Aiming to capitalize on commuters' desire to use public transportation more frequently, Redwood City is set to launch the first bicycle-sharing program in San Mateo County.
Launching in August, the network in Redwood City will include seven stations with a total of 70 bicycles, part of a regional program that includes a total of 700 bicycles across five cities. Peninsula transportation officials say they are intrigued by the system's potential to solve a long-discussed problem — how to transport people over the last mile from public transportation to their final destinations.
"The last-mile issue is one of the barriers and is often cited by people who want to take transit but don't," said Jayme Ackemann, a spokeswoman for Caltrain and SamTrans.
The bicycle-sharing program is one option regional planners are developing to encourage alternatives to solo vehicle trips, said Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith. The city also is looking at van pooling, car-sharing services and mass transit.
Commuters are only one target group for the pilot, as the city hopes people will use the bicycles for midday trips.
"One of the barriers to using mass transit is that people say they need their cars to do things like run errands and go to lunch," Smith said.
City and regional officials said bicycle usage statistics, along with participant surveys, will be used to evaluate the program's effectiveness. The stations aren't permanent, Smith said, and depending on the statistics the city will likely make adjustments throughout the trial to improve ridership.
The pilot program is becoming more important in a region where car travel — especially solo trips — makes up the majority of emissions concerns, said Karen Schkolnick of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
And the Bay Area is ripe for such a bicycle-sharing network, said Ratna Amin of SPUR in San Francisco. On the Peninsula, she said, about 80 percent of jobs are located within a 3-mile radius of public transit, making last-mile programs an important part of the puzzle.
An annual membership to the bicycle network costs $88 — if paid in a lump sum — or $99 a year if paid with the monthly installment plan of $8.25 per month. Bicycles are also available for 24 hours at $9, and $22 for three days. All membership pricing includes unlimited 30-minute rides.
The bicycle program — which is part of a larger network that includes stations in Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose — will operate on a pilot of 12 to 24 months, designed to evaluate many aspects of potential long-term plans to incorporate the network into regional transportation strategy.
While transit officials are hopeful the program will be a success, questions remain about the future of a permanent program's regional implementation.
"In order to really grow this program to where we want it to be, we need to figure out the right government structure," Amin said.