Portland bike advocates react to Biketown fee hike

Biketown’s recent memo with an empty rack downtown. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“The price of Biketown is already very high, and it’s incredible that it’s being raised by 50% with no opportunity for public comment and no substantial notice.”

Iain MacKenzie

Using bike share in Portland is about to get 50% more expensive.

Last Friday afternoon, Portland’s electric bike share service Biketown announced in an email to members that the company will increase the per-minute rental rate. Starting this Friday, February 24th, Biketown members (who pay an annual $99 membership fee to get reduced rates and free unlimited unlocks) will see their ride bill increase from $0.10 a minute to $0.15. Non-members, who currently pay $0.20 a minute for Biketown rentals, will now be charged $0.30 for every 60 seconds of ride time.

“This increase stems from the growing cost of ebike operations, and will help us continue to support jobs for mechanics, battery technicians, and others who help service our ebikes throughout Portland,” a statement from Biketown reads.

No changes are currently planned for the Biketown for All program, which subsidizes rides for people living on low-incomes.

Biketown’s announcement made waves on Twitter, with people who use the program voicing their concerns about the sudden change that was made with seemingly no public input. Portland transportation advocate Tony Jordan has been one of the most outspoken people in his condemnation of the price increase. Jordan elaborated on his thoughts in a post on LinkedIn:

“I strongly believe that shared electric transportation is the future. I believe that shared public e-bike networks in cities are the pillar of that…it’s extremely distressing to see my own city fumble the ball on this. Biketown should be treated like a public utility,” Jordan wrote.

“The lack of investment in this system is shameful. The lack of support for public bike share at every level of government is a complete failure. We are going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on electric car parking infrastructure and almost nothing on something that would be truly transformative.”

Hannah Schafer, Interim Director of Communications for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), told BikePortland this decision comes from Lyft. (Biketown is operated and sponsored by Lyft and Nike in partnership with PBOT, and the ride share company handles day-to-day bike share operations for the city.)

“We firmly believe that bike sharing makes biking more convenient to more Portlanders, so naturally we would like to keep BIKETOWN memberships and rental rates as low as possible,” Schafer said in an email. However, she added, the rate increase is “within the company’s authority under its contract with the city.”

Portlanders aren’t the only people dealing with a recent increase in bike share fees. Lyft has raised prices even more significantly for its bike share programs in other cities across the country, like Chicago and New York.

Some advocates are calling on PBOT to invest more public money in these programs instead of relying on the whims of Lyft. People are also concerned that private companies like Lyft aren’t beholden to the public engagement process in the same way transportation agencies like TriMet (which is currently considering a fare increase of its own) are.

“The price of Biketown is already very high, and it’s incredible that it’s being raised by 50% with no opportunity for public comment and no substantial notice. That’s not the process we follow for changes to TriMet fares or the cost of on-street parking, and it shouldn’t be the process we follow for a supposedly public bikeshare system either,” transportation advocate and Biketown member Iain MacKenzie said in a message. “Lyft has been granted a monopoly to operate bikeshare in the City of Portland and in return we should expect more.”

Biketown has already received flack from some Portlanders because their fleet of bikes appears to be diminishing as the program expands into new parts of the city. It’s unclear if any earnings from the price increase will go towards purchasing and maintaining new bikes. If that were the case, would critics of the policy change their tune? Maybe, according to transportation advocacy non-profit The Street Trust (TST), which has partnered with Biketown over the last several months with the goal of increasing membership in the Biketown for All program.

André Lightsey-Walker (front right) at a Biketown outreach event for The Street Trust. Also featured: PBOT’s Dylan Rivera (L), The Street Trust’s Anouksha Gardner, Ryan Ross from Biketown (Photo: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

In a statement to BikePortland about the price increase (which won’t apply to people who qualify for Biketown for All), TST’s André Lightsey-Walker said he and others on his team believe people would be willing to pay more for better service.

“[TST’s] top priority remains making sure people who need access [to Biketown] have it. From there, we need to ensure that the system is robust, the stations are fully stocked, and the bikes are in good condition so that Biketown remains a viable transportation option,” Lightsey-Walker said.

“We believe many riders who could afford it would happily pay the extra cents per mile if that ensures there was a Biketown available near them where and when they want to ride the system. The way to ensure Biketown’s long-term success is to ensure it’s a high-quality alternative to driving on which people can depend.”

But with bike supply still up in the air plus the price increase, some people might decide the service isn’t worth it anymore. This would be a real loss for a program with the potential to be a very valuable tool for transportation decarbonization and reform.

The data shows that once you get someone on a Biketown e-bike, it doesn’t take much to turn them into a fan. The program saw record ridership numbers in 2022, and people are (unsurprisingly) especially likely to try it out when it’s free to do so, like during Earth Day weekend last year.

Increasing fees by five or 10 cents per minute may not seem like much, but it’s a 50% price hike, and it adds up. Time will tell how the price increase effects how Portlanders use Biketown.

