news Funding Boon for Bicycle Sharing In Marin

Earlier this month,the Metropolitan Transportation Commission approved $824,000 across Marin and Sonoma counties to fund bicycle sharing in the SMART train corridor.

Expected to roll out in late 2018, the will provide a fleet of rugged, GPS-tagged utility bikes at Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit stations and key destinations in cities along the rail corridor. This provides an efficient way for commuters to cover the “last mile” between the train and their jobs.

The plan calls for 200 bikes to be distributed, evenly split between Marin and Sonoma County. Likely distributions will be in Larkspur, San Rafael and Novato in the county, and Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa to the north. These GPS-enabled “smart-bikes” would be accessible without traditional docking stations, so the rider would not need to return the bike to a fixed location. The next user can then find a bike by using the Global Positioning System or GPS.

“We are excited to move forward,” said Marin Supervisor Damon Connolly. Marin’s transportation authority — which has teamed with the Sonoma County Transportation Authority on the project — originally looked at bike sharing in 2013.

“The technology has come a long way since then,” said Dianne Steinhauser, executive director of the Marin agency. “Bike share programs have really blossomed.”

Operational details still need to be worked out, Steinhauser said.   Th MTC grant will not cover continued operating costs, so a sponsor will likely be brought in to help offset ongoing costs, Steinhauser said.

“We have lots of potential private partners in the bike and health industries,” she said. “We think we can make this work and we are ready to give it a go.”

MTC expects at least a one-year pilot period of operations. If the program is successful beyond a pilot year, MTC requires a three-year operation and funding plan for the grant. This bike share program should help free up space on SMART trains, which have high numbers of users bringing bicycles.Since its launch Aug. 25, the system has carried more than 12,000 bicycles. With this option, SMART riders could choose a shared bike at the stations, creating more space on trains.

“The busiest time for passengers is also the busiest time for bicyclists,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager, noting the crowded trains. “We think bike sharing is a great option and we want to give people options.”

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