In this week's news section I write about how Seattle's vaunted new bike share program may be reduced to a two-neighborhood novelty before it even launches unless local corporations step up to invest in it. The trouble with fighting to save something we don't yet have is that, because no west coast cities have up-and-running bike share programs yet, Seattleites haven't really been exposed to its benefits. But the benefits are great.
A lot of cities want to expand their transit service but don't have the money to dig an entire subway system (or even to extend one that already exists). Usually these places will instead consider enhancing bus service (often through bus-rapid transit) or, perhaps, building an above-ground rail system (lately streetcars have been the rage). During a discussion about the future of urban mobility at CityLab, Chicago transportation chief Gabe Klein suggested another option: bike-share.
"There's this argument about streetcar versus BRT, and what should primary cities, secondary cities sort of look at," said Klein. "I think, first of all, you shouldn't count out bike-share as mass transit."
... The price of bike-share is also right. Klein, who used to run the transportation department in Washington, D.C., said the entire Capital Bikeshare system was put in place for $6 million. Citi Bike is privately funded. Streetcar systems, by comparison, cost tens of millions of dollars in public money to build. For all that spending, their ridership figures can end up in the same ballpark as those of bike-share; Portland's very successful streetcar system, for instance, carries 11,000 people a day.