Taylor Griggs

Taylor Griggs

Taylor was BikePortland's staff writer from 2021 to 2023. She currently writes for the Portland Mercury. Contact her at taylorgriggswriter@gmail.com

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

109 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dylan
dylan
1 year ago

This will just push me to choose a bus ride over taking a biketown. My usual work ride already cost me a little more than a bus ticket, but now it’ll be nearly the cost of a full day bus ticket just to go one way and only save myself about 5 minutes, if a bike is even at the local station. If this truly expands availability, it’s probably a good thing but I am skeptical that this won’t just help them keep up with their current system.

Buster
Buster
1 year ago

This is extremely disappointing to find out that the contract was structured in such a way that Lyft could just hike fares 50% with a few days notice and no public process. Also, hiking the per-minute cost on existing members who already paid their $99 sounds like it shouldn’t be allowed under consumer protection laws. Hopefully they are at least offering partial refunds for anyone who requests one.

carrythebanner
1 year ago
Reply to  Buster

I definitely factored in the per-minute cost when I was trying to decide if an annual membership would pencil out. Seems like this should only apply to new members and renewals, and not mid-subscription.

zuckerdog
zuckerdog
1 year ago
Reply to  carrythebanner

The uniform hike raise between non-member and member minutes actually makes the threshold of an annual membership (still at $99/yr) more compelling from a financial standpoint, assuming that you you stick with bikeshare.

Still agree that we should treat bikeshare as public utility and it should receive some type of subsidy to reduces the user costs.

carrythebanner
1 year ago
Reply to  zuckerdog

Agree with the math, but …

assuming that you you stick with bikeshare

… is the rub. The higher marginal rate for each trip makes me less likely overall to use bikeshare, so the cost effectiveness of an annual membership becomes moot if I end up avoiding bikeshare trips entirely. I already significantly reduced my bikeshare usage when the trip rate ~doubled for ebikes, so the more it loses competitiveness vs transit the less likely I am to use it.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  carrythebanner

second this

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  Buster

It’s extremely disappointing that the city would sign a contract that so strong favors Lyft.

Buster
Buster
1 year ago

A quick Google search reveals that consumer protection laws typically require a 30 day notice for something like this, and an opportunity for people to cancel their service for a refund. Is there some reason that Lyft is exempt from this?

nic.cota
1 year ago

Jeez, it seems like PR 101 to couple these kinds of announcements with some kind of equalizing positive to soften pushback???

Wouldn’t take much for Lyft to announce that with the price increase comes a larger service area, number of bikes, or expansion of BIKETOWN for all.

But no, just dry hard pill and move on? Come on.

blumdrew
1 year ago

Really disappointing to see the city miss on the BikeTown program. Granting Nike/Lyft a monopoly on service and not having the ability to control rates is incredibly bad, and predatory price increases are the least shocking result of that.

But Portland has a rich history of allowing private companies to trample public transportation interests (outside of highway building anyways), so I guess this is just more of the same. Our spineless city council allowed private companies (PEPCO, Rose City Transit) to entirely dismantle our electric transit infrastructure – at a time when almost every other US city had some form of municipal control over transit. It’s no surprise to see our city fail on yet another efficient, electric public transportation option.

idlebytes
idlebytes
1 year ago

It was already too expensive my regular work commute would have cost me roughly $1,300 a year now it would be $1,900. I could buy a new e-bike every couple of years for that price. Not to mention there are no stations around me so it would add on a 5-10 minute walk to the nearest randomly placed bike. Charging $8 for a moderately easier ride that with the walk takes longer isn’t much of a selling point. Less maintenance I suppose.

Christopher of Portland
Christopher of Portland
1 year ago

I really miss paying a a few cents a minute to ride the old non-electric bikes. E-Biketown was already expensive and now it’s worse. How much will you spend just waiting to cross a street like Grand or MLK or by waiting for trains to pass by at Rose Quarter TC?

soren
1 year ago

It’s ironic that Lyft is using the same logic as urbanists/schoupistas. By increasing the price to rent a biketown e-bike, Lyft argues that parked bikes will become more available.

As always, the rub is “for whom” does monopolistic pricing increase availability…

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

They’re not at all. They’re increasing the fares across the board, and arguing that the extra revenue will be reinvested into better service. That’s certainly possible, although in the absence of any transparency around the contract I wouldn’t say that it seems likely and certainly not guaranteed.

The argument in favor of something like performance based parking is that different prices are set in different locations and/or at different times in order to better manage demand. That’s a completely different concept.

narm
narm
1 year ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

“performance” based parking

Portland Schoupista and PRN organizers/members have repeatedly lobbied for plain vanilla parking price increases,***Moderator: deleted last phrase***.

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

Why are you adding scare quotes to your quote?

narm
narm
1 year ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

only because i have no idea what you meant by this jargony term.

maccoinnich
1 year ago
Reply to  narm

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s Portland’s Performance Based Parking Management Manual, which dates from 2018 but which has largely been ignored. Page 40 on describes in more detail what I was referring to, which is a very different thing than what BIKETOWN is doing here.

Bob Weinstein
Bob Weinstein
1 year ago

Hannah Schafer, Interim Director of Communications for the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), told BikePortland this decision comes from Lyft…..However, she added, the rate increase is ‘within the company’s authority under its contract with the city.'”

It should surprise no one that, once again, PBOT defers to corporate interests- not the public interest- in how it develops contracts with corporations such as Lyft.

