Managers originally planned to add more service in the downtown and South of Market areas, where the pilot launched in August with 350 bikes and 35 stations, said Heath Maddox, bike-share program manager for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
The plan was modeled after a system in Paris, another dense metropolitan area, noted Maddox.
But the cutback in bike-share launch numbers may have been a blessing in disguise, he said.
“The system is working well,” Maddox said at an expansion hearing on Monday. “We don’t think we’re compromising anything by keeping density low.”
A feasibility study the transit agency conducted revealed areas of high and low suitability for expansion, based on criteria including workforce density, population and proximity to bicycle facilities. The Mission, Castro, Hayes Valley and Mission Bay areas emerged as the most suitable, with South of Market also showing need but not enough to warrant priority, he said.
A crowdsourced heat map compiled from the public marking their desired station locations “confirmed this decision to move into the Mission and Upper Market instead of filling in the SoMa area,” Maddox said.
Moving into new neighborhoods doesn’t mean that adding bikes and stations to already serviced areas is not a good idea, he said. But that will have to wait until another phase of growth for the program.
This expansion brings the pilot to 500 bikes and 50 stations citywide. To break even and become self-sustaining, the bike share would need to grow to 2,000 bikes, Maddox said, and the goal is to reach 3,000.
So far, bike share has averaged between 900 and 1,000 trips per day, which translates to about 2.5 trips per bicycle per day.
“It’s a number that we’re happy with,” Maddox said. “Capital Bike Share in Washington, D.C., is in many ways analogous to San Francisco and they averaged 1.9 trips per day two months after they launched, so in some ways we’ve exceeded their performance.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who called the hearing, raised concerns about the roughly $23 million that a 3,000-bike system would cost. Seleta Reynolds, who oversees policy analysis and innovation for the transit agency, said the bikes have a life of about seven years and infrastructure can last even longer, so rejuvenating the system would not cost as much as its implementation.
Supervisor Jane Kim said she would like to see the 30-minute bike checkout time increased, while Board of Supervisors President David Chiu recommended that the program include payment options besides credit cards and expand into his high-density northeast district.