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Modifications planned for bike-sharing system

The current bike-share system in Palo Alto will undergo a major upgrade when the City partners with Motivate —  a company that designs, deploys and manages bike-sharing systems — and Ford Motor Company to create a new and improved bike sharing system. The remodel to the current system will happen within the program Ford has created to expand bike-share programs across the entire Bay Area, and will lead to the system growing almost ten times its current size.

“We’re able to stay part of the Bay Area bike-share system so that someone from Oakland, San Francisco or San Jose can come to Palo Alto and use the bike-share system with the same account.’’

Joshua Mello

Chief Transportation Official

Currently there are only 37 bike-share bikes in Palo Alto with five stations throughout the city, which severely limits the area in which bike-share riders can travel. However, after the plan was approved on Oct. 4, the City is expecting to very soon see around 350 bikes and dozens of drop off stations scattered throughout Palo Alto.

In the new partnership, Motivate would be responsible for covering the annual operating costs while Palo Alto would be responsible for purchasing the new bikes.

“I think it’s going to have a dramatic change in the bike-share program,” said James Keene, Palo Alto City Manager.

Even with Motivate covering the operating costs, Palo Alto is still responsible for covering the capital costs, which are estimated to be around $1 million.

The city is hoping that some of these costs can be offset by grants, of which they have already received one worth $171,000 from the Ford/Motivate system.

The number of bikes is not the only thing changing with the new bike-share system: the technology with which the bikes are equipped is also getting a facelift. The new bikes will have a Global Tracking System (GPS), which allows users to drop off the bikes at standard bike racks in designated “hubs” around the city. This new technology allows for users to travel more widely, with fewer restrictions on where they need to end their rides.

The agreement signed between city managers in the surrounding cities stated that the new bike-share system is being set up to “jointly address the transportation and mobility challenges facing the region in the wake of population growth and economic expansion.”

Palo Alto has entered this partnership in the hopes of increasing the usage of the bike share system. Currently, the bikes in Palo Alto’s bike-share system are used 0.17 times per day, whereas the industry standard is about 3 times per day.

Palo Alto is not undergoing this transformation alone. Ford will underwrite a huge expansion of Motivate’s bike share program throughout the Bay Area, increasing the number of bikes from 700 to 7,000.

There is a huge advantage to employing the same bike-share system throughout the entire Bay Area, as people will be able to travel to neighboring cities and use the bike share systems there through pre-existing accounts.

“We’re able to stay part of the Bay Area bike-share system so that someone from Oakland, San Francisco or San Jose can come to Palo Alto and use the bike-share system with the same account,” said Joshua Mello, Palo Alto’s Chief Transportation Official.

With the revamps to the bike sharing system, Palo Alto hopes to bring a more effective and efficient way for its residents to commute around the city.

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