I met with PBOT during the first year of its pilot e-scooter program. I asked why city code allowed for the impoundment of improperly parked bicycles but a similar provision had not been added for e-scooters. The code reads:
16.70.330 Impounding Bicycles

A.  A bicycle left on a street or other public property for more than 72 hours may be impounded.
B.  A bicycle may be immediately impounded if:
1.  It is parked in violation of this code and obstructs or impedes pedestrian or vehicular traffic; or
2.  It is an immediate threat to the public welfare.

The response from PBOT staff was that this had been considered, but not implemented because bicycles belonged to individuals while most scooters belonged to corporations!

I thanked them for confirming my belief that they put interests of corporations above those of individual Portlanders!

The claim that the huge rate increases are out of the city’s control is disingenuous, as the city was a party to the contract and could have- and should have- insisted on some approval process for rate hikes, a cap on such hikes, or something that at least balanced the desires of a corporation with the interests of the people who live here and pay PBOT salaries.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

Yes, this is a nationwide (and international) trend…ebikes are more expensive to buy, maintain, and service versus analogue bikes plus the additional labor (battery swap or recharge at shop), and powerbill to recharge e-bikes has increased steeply since the Ukraine invasion and pandemic. The shared micro mobility industry has a lot more miles and years of understanding the cost of “goods” sold when it comes to maintaining and operating conventional bikes and less so for ebikes and escooters.

Now the long term question (for non-municipal) systems, like Lyft, does the higher marginal cost of a fleet of e-bikes outweigh the reported 2x to 3x higher utilization and increase in per ride revenue? …Especially when such systems need to have a farebox recovery rate of 100% (or better) vs. municipal transit that is allowed/ mandated a much lower farebox recover rate (0% to 30% range in US).

And for the customer, up until now, the desire for better faster bikes (ebikes) has been an easy choice due to the minimal cost difference over conventional bikes.

But the chickens are coming home to roost for many systems (and communities) with ebikes: higher cost of ebikes (~$2400 for PBSC eFit or ~$5000 for Lyft bike vs ~$1200 PBSC Fit) plus battery replacement frequency and system planning/ operations choice of hot battery swap/ rebalancing to recharge (vs powered docks to recharge) and a shorter bike lifecycle (~5 years? vs 10 years). Time will tell.

bjorn
bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I think the only change in electric prices since Russia invaded Ukraine was quite recent and around 6%. The invasion of Ukraine has nothing to do with this increase in price to use e-bikes in Portland.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  bjorn

I was speaking nationally, electricity prices have increased quite a bit. Yes, Portland and other communities within the BPA region have been insulated from steeper rate spikes…but for a business 6% increase in anything is still 6% and additive to all the other costs that have increased. The thing is that the Ukraine factor in product price trend planning was an unknown for businesses when they set their last rates for the 2022 year.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I just want to point out that the energy cost to recharge a 500wh battery is somewhere around 6 cents. This is not a factor.

wallis
wallis
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Thanks again Todd for your well informed commentary. You bring up some great points.

Jhom Martinsalk
Jhom Martinsalk
1 year ago

Just a reminder that Lyft and Uber blatantly defied local laws to get a foothold in Portland, before our leaders caved to pressure from their lobbyists. This greatly harmed Portland taxi companies that employed veterans, immigrants and POC.

So after rolling over for these venture capital backed corporations on so-called “rideshare” services (great Orwellian newspeak!) we also handed one of those very same companies a lucrative bike rental contract… and tossed a marketing deal to the Big Orange Shoe Company, despite their well established record of human rights abuses.

Any Portlander renting a BIKETOWN should feel dirty. Even the greenwashing from PBOT, Eudaly and this very blog was not enough to get rid of its stench.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

I have no love (none!) for Uber and Lyft, but I do think I should point out that, like taxi companies, they too employ employ veterans, immigrants, and POC.

And agreed, after seeing plenty of naked people riding Biketown bikes at the WNBR, I do feel dirty after riding one.

dw
dw
1 year ago

Could they at least make it so you get some kind of credit or kickback for returning the bike to a station? It’s already a thing for the subsidized biketown membership but why not let everyone in on that? More bikes ending up in stations/docks means fewer locations for mechanics to travel to, right? Also, availability of bikes has always been my problem with the system. I end up spending as much time walking around looking for a bike as I do actually riding one.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  dw

dw, good point. AND it helps reduce there rebalancing fleet’s GHG impact.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 year ago

I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and assume (contrary to most comments so far) that Lyft is raising the rates because they have to in order to maintain the fleet and pay their employees and try to keep up with inflation. The market will decide whether the hike reduces use or not. My guess is few who currently use Biketown will suddenly decide to drive more, but maybe.
the bigger issue is whether we really want to advocate for the city jumping in to more substantially subsidize Biketown to maintain or lower rates. It’s your tax dollars that would fund it. If that’s what you want, advocate for it. Get a ballot measure going to tax people for Biketown. I am glad the low income program remains unchanged. I would like to see that program extended to all PPS high school students.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

The devil doesn’t need an advocate.

