Supervisor Scott Wiener recently announced plans to make the Bay Area bike sharing program worth the ride. Curious about how he planned to expand the program so that more people could get more places, I called Wiener to explain.
Last week, at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, Wiener called for a hearing to assess the pilot and push for an expanded bike share program, one that would not burden the city's budget. "We need to quickly pivot to get Bay Area Bike Share expanded citywide," Wiener said. "We want the program to be viable and available across the city. We need to make sure we don't rest on our laurels."
The initial pilot program kicked off last month with 350 bikes in the city and 350 bikes in Silicon Valley; it will expand to include 1,000 bikes by the end of the year. To put those figures into the commuting context, more than 40,000 people ride Caltrain every day and nearly 500,000 people ride BART daily. But what makes bike share program truly successful is to have one station every 900 feet. That could equate to some 1,000 stations in San Francisco alone.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, one of the partners in the Bay Area Bike Share Program, estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 bicycles are needed to realize the full potential of the system.
Unfortunately, that takes money -- money we don't have. So now what?
Supervisor Wiener told me that one option to expand the program quickly would be to get corporate sponsorship much like the Citi Bike program in New York, where bikes act as rolling billboards for CitiBank. Wiener told me that it's ultimately up to the San Francisco MTA and the Mayor's Office to figure out a method to make this work. Thus far, Mayor Ed Lee has been on the prowl for corporate partners, but no names have surfaced.
"You have to have a certain level of concentration for it to work." Wiener said, adding that 2,500 bikes would be "comfortable."
Media reports have been mixed about the program to date, with some outlets reporting it as sluggish and others calling it a dramatic success. Ultimately, user statistics from the first few months will give a more accurate picture of the bike share system and how it can be improved. Wiener noted that there had been only minor problems, including two stolen bikes, one of which was recovered.
But overall, Wiener says he thinks the program has had a good start.
"I've heard from at least one person that there are particular pods that are empty," Wiener told us. "By next year, through a combination of private sponsors and user fees, we might see a lot more stations around the city."