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Santa Monica Bike Share Program Prepares to Get Rolling

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 9, 2015 -- After two years of planning, it could soon be a breeze getting around Santa Monica on a “Smart Bike” from just about anywhere in the city.

The program – which the City Council voted to name “Breeze” last month -- allows users to rent “Smart Bikes” capable of accepting payments and releasing the bike locks via web-based software. Riders can drop them off at any of the stations in the city.

City officials are conducting “site and field” reviews to determine if the preliminary locations chosen for the bike stations offer enough space and visibility. They also have chosen a contractor that will begin manufacturing the bikes, which are chainless, have automatic lights for riding during the night and include GPS.

If everything goes as planned, officials anticipate that the program will be up and running by the time Expo Light Rail begins service between Downtown L.A. and Downtown Santa Monica as early as the end of the year.

“I’m excited,” said Santa Monica Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who has been actively involved in the bake share plan. “It’s right on track.”

The program calls for 500 bicycles in 65 to 75 stations throughout Santa Monica.

Residents, workers, visitors and tourists are all expected to participate in the program, which will offer an alternative to fighting traffic and searching for parking, officials said.

Driving, O’Connor said, doesn’t make sense when you can hop on a bus or light rail, then pedal the rest of the way to your destination.

“You use your car 10 percent of the time and park it for 90 percent,” O’Connor said, adding that bikes are meant for quick trips. “They’re for short segment use — for 10, 15 minute segments,” she said.

In November, the City Council reviewed the following preliminary fares and will vote on them later this year:

• $2 per 20 minutes for casual users;

• $20 monthly membership, which includes one hour of free riding time per day, with a minimum of two months;

• $25 monthly membership, which includes two free hours daily with a minimum of two months, and

• $15 bus and bike combination membership, which features 1 hour daily of free riding time for those with bus passes, with a one month minimum.

The City Council in November selected Florida-based CycleHop (which recently announced plans to relocate its headquarters to Santa Monica) as the system’s operator, and officials are now ironing out details of the contract, said Francie Stefan, the City’s manager of strategic and transportation planning.

In the meantime, other aspects of the program are moving forward, she said.

The program is expected to cost $8.1 million over seven years, but Stefan noted that the costs would be offset by about $1.2 million in annual user fees and about $500,000 from one or more program sponsors. The City hopes to find one big sponsor, but will take any number needed to meet the goal.

At the February 10 meeting, the Council approved a staff recommendation that the sponsorship logos only appear on the bicycles’ front baskets and along the triangular frames next to the back wheels.

There will be no advertisements on the bike stations.

Santa Monica invited regional officials to participate in its invitation for a bike share vendor. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is funding Santa Monica’s initial program, and has also decided to solicit bids for a Downtown Los Angeles pilot program.

Ultimately Metro is looking to create the first-ever countywide bike-sharing system within a few years. Santa Monica hopes that its system can be a model for the regional system, and ultimately be integrated.

Both Pasadena and Long Beach are among the municipalities actively working with Metro to be the first expansions of the Downtown Los Angeles pilot program. If successful, it will be expanded over a five year period.

City officials estimate that 370,000 trips would be taken on the bikes in Santa Monica each year.

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