Lyft might claim that they need to raise rates to keep up with x, y, or z but if they present no compelling evidence to the public, the public will be rightly skeptical. Do I think that the tech taxi company that fights tooth and nail to not give any benefits to their primary work force (drivers) is raising rates to pay their workers more? No, and it’s somewhere between naive and foolish to think that they are.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I got my latest (highest ever) electric bill three days ago. I assume the rates for charging Biketown batteries saw a similar increase after Jan 1. As for wages, we have Biketown employees who stop by the shop on South Waterfront on a regular basis. I’ll check with them regarding wages and get back to you.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

Just forget about electricity rates, they’re not a relevant factor. Electricity is so cheap and the batteries so small, they don’t factor in unless someone’s trying to make an excuse. It costs 6 cents to charge a Biketown battery. Not 6 cents more, 6 cents total. If the cost went from 5 to 6 cents, that’s not the cause of any price increase.

The rest though, e.g. wages, are what matters. I’m wondering how much of a raise the workers are going to get, and guessing not much.

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

I’d also contribute that the Lyft business model has historically been subsidized by venture capital dollars. It should be of no surprise to anyone that VC dollars are not as abundant or as cheap as they once were. This is precisely why the rides on Uber and Lyft have become more expensive. I know it is difficult for a lot of BP readers to remember that all of these companies are supposed to be making money and we just lived through a beautiful low interest rate environment that allowed for VC dollars to subsidize these technological disrupters and now we are going to be paying full freight for things. This is part of the deal with wanting to go get on a charged up e-bike whenever it is convenient for you.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

At $0.30 per minute, this is easily more expensive than owning a car. I guess it all comes down to parking availability and cost where you live and work.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

this is easily more expensive than owning a car

This seems easily debatable. This (likely highly optimistic) estimate says the ongoing cost (ignoring purchase, depreciation) is $0.29 per mile. Hard to convert it to cost per minute or whatever, because if you drive slower and shorter distances, a lot of those costs are fixed and get worse for a car. But if you *do* add in the purchase price, and you should, I can’t see how it’s anywhere close.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

I consider the costs on that site to be outlandishly high, though I have no doubt that some people pay that much (or more) for their car. I sure don’t, but I value reliability and economy over size and bling.

But even at $.29 per mile, that’s waaay cheaper than Biketown; how many miles can you ride one of those electric speed demons in a single $.30 minute? For me, it’s well under 1.

Hell, even at $.60 per mile to drive, it would be half the cost of riding that electric hellraiser flat out at 15 mph without stopping.

I use Biketown maybe once a year, and I rarely feel satisfied with the value proposition. If it came down to money, I would take my own bike or drive.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

You’re doing the thing most car obsessed people do and just straight up discounting half the cost of driving or more. That $.29 was only the cost of ongoing things like gas and insurance. It also assumes 15,000 miles of driving a year. If you drive less – like you would if biking was even a possible alternative – that cost per mile goes up.

And it doesn’t even count the cost of the vehicle so your comment about bling is a non sequitur. But when you do add in the tens of thousands you would pay for the car and not get back, it starts getting much worse.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

My car depreciates whether I take Biketown or not, and I pay the same insurance either way. Plus, when I sold my last used car (about 8 yrs ago), I got about what I paid for it.

Depreciation is highly variable across models. The cars I drive seem to hold their value.

Average costs have no bearing on my decisions because they do not apply to me. All that matters is my costs.

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Your car does depreciate more when you drive it, and less when you don’t – a car’s lifespan is correlated to how many miles it’s driven (although that’s not the only factor). While depreciation from capital costs certainly are highly variable on make and model, most people quote averages because they don’t know what make and model everyone has.

I’ve driven my car ~50,000 miles and it’s at about 50% of it’s value (~$10,000 then, ~$5,000 now) from when I bought it in 2018 to now (Toyota Prius). If I had driven it half as much, it probably would have retained more like 70% of it’s value – which would have saved me ~$2,000. That’s not insignificant. If I would have sold it during the big used car market crunch, I could have gotten more than I paid for it. There are lots of factors, but most people fully discount depreciation as a factor when driving a car altogether, in part because they view a car as a necessity.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

“Your car does depreciate more when you drive”

True, but it would take a lot of high price Biketown trips to make a difference.

Andrew Lindstrom
Andrew Lindstrom
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

In a vacuum maybe, but if you commit to not using your car and just use Biketown occasionally as a part of a non-car transportation network (including transit, personal bike, etc.) it looks a little more favorable. I realize that’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m just thinking of use-cases for me and Biketown and it’s mostly just if I go out somewhere and I stay out past the last bus and need a cheap way home. In those cases, it probably would be less expensive to drive my car – but I don’t like driving if I may be drinking (despite my Wisconsin roots). In my case, the more relevant price comparison is a taxi/Uber/Lyft then.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

It’s mostly if you go out somewhere, stay out past the last bus, want a cheap way home, and didn’t just ride your bike in the first place.

