"I'm thrilled we are one of the cities chosen to try this out," said council member Ronit Bryant on Tuesday. "We live in an amazingly car-centric society. We need to move to new solutions."
As one of five Silicon Valley cities to have the first bike sharing system on the West Coast, on May 8 the City Council approved the location of nine automated bike sharing stations, courtesy of a $4.3 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant administered by the Valley Transportation Authority. Each station requires the use of a credit card that may be charged in case one of the GPS-equipped bikes is lost.
Mountain View was selected along with Palo Alto, San Jose, Redwood City and San Francisco for the two-year pilot program, which divvies 1,000 bikes among the five cities. Those who can ride to another station within 30 minutes are not charged for the ride, said VTA planner Aiko Cuenco, though an undetermined membership fee will be charged at different rates for daily, monthly or annual memberships.
The system was a bit difficult for some council members to understand, as it requires people to ride from one bike sharing station to another.
"So you are assuming people are going to do this point-to-point thing?" said member Tom Means, who was the only member to vote against it.
"That is the point of bike share, yes," Cuenco said.
Means said people would be more inclined to take a bike with them, to work for example.
"If you take it to work with you, all the bikes will be gone and the stations won't work," Cuenco said.
Cuenco decribed the program as a way to supplement buses, trains and light rail. Means, a libertarian, said he thought it was something that private industry could probably figure out better.
Member Margaret Abe Koga rebuked the skeptics.
"Here's an opportunity for us to be one of the first in this area," Abe-Koga said. "For all the pride we take in being cutting edge and progressive ... why not try it? There's not a lot of skin we're putting into this."
Mayor Mike Kasperzak and council member Bryant both said they saw the system work well in Europe. "I kept looking with surprise at how well they were used," Bryant said of London's system.
Kasperzak questioned the location of bike sharing at the Middlefield Road and Evelyn Avenue light rail stations. "There's nowhere for those people to go," he said.
Public works engineer Helen Kim said that people could take the Stevens Creek Trail from those light rail stations to other bike sharing locations, including two near Google headquarters. Others are planned for City Hall, the downtown train station, San Antonio shopping center, the La Avenida Avenue trailhead of the Stevens Creek Trail and the corner of Middlefield Road and Rengstorff Avenue. The locations were given the stamp of approval by the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee.
It was noted that no bike sharing stations are planned south of El Camino Real. Cuenco said the stations were for denser, high-activity areas.
"I would like to see this work a little more for the residents here as opposed to it being the last mile for transit," Kasperzak said.
Kim said there were limited choices for where to place the bike sharing racks because the stations had to be placed on public property, though the city might be able to strike deals with private land owners for better locations.
The program is funded by a $4.3 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Cuenco said ongoing operations and maintenance for the program will be paid with membership fees.