Photo by Ryan Thornton
Tuesday May 17th, 2022 by Kali Bramble
Cyclists can expect to see expanded bike-sharing infrastructure roll out over the next few years, as the team behind the city’s MetroBike program prepares to present an updated interlocal agreement to city council this summer. .
Since 2013, MetroBike (formerly Cycle B) relied on Bike Share of Austin, a non-profit organization, to manage day-to-day operations. Now, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes to join the organization as employees who would help oversee MetroBike’s ambitious strategic expansion plan proposed last year.
“We want to make sure they have good salaries, good benefits and a long-term plan for program sustainability,” said Chad Ballentine, vice president of Capital Metro. “I’m amazed at what they (did) with so little, but we’re a very grown-up city… it’s time to really formalize things and make sure we’re building this for the long haul.”
The MetroBike program has grown dramatically in its first nine years of existence, with a fleet now totaling 847 bikes at 79 stations. In line with Project Connect and mobility infrastructure bonds, the MetroBike team hopes to expand to areas outside of Austin’s urban core and integrate into future transit development.
“We’ve seen in other countries that you can easily get off a bus and get on a bike,” Ballentine said. “It needs to be seamless and simple…so that mobility isn’t something you have to struggle to understand, it just happens naturally.”
Along with its expansion, MetroBike will undergo a number of equipment upgrades, including a transition from mechanical bikes to a 100% electric fleet. Docking stations will also see upgrades to a newly piloted modular dock system that is less labor intensive and takes up less space, allowing for greater flexibility in installing future stations.
The MetroBike team will present its proposal for an interlocal agreement to the Council this summer. If approved, the deal will formalize the partnership between Bike Share of Austin, the city’s transportation department, and Capital Metro, laying the groundwork for its future endeavors. The tripartite team aims to jointly fund an ambitious $11 million for the 10-year project.
“We really want bikes and bike share to be kind of ubiquitous in this city,” Ballentine said. “We know there’s an appetite for it.”
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