I find Biketown handy about once per year, which makes me a lot less price sensitive than someone who wants to make riding one a regular practice.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  John

But you basically need a car to live in Portland, so the car is sunk cost. The comparison is operating your car or paying for biketown. If Portland were to get serious about alternative transportation and create a reliable, safe, efficient and well-connected transit network and safe, direct, interconnected bike network, then the biketown cost would make sense. At every difficult design decision point, PBOT favors car traffic over peds, bikes or transit. I am a committed cyclist- I commute every day year round since the early 90’s in college, but I can’t imagine life in Portland without a car. The fact is that PBOT manages our ROW for cars first, and everything else is far distant second.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

Oh you absolutely do not basically need a car to live in Portland. Lots of people go without, including a writer on this very website. And lots of families have one car instead of two. You may, for your use case, think it’s necessary for you.

But a “sunk cost” doesn’t change anything, all you’re saying is that it’s better to drive more because you already have a car. That’s car culture.

Damien
Damien
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Mid-30’s Portlander who has yet to get a driver’s license. Can confirm – that cost, when not yet sunk, is pretty significant.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  John

John, good points…though there are probably “10” different Portlands at this point…based on geographic barriers / grades, distance to CBD, quality of bikeways, transit headways, road crash rates, etc. Where one “chooses” to live given when they “work / study” will rule out transit, cycling, car parking choices, etc.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

You need a car where I live. Grocery store closed a few years ago–it has sat as an empty building for the past five years. Bus frequency slashed over the past 15 years. And I’m in an inner downtown neighborhood.

When we bought our house over 20 years ago, this was a 10-minute neighborhood. That’s why we chose it.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

Lisa, yeah I hear you…C-TRAN cut our bus line soon after we bought our house in Vancouver…the bus stop was 50 feet away.

So we worked on making lemonade from these modal lemons. This cut made adding a protected bike lane much easier, once the city got ‘staff traction’ and focus. We are just waiting for the ‘ribbon cutting’ on Columbia Street (aka The I-5 Bike Highway). The trees prefer passing bikes vs nosy buses.

The one nice thing vs 20 years ago (and the i695 transit cuts) …is that Alpenrose and many other markets have returned to home delivery, nice option for items that panniers carry with difficulty (eggs, etc.). Alpenrose even comes to the Couv!

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  John

I agree, it is car culture. Car culture is Portland culture. PBOT plans, builds and maintains car culture with a small helping of bike seasoning on the side. I know that is it is possible to live without a car, I have done it for years at a time. But my family members do not find cycling safe enough, transit is so wildly inefficient. We like to take our dogs on hikes, and a lot of our vacations are at the coast, in the mountains or n easter Oregon, so owning a car makes sense. Since we own it, we tend to use it. We live really close to the MAX, but it takes my daughter around 40 minutes to get to school on the MAX and it takes about 10 minutes to drive. I do not think my car use is ideal, or mandatory, but I think it is worth acknowledging a couple of things:
1) going carfree is pretty rare thing to do in Portland and it requires a lot of compromises and extra planning
2) PBOT and the City of Portland are 100% entrenched in car culture. They love to tout bikes and transit, but never at the expense of moving/storing cars. This story is a great example: We only got bikeshare due to corporate sponsorship, there was not corresponding City match of improved infrastructure, and the corporate operator can just raise prices at their whim. The City made only the most minimal concessions to get bikeshare, which is basically advertising for Nike.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

We don’t need to get into a whole big thing about it, but all this is just your justification for building in the assumption that you already do have a car. I don’t know where you live, so it may be that it absolutely is necessary, or you’re at a (hopefully short) period in your life where family dictates you need a car. And it’s definitely a different mindset to go car free and it isn’t the assumed default so you actually have to think about it. But things like taking your dogs on hikes and vacations can be done with cargo bikes and car rentals.

  1. Going car free doesn’t really require compromises other than you can’t move yourself 200 miles anywhere you want on a whim. The fact that it is assumed you can do that is the problem. Furthermore, you save so much money not having a car, you can take some of that savings and rent a car when you want to make special trips.
  2. Yes I agree.

I agree we need better infrastructure, and it’s ridiculous we don’t have things like frequent rail service to the coast, much less bus service. We do have bus service to the gorge which is really awesome. I was just making the (factual) statement that you don’t need a car to live in Portland as there are many examples.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  John

agree!

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  John

There is actually bus service to Astoria and Tillamook, twice a day to each. It’s economical and there are connections to other points on the coast for a few bucks. All these buses are very bike friendly. They find a way to accommodate bikes even when racks are full.

In the past Amtrak ran a bus to Newport I think, although I’m less familiar with the schedule. Amtrak allows a certain number of bikes in a luggage compartment but it’s not ideal.

There certainly is bus service to the Oregon coast. A day trip would be tough but the Tillamook bus is a great way to start a bike trip. The roads could be better but what the hell.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

I guess after 15+ years BikePortland needs to update its name and business plan…

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I don’t usually fact-check, but I think BP is going on 18 years.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

Thanks for the appropriate fact check…it was quick figure while typing thus the “+”. 😉

blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

You frankly do not need a car to live in Portland. Thousands of people in Portland live in zero car households. I can easily imagine life in Portland without a car (even if I do own one) because I use it less than once a month.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  blumdrew

Depends on where you live, how old you are, how able-bodied, where you work.

