Soon you might be able to pull out your smartphone or a prepaid access card, unlock a bike in your neighborhood, ride it across town, lock it to bike rack, and walk away.
That’s because the city is months away from launching a bike share program. It’s seeking your advice on where to set it up.
But not bike share as you might know it in other parts of the country — where the program is often aimed at mostly sightseeing tourists. New Haven’s brand of bike share aims to operate as another cog in the city’s transit system for people who live and work here.
The city has chosen a vendor to run a bike share program for the city, a team from the companies E3Think and P3GM. City transit chief Doug Hausladen said a contract with the team, which must be approved by the Board of Alders, is “substantially complete.” Officials expect to submit it this week and hope to have it approved within a few months.
The program is expected to start with 300 bikes at 30 stations — 100 of which will be available at the first 10 stations, three months after the contract is signed, according to the E3Think and P3GM response to the city’s request for proposal. The idea, Hausladen said, is for it to grow to other parts of the region.
Hausladen said in addition to approval from the Board of Alders, he needs feedback from the public on where people would like the bikes located. The city’s already getting input from the housing authority, the parks department and the school district. But it’s also looking for feedback from neighbors. You can weigh in by clicking here and posting on SeeClickFix. Find out more about bike share here.
Michael Pinto, the city’s new deputy transportation, traffic and parking director, pitched downtown and Wooster Square neighbors at their monthly management meeting Tuesday night on coming up with suggestions for station locations. So far his office has received 70 suggestions for the 30 locations, he reported.
“Think about public spaces, bus spaces” with lots of people, Pinto said. “We want people to know about [the program] and get excited about it” before it launches.
Management team chair Peter Webster asked Pinto if the city is worried about theft of the bikes. Pinto responded that the city is benefiting from learning from other cities’ experiences. As a result it plans to equip all bikes with GPS and have the ability to disable them remotely. Portland, Oregon was able to track a stolen bike that was reported traveling 60 miles per hour on I-5—because it was traveling in the truck of a thief. “They had the Seattle police department waiting when the truck got off the exit” and the bike was recovered, he said.
Pinto said the city will hold public meetings in coming weeks to get more input. One might take place at Career High, which he called “one of the least bike-accessible places in the city.”
Asked whether smaller cities more on the scale of New Haven have had success with the program, Pinto pointed to Hoboken, N.J. as an example.
In designing New Haven’s bike share, “we benefit from lessons in other cities,” like Portland, Oregon, Pinto said.
In fact, Hoboken is a model for New Haven’s program. The E3Think-P3GM team has worked on that city’s bike share, where it worked with housing the authority and the unbanked to address issues of equity, Hausladen said. In addition to those strengths, the team’s bid contained a proposal that ensured that the city’s cost to implement the program would be zero.
The team, which bills itself not as bike share vendors but as urban planners, will be responsible for developing public-private partnerships that aim to result in sponsorships and advertising to pay for the cost of the program. The team also plans to have a per-user fee structure that includes memberships and pay-as-you-go models. The team will be responsible for eventually regionalizing what will essentially be a privately funded system so that it expands to other towns.
Tom Glendening, founder and CEO E3Think, said New Haven was “an ideal location for next generation bike share,” noting its cultural richness with some 13 languages spoken, being an academic hub for the universities located in the city and its prime location between New York and Boston.
Glendening, who is a Yale grad, said there are a two intentions for the bike share program: to be the most socially equitable possible and to deploy next generation technology—specifically Noa Technologies.
He said while a completely privately financed program is unusual, it’s not unique.
“As a lead-up to the launch of Citibike, I captained a Harvard Business School alumni team of very seasoned professionals, working with Transportation Alternatives to justify privately financed, public bike share,” Glendening said in an email. “Following the Harvard study, E3Think spearheaded an innovative pilot, as well as permanent program for Hoboken, NJ—both 100% privately financed.”
P3GM now manages the permanent Hoboken program, he said, and also a program in West Palm Beach. Glendening said that E3Think/Noa is working on spreading bike share to mid-sized towns along I-95 from DC to Boston and already has support in 5 other markets.
“The key to a regional program along I-95 is the low cost and flexibility offered by Noa,” he added.” In Hoboken, E3Think’s original plan stretched along the Hudson River across from NYC (thus the name Hudson Bike Share). We’ve established floating zones in adjacent towns; whether part of the Hoboken program or not, further expansion is inevitable.”
New Haven’s plan calls for working to integrate Yale’s existing bike share program and working with other area colleges and universities as places for co-locating shelters and bike stations. The team has said it will make sure that such infrastructure (also known as “street furniture”) will be on the street — not tucked into garages, as Yale’s system currently is. Other features of New Haven’s bike share include cargo/adult trikes for families and people with disabilities.
Instead of relying on smart dock technology such as that used by Citibike in New York— where the user has to whip out a credit card to pay for rides— New Haven’s system will use smart-lock technology, which leverages apps to pay for rides.
The proposed fee structure would put an annual membership at about $95; a single 30-minute ride would cost $2. The vendors promise free rides for the homeless as well as discounted annual memberships for housing authority residents. They proposed a free membership for New Haven students who earn straight As.
Glendening said there are challenges and they won’t be easy to overcome. And there are places that have failed, such as Providence, R.I., which sought to launch a traditional, privately-financed bike share program three years ago that hasn’t happened yet.
He said New Haven will be different because it’s bike share program won’t be traditional.
“Noa’s technology is much low[er] cost, far more flexible than traditional programs,” he said. “It can also be integrated with other forms of mobility (e.g. car share, on-demand transit). Noa’s technology also enables a variety of social equity strategies. Fair Haven, the Hill, SCSU—with Noa, we intend to bring bike share to all of New Haven.”
Paul Bass contributed reporting.