College students get a boost with Biketown financial aid

Posted by on September 20th, 2021 at 1:27 pm

A few Biketowns hydrating themselves at Peninsula Park on Saturday.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced great news last week that will lower the cost of the Biketown bike share system for college students and people with low incomes.

PBOT launched Biketown in 2016. In September 2020, Portland partnered with Nike and Lyft to expand the service area and upgraded the fleet to pedal-assist e-bikes. The downside to that expansion was higher prices that have caused grumbling among many. The new discount addresses those concerns by targeting aid to people who need it most.

Here’s the good news:

As of last week, every Portland college student who qualifies for federal financial aid (FAFSA) now also qualifies for a Biketown For All membership, which unlocks unlimited free trips for rides under 60-minutes and a host of other benefits.

If you attend Portland State University, but don’t get federal financial aid, you now get a $20 per month ride credit.

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“So much work went into making all of this come together… I’m super excited that we’ll have bike share back for students.”— Clint Culpepper, PSU

And any Portlander who qualifies for Biketown for All (regardless of student aid) will also be eligible for a free membership. This means Biketown for All members will no longer have to pay the 5 cents per minute ride or $5 per month membership fee — making bike share even more affordable to those least able to pay for it.

The expansion of Biketown for All benefits was made possible by the Clean Fuels Program of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which is administered via the Portland General Electric (PGE) Drive Change Fund. As we shared back in January, PBOT received a $130,000 Drive Change grant, “to further reduce financial barriers” to using Biketown, which goes to show what a big impact a relatively small grant can make in the lives of those in need.

Biketown for All already offered steep discounts to the regular membership fee and going rate; reducing these costs to zero is obviously a substantial benefit to qualifying students and Portlanders. In a press release last week, PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty hailed the new discounts saying she is, “thankful for the partnerships that will introduce Biketown to a new generation of college students.”

PSU currently has 10 Biketown stations and typically has about 40 bikes available on campus. Biketown 1.0 gave all PSU students free memberships; but since the new, higher-priced Biketown system launched in September 2020, students were left without any discount program. PSU Transportation Options Manager Clint Culpepper told BikePortland this morning that, “So much work went into making all of this come together… I’m super excited that we’ll have bike share back for students.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter or jonathan@bikeportland.org. — Get our headlines delivered to your inbox. — Please support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

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jayson
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jayson

the paint on those biketown bikes fades pretty quickly.

Clem Fandango
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Clem Fandango

What I love about this photo is that Nike cares alot getting that color of orange just right. The fact that the whole fleet has faded into a creamsicle color makes me smile.

joan
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Cheers to Clint and all the folks that made this happen!

 
Guest
 

This is great news, but not enough. As long as it’s cheaper to drive than use bike share, it’s not going to make a dent in car use. Biketown should be free for everybody, paid entirely by taxpayers.

Jason
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Jason

Having been raised in a extreme poverty and transformed my life into one that is financially successful, I would disagree with your idea. Because, I am now able to comfortably pay a few bucks when I need the service. Whereas, someone who is not financially secure would struggle to decide where to spend those few bucks. The dichotomy is staggering.

 
Guest
 

What you say is precisely why I do not and will never support congestion pricing or other tolls or flat taxes. The only way I will ever support tolls is if the amount paid is curved based on income. We don’t need even more systems that disadvantage those who cannot afford to spend a few dollars. Instead we need to make biking with Biketown and similar systems easier and cheaper, and provide incentives for those who do.

Watts
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Watts

The world is filled with flat-rate pricing. Movie tickets, groceries, gas, rent, even buying or repairing a bicycle. Is the practice truly unjust?

  
Guest
  

I think it depends on if the service is truly essential. I do think groceries and rent should be priced proportional to income. But I don’t think that non-essentials should be; I think that it’s perfectly fine for stuff like movies, bars, and the like to have flat-rate pricing. Basically, my views are as follows: if you need it to live and prosper, then it should have income-proportional pricing; if you don’t, then flat prices are fine.

Jason
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Jason

We don’t need even more systems that disadvantage those who cannot afford to spend a few dollars.

You make a good point. This can be offset with a pass / permit. Criteria for granting them would be income disparity.

SolarEclipse
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SolarEclipse

As should TriMet.
My memory fails me but wasn’t there a city in South America who made their public transit free and I believe it was quite the success.
Even though I can afford it, $5 for a round trip commute seems like a lot. Can’t imagine what a hurdle that would be for someone making low – middle income wages.

Aaron
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Aaron

This is great news, and it’s wonderful to see these grant dollars translate into something concrete – free transportation. The Biketown operation area does include PSU and the PCC Southeast and Cascade campus as well as some smaller schools. It is worth noting however, that the campuses of University of Portland, Lewis & Clark College, and Reed College are all not included in the service area. I look forward to the Biketown service area including all of Portland, especially with e-bikes reducing previous geographic barriers to cycling, like hills and distance.