CoP, by policy, is creating an entire district (SW) which is, excepting locations like BHH and Barbur, dependent on cars.

blumdrew
1 year ago

Absolutely, there are tons of places that make it hard/impossible depending on your ability. But I think most people would be surprised how much they can do without a car (if they are able-bodied/have functional transit – which I realize isn’t all Portlanders).

Portland functionally abandoning any sort of functional active transport/transit plan for SW is pretty bleak, and doing so in the name of equity has always struck me as a bit off.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  blumdrew

I agree Blum, if you have never lived without a car, it is really difficult to imagine not having one. And yes, I know people who don’t take advantage of the public transit and bike facilities which are available to them.

We are in a bumpy transition to becoming a denser, more public-oriented city.

John
John
1 year ago

I just want to say, nobody came in here and said everyone can do without a car. This thread started with someone saying you pretty much require a car to live in Portland which is not even close to true.

maxD
maxD
1 year ago
Reply to  John

I did not make my point very clearly: I said “you basically need a car to live in Portland” because the vast majority of the infrastructure is designed, built and maintained to support people driving. Yes- this is car culture and yes, some people can and do live without cars. However, the opportunities for work and leisure that the city, state and region offer are designed to be accessed with a car. I think that sucks, I commute by bike, I use transit and I have a car. There are plenty of options, but none of them are good, complete, connected or maintained. I would love a network of Swiss-style trains and trams to access Oregon’s small towns and mountains. My point is that alternative transportation is not a viable alternative for many people and many trips, and that falls on PBOT, ODOT and TriMet to some degree. I think this pertains to bikeshare cost increase because I suspect a lot of users have a car they use for out of town trips, taking a dog or kid somewhere, or hauling stuff, but they seek out alternative transportation when it makes sense. I also suspect that these cost increase will make bike share make less sense to a lot more people. I am a bit of a cheapskate and I stopped using biketown when they electrified and got more expensive. I was already a skeptical user due to its unreliability and corporate sponsorship, the previous price increase was more than I cared to spend. The current price increase means I personally will likely never use it.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

Well that’s all 100% true.
I guess what started this thread actually was me responding to Chris saying that Biketown is “easily” more expensive than owning a car, so the comparison is between the cost of owning a car and not, it’s not really between the sunk cost of a car you already have plus using bikeshare, or whether the infrastructure supports bikes or not, or whatever. It simply is more expensive to own a car (barring some likely edge cases I’m not thinking of) than not.

Side note though, I agree, I have no idea why anybody uses the Biketown bikes, all I know is that for some reason, people do. I think if they were free and ubiquitios they would have more utility. For me too, basically any cost makes the Biketown bikes not make sense for me to use because bikes are just so cheap. For the people who need and those who think they need e-assist, it may make more sense to use it (especially considering the worry about theft). The one time I used Biketown was to ride to the bike shop to pick up my bike from its service.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

There are definitely different definitions of “need”. An awful lot of Portlanders spend an awful lot of money to have one of these optional items.

Anna
Anna
1 year ago
Reply to  maxD

I’ve lived in Portland since 1999 and only had a car once, for about a year and a half. I doubt I’ll ever own one again.

dw
dw
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Probably not more expensive than owning a car but definitely more expensive than just buying your own ebike.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

When others drive their cars, the cost to me and the rest of society (pollution, space for parking, road infrastructure, injuries and death, etc,) are significantly higher than when folks choose a Biketown bike. But if you want to just focus on you and what comes out of your wallet, the short-term price to drive might pencil out for you.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

It would definitely be better if everyone rode bikes. But if everyone but you drives, you riding your bike won’t make much difference. And if everyone else rides bikes and you drive, that won’t make much difference either.

So it’s really not about you.

individual_fighting_climate_change
individual_fighting_climate_change
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

But if everyone but you drives, you riding your bike won’t make much difference.

My bike fights climate change! I even have a sign on my bike to prove it.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 year ago

unfortunately my bike is not a ZEV – just ask my GF and office mates.

Methane too – a potent GHG.

🙂

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Why were these bike share bikes ever allowed to be controlled by private companies in the first place? It’s really obvious they should be public infrastructure. I think bike share programs have a lot of potential but this model clearly doesn’t work well. We don’t let Lyft run the bus system, and we shouldn’t let them run the bike share system.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

Because if PBOT ran the program from the get go, we’d still be waiting another 10 years for the first bike to be on the street – just like the city waits forever to build other bike and pedestrian infrastructure citywide – lots of meetings, lots of open houses, value engineering, this technical committee and that stakeholder advisory committee, the NEPA process, cost-overruns, various federal and state grants, etc.

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

Remember that when you advocate to transfer a service provided by a private company to a public service, you’re in all likelihood advocating to increase taxes. Trimet doesn’t fund itself off fares. What makes you think a public Biketown would?

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

Why would we even want it to be self funded? That’s like the whole point of all the people complaining about this. They’re not saying Lyft should give away the service for free they’re saying it should be publicly funded (and operated).

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Why should I subsidize you to ride an e-bike on little around town errands if you can ride a regular bike to all the same places in about the same time?
Subsidizing lazy behavior (thats what it is unless you are disabled and most of the people I see on the Biketown e-bikes are not disabled).
I don’t see any more people riding these than rode the regular bikes which cost half as much.
I would guess that there is less use now just like all cycling in Portland.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

That’s a pretty useless attitude, it doesn’t get more people on bikes, it doesn’t do anything for climate, and it doesn’t do anything to improve biking infrastructure (and demand for it). And what you “see” is not a very compelling piece of data.

