to be quite popular) and some of it reflecting poorly on Alta (The software failure of Bixi aka PBSC has lead to problems in many cities).
From what I know, it looks as if Seattle is actually going to be the guinea pig for Alta’s new software/hardware stack; they’re set to launch this summer.
As for your question of why the city doesn’t go back out to bid, we’ve reported in the past that the city never gave Alta a deadline to get this done, though theoretically I think they could pull out of the deal. One possibility our reporting hasn’t explored (because it’s probably too far into the weeds for BikePortland, at least right now) is whether Alta might figure out a way to license one of its competitors’ equipment sets – for example, the Trek-built B-cycle system that works well in Madison, Denver and elsewhere – and put that into action in Portland.
What I’ve heard, though, is that B-cycle would be unlikely to license its equipment to Alta because Alta, its largest competitor, would get direct access to a bunch of B-cycle’s intellectual property.
Why can’t we skip Alta and use B Cycle?
Zoobomb! I hope these things have good brakes. As heavy as they are, they should descend quickly.
m < M
A = F/M = W/M = Mg/M = g
A = f/m = w/m = mg/m = g
I think you’re ignoring wind resistance?
In my experience big people and heavy loads do tend to descend faster, although it could be a whole host of other factors.
Yeah, I’m slow on the climbs and not that fast on the flats, but I blow by ALL you tall people on the descents, thanks to being short (less wind resistance) and stocky (just as heavy as you). ON YOUR LEFT!
Looking forward to what hindrances occur this year so that it’s pushed back to 2016.
Youll find two things to be true:
1) Every system Alta has won has had at LEAST a one year delay. Every one.
2) When Potland picked Alta, many people pointed out that it was a bad idea, due to point 1, and that a delay was guaranteed to happen.
Bonus: Every system Alta has won has had extensive delays with expansion or even getting the promised amount of launch stations out in a timely manner. In year 1, for example, Boston never actually reached the number of stations promised for launch day, a day that was delayed multiple times . NYC still hasnt seen all their launch day stations installed.
I’m curious to know if there’s any reason to expect bike share will increase bicycle mode share in Portland, and get it out of its long-time rut.
In NYC and Washington, has bike share lead to an increase in bike mode share?
Thanks for the update on this, Michael. Downside to the delay is evidenced by the number of people above who “just don’t get it” when it comes to bike share.
Washington DC and NYC =/= Portland. Washington DC and NYC=/= Portland.
Wash, rinse, and repeat. Any comparisons to NYC or DC are from folks who “just don’t get it” about cities and where Portland ranks.
Minneapolis MAY the best comparison, of a similar metro size, but the city is much flatter than Portland. Portland has a lot more people living close to downtown or in areas where they may use a bike share for a short jaunt to a store.
Boulder, no. Virtually no tourist industry but a massive university. Much smaller. Not a good comparison.
I didn’t say DC and NYC = PDX
Those are only two examples of the many, many bike share systems operating in the world. …and Minneapolis and Boulder bring the comparison group to four.
Minneapolis is flatter, much like downtown and the east side where bike share is targeted to? I don’t think there is great expectations that people are going to huffing these bikes up the west hills.
Bikeshare isn’t targeted to most of the regular readers of this blog, who are (I think) daily cyclists who commute with their own bikes.
It is targeted to people who want the convenience of riding a bike for some shorter trips, without the inconvenience or commitment of hauling and locking their own bikes everywhere and being compelled to ride home regardless of weather, hour, or load. Also to tourists and other visitors to the city.
Bikeshare does increase bike mode, at least it has in other cities. http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/12/12/dot-citi-bikes-are-nearly-30-percent-of-bikes-on-road-in-bike-share-zone/
More bikes on the road is good for cyclists, whether you ride a bikeshare or your own bike. Increased bike traffic raises the priority for bike infrastructure spending, and raises bike awareness among drivers.
As for locating bikeshare stations, the network has to be dense, because you can’t leave the bikes at a shop or restaurant while you go shopping etc. They are ridden from station to station. So, for example, putting an isolated station at some outlying MAX station doesn’t do anything. Who is going to take MAX from Gresham to NE 60th, pick up a bikeshare bike, and ride it into downtown to their workplace? They’ll simply ride MAX to downtown.
The bikeshare networks have to start densely in a central area, then expand as and if they are successful.
The timing of the launch is important. You probably wouldn’t want to launch in the fall, just as the rain starts and bike usage dwindles to the committed folks with rain gear. It might be ideal to launch in late winter, get the kinks worked out, then be running smoothly in time for spring. Too late for 2014, so do it right for 2015.
Thanks for the post John, it’s always nice to hear from others with a good grasp of bikeshare economics.
So much of the apprehension towards the bikeshare concept in Portland stems from a lack of undserstanding of how the system is supposed to work. I’m specifically thinking about the cries of “inequity” that were in the WWeek and other outlets for not serving sprawling East Portland with the first rollout.
This report http://www.itdp.org/documents/ITDP_Bike_Share_Planning_Guide.pdf has a lot of good information. The best graph is on page 41 and it shows which cities are successful in getting their bikes ridden (Mexico City, Paris, Lyon, Montreal, Rio, NYC) more than 5 times per day, and which cities have the most trips per 1,000 residents (Madison, London are better on this metric than the first).
Will Portland be able to out-do Minneapolis, which has poor utilization (<2 trips per bike per day) and poor penetration (fewer than 10 trips per 1,000 residents)? I hope so. In that report they list a lot of key ingredients to a successful bike share, like dense stations (start downtown) many stations (so people can use them for lots of different kinds of things).
The authors say an ideal system would have 4-8 trips per bike per day and 1 trip per 40-50 residents per day.