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Friday, October 31, 2014

Bay Area Bike Share Got Bought: So Now What?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 7:47 AM

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The operator of Bay Area Bike Share, Alta Bicycle Share, the company that also runs the Citi Bike in New York City, was just bought by an organization called REQX Ventures. The investment firm now controls a majority of bike sharing programs in the country, and the first order of business is to expand the system in New York City. I reached out to Alta to try to get a scoop on what’s in store for the Bay Area bike share system.

But I’ll be frank, and say that the response I got was a little vague. When I contacted Alta, the response came from Dani Simons, the Director of Marketing and External Affairs, NYC Bicycle Share, LLC, who gave us the following statement:

“We are extremely excited about the future of the company and bike share. We’re firmly committed to improving customer experience and technology across all of the systems we operate. We expect to be able to expand service in the cities where our clients (the cities) have desire to expand the systems.”

Obviously, that non-statement warranted a follow-up question, such as: what's in store for the Bare Area bike share system? When I asked for more specifics, all I got was radio silence.

What we can take away from this non-statement is that they probably won’t be packing up and shipping our bike share program the NYC to expand the Citi system (probably).

The first salvo of the Bay Area Bike Share program was always designed as a small scale pilot, with plans for expansion always in the offing. Money for the pilot came from the Bay Area Air Quality management District. The money to fund the expansion into more San Francisco neighborhoods and the East Bay was earmarked by the Bay Area Metro Transportation Commission in April. With REQX Ventures behind the curtain, that expansion could happen even faster, if NYC is any indication.

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It’s an interesting investment – bike share programs have not always been profitable. Maybe REQX Ventures has some surprises up their sleeves? They’ve already announced a bump in pricing for the NYC Citi system from $95 to $149 for a yearly pass. Can we expect a similar price increase? 

The issue of corporate sponsorship for the system, much like the Citi Bikes in New York are sponsored by Citi Bank. No doubt, REQX Ventures sees the non-monetized advertising space on the sides of the Bay Area Bike Share bikes as a possible source of revenue as well. 

That said, Bay Area Bike Share isn't exactly a darling so far, and I'm sure that many people won't be concerned to hear about the change of management. Right now, the Bay Area Bike Share is sitting comfortably at two stars on Yelp. Most of the bad reviews are for lack of stations and docks, poor customer service, and unclear pricing structure. If the new management can fix some of those problems – most notably, adding more docks and stations around the city, maybe they can make the Bay Area Bike Share into a business.

We can only hope that the expansion to continue apace. With that, will probably come higher fees, more aggressive advertising, and thus improved customer service.

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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.


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