But more than that, the reason you should subsidize it is the same reason you should subsidize anything that gets people out of cars (e.g. like the bus). The same reason you are subsidizing sidewalks and bike lanes even if you only use one or neither of them.

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  John

You don’t need an e-bike. Any regular bike works just as well.
You want me to pay for a BMW when a Toyota does the same thing.
A ridiculous demand that is Worse for the environment.
Buy your own expensive bike.
I am 69 years old, I ride everywhere, I do grocery shopping for 2 with a backpack and panniers.
I don’t need to pay for your luxury.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

“Why should I subsidize you to ride an e-bike?”

I would be willing to pay to subsidize Biketown if it were demonstrated that it actually and cost-effectively displaced car use.

I am very skeptical that it does.

rawls
rawls
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

you’re in all likelihood advocating to increase taxes.

And your point is?

PS
PS
1 year ago
Reply to  rawls

Point is the willingness of the populace, particularly the top 20% that pay the vast majority of taxes, to continue to take on ever higher tax burdens with ever diminished services for those taxes is not an infinite resource. So, taxing already heavily taxed individuals just so some people can ride around on e-bikes when they find it convenient, is probably not a great use of resources.

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

Especially when they can regular bicycles…this motor bike fantasy on this “bicycle” website is so depressing..
Get a Vespa if that’s what you need, at least you will look cool…

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

*For some definitions of cool

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Dwk

Gak. Of all things please don’t advocate for Vespas. I recognize that a lot of ebike use is recreational but there’s no partially combusted gas-oil mixture trailing along.

Dwk
Dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  X

At least Vespas won’t be useless pieces of trash in 5 years.
Most of the e-bikes I see look like cheap crap that will break down and no one will fix them.
they are NOT bicycles. This blog should stop promoting them or change the name to e-bikeportland.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  PS

The nice thing about the top 20% is that they are less than 50%.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

“The rich” are a good source of funds for things we think are a good idea as long as we don’t have to pay for any of it ourselves.

I believe in a progressive tax system, but I also think it’s important that everyone has some skin in the game.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

¡gong! for “skin…”

Babygorilla
Babygorilla
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

If my recall is correct, the initial bike share contract was with either local planning company Alta Planning or a company that Alta partially owned that operated bike share’s nationally. While that private entity leveraged a few million of federal funds to establish bike share, there was no political support at that time for city money to fund set up or operations even with the deep connections between the city and Alta. That initial contact was likely renewed / modified but the basic setup of no city funds seems to have remained in place. Not sure if Alta still had any ownership or had sold it earlier, but Lyft bought out the operating company for $250 million.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  Babygorilla

Babygorilla, Good points. Yes, Alta Bike Share was a spin off of Alta Planning and Design by a portion of their original principals (12 years ago)…that then got bought by a new entity Motivate due to some severe cashflow arising from a being a more expensive service (capital hardware intensive vs planning), a shift to in house software + lawsuit (8D Tech) which delayed planned start dates of several major systems which generated more lawsuits (my memory)…basically only lawyers ever win in these scenarios.
Then Motivate got bought by Lyft…and Lyft added PBSC recently. (Maturing industries always consolidate over time.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivate_(company)

Mary Shintozuki
Mary Shintozuki
1 year ago

Does anybody that doesn’t get discounted or free service even use BIKETOWN anymore? Heck I just take Uber now— it’s cheaper (and faster of course). I’d prefer to take a carbon free option but money doesn’t grow on trees.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago

money doesn’t grow on trees.

It’s more of a row crop.

John
John
1 year ago

It probably depends on a lot of things – distance, your fitness, etc. According to Google my old work commute would take 32 minutes which comes out to $7.40 (1+.2*32) at the current non member price, or $10.60 with the price gouging. I ride faster than Google estimates, which in this case is about 9mph, but some are slower of course. Member price helps. But the best Lyft price I see is $17 (“wait and save”). I don’t know how rush hour pricing affects that but I expect it would be worse.

Plus it saves an hour of gym time which almost all of us need.

Jim Calhoon
Jim Calhoon
1 year ago

“money doesn’t grow on trees”

Unless your involved in timber or paper products, then yes it does

zuckerdog
zuckerdog
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Calhoon

Actually some money is paper, so that money literally grows on trees, or more accurately comes from trees.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Calhoon

US currency is printed on cotton.

AL
AL
1 year ago

Capital Bikeshare in DC is also Lyft operated and it costs $.15 a minute with no membership. I used it all the time when I lived there since it was the cheapest way to get around.

Every time my non bike owning friends come to town I’m disappointed to see that it’s usually cheaper for them to get a Lyft then to use Biketown

Jim Calhoon
Jim Calhoon
1 year ago
Reply to  AL

I found one thread that stated Capital Bikeshare is operated by Lyft but then a found this in the press kit on the Capital Bikeshare website.

The Capital Bikeshare system is owned by the seven participating jurisdictions and is operated by Motivate International, Inc. (formerly Alta Bicycle Share). Motivate is based in Brooklyn, New York and operates Citi Bike in New York City, Bluebikes in Boston, FordGoBike in San Francisco, and Divvy Bikes in Chicago.

Press Kit | Capital Bikeshare

The prices I found to be very reasonable.

Brian
Brian
1 year ago

If Lyft needs to raise fares to be sustainable, so be it. If it is unsustainable, why do people expect government to support a private industry when their possible competitors don’t have that luxury.

If the argument that this is a necessary mode for public transportation, then fine. Let’s have a worker owned or a nonprofit running it instead of Lyft.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

AS for worker owned bikeshare, I remember trying to be a customer of Portland’s grass roots bike share in 1999, lets just say I spent more time trying to find a working bike or any bike for that matter. Perhaps this could work better now – more industry knowledge and if used hardware could be found (stick to analogue bikes and try PBSC dock hardware vs other) and the ability to use open source software…there are small systems closing nationwide…assuming you could find enough bit and bobs to make a large enough system without being an operations nightmare.

AS for the non-profit model, this is an option that some cities use, though it has a different – almost 180 degree opposite set of challenges, some bigger (access to capital / borrowing, access to technology, etc.) and for it to be sustainable it needs a strong mayor + visionary council majority to take the lead on funding it as a public service past the initial investment for hardware…to make it a sustainable public bike transit service.

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago

If a corporation operates a company that makes money off of short trips around town, then it makes sense they’d buy into an alternative that would challenge their business. They run the service into the ground and then raise prices so people will just decide to just take a Lyft because it’s cheaper and more convenient, win-win.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Brandon

All the scooters, as well as Portland bikeshare, never looked like a business to me. I’ve assumed it was a play to suck up data from users made possible by fast and loose venture capital. Nike’s buy-in was peanuts from their ad budget and maybe a little goodwill write off.

If Lyft wanted to be in the Portland bike share market I don’t think they would bump the price 50%. Let’s get Nike off the signs, make better use of our bike parking real estate, and figure out what one more bike on the road is really worth.

Carrie
Carrie
1 year ago

I’m planning a trip to Italy and on a whim checked to see if Milan has bike share. It does: run by the municipal travel agency. The cost for a day pass of bike share is less than a day pass for transit, with free unlocks & rides < 30 minutes (15 min on an ebike). It appears that there are LOTS of bikes available and a better network of protected bikeways than Portland. I was already struck by the difference, and this was before the rate hike. MILAN – the land of fast cars & high fashion. You do have to use their docking stations and you can't rent from midnight – 5am.

Anyway, what a difference it makes when you treat transportation as a public good. I'll report back when I get back. 🙂

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  Carrie

Carrie, Sounds like a great tourist visit (I will have to try it too). Though be sure to check if tourists can use the system…as I and others have found out many municipal EU bikeshare services are restricted to residents only.

Carrie
Carrie
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

From what I can tell it’s open to everyone — but I will find out in person and let you know!

Natron
Natron
1 year ago

I wonder how much of an impact theft and vandalism has to the price increase?

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago
Reply to  Natron

Natron, good questions. Many of the larger docked bikeshare systems saw a 2x to 4x increase in theft / vandalism during the pandemic…which hurt worse due to supply chain backlogs and labor storage….then inflation. It increased in frequency and ferocity.

X
X
1 year ago
Reply to  Natron

Portland bikeshare bikes are online aren’t they? I would assume they don’t work unless they are checked out, which would make them hard to steal. Maybe that link isn’t working so well if the bikes are hard to find, and once found, they aren’t charged up.

It seems like Lyft is providing an unsatisfactory service at a high price. In the past I’ve estimated that a bike was costing me about $3 a day, rode hard and put up wet. That bike was fully amortized years ago, it’s almost like I’m getting paid to roll it out of the garage.

I’m pretty sure I can operate an ebike for less than the cost of one round trip on bikeshare. If the battery is dead I know who to blame.

Can we tell Lyft to £&?

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Catie
1 year ago

It is already a big barrier to be a member! Unlike every other membership/subscription service in the world, Biketown requires people to pay for a whole year up front, rather than doling out free trials and a monthly rate that you can cancel anytime. I’ve never sprung for the $99 fee myself, and its unlikely I will if I can’t even count on rates being discounted to the point where the math makes sense.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
1 year ago

In other cities, these programs are priced to ENCOURAGE as many people as possible to bike, particularly to choose the cycle over car service or even public transit, all of which are worse for the environment (in terms of both fuel use, traffic, pollution, etc.). Every time I visit other cities — DC, Philadelphia, New York — I find the bicycle share convenient and economical. It’s a public good that these locations foster. Why is Portland so wrong on this?

CDD
CDD
1 year ago

Stopped using BikeTown when they changed bikes and moved to the app system. The punch in a number and 4 digit pass code was awesome.There are days when I just did not want to carry my phone with me. Have you tried to bike with an iphone stuffed in the front or back pocket? I used those bikes primarily as a form of exercise on my lunch break, downtown, in the “before times” with minimal tent and zombies everywhere. Good bye, heavy orange bikes that helped me lose weight!