It appears to be a case of Ford "giving us the finger," said Councilman Mike Kasperzak. He and other council members said the setback meant they needed to consider other options.
"I've been such a huge supporter of this and it feels like 'kaboom.' This feels like staff is telling us this whole thing is blown up." Kasperzak said. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel, but how do we get there?"
It was the latest twist in what has been a bumpy road for Bike Share this year. The bike-rental system first came to Mountain View in 2013 via a grant doled out by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. When those subsidies expired earlier this year, Mountain View and several other Bay Area cities began questioning the efficacy of the program now that they would have to foot the bill. The city's bike fleet had dismal ridership — on average about two-thirds of the bikes in Mountain View would never be used on a given day. City staff calculated this meant that Mountain View was essentially losing about $20 per bike trip.
The costs of the Bike Share system were so high that critics, including some council members, pointed out it would be vastly cheaper just to buy low-end bicycles and hand them out to residents.
Last week, city staff presented plans for an upgraded system that they believed could solve the old system's shortcomings. Bicycling has huge support in Mountain View, and staff members pointed out the reason that Bike Share wasn't attracting more usage was because riders could only travel between seven stations in the city, severely limiting where they could go.
Taking a cue from Palo Alto, Mountain View officials proposed doubling down with an estimated $1.1 million from the city on a new, expanded version of Bike Share. This new system would be built around "smart" GPS-equipped bicycles that could be left at more places around town.
But however expensive it looked, it turns out the program wasn't even being offered to Mountain View. The day before the meeting, Forsberg said she learned that Ford had declined to help pay to bring the system to Mountain View, but she said the automaker was still working with Palo Alto.
But that wasn't entirely accurate. Ford is also pulling out of Palo Alto's Bike Share upgrade, said Emily Stapleton, Motivate general manager.
"There's still very much an opportunity for a third party to brand the system, but it would be the city's responsibility to seek that," Stapleton said. "Ford did not opt to sponsor any of the Peninsula cities, including Palo Alto."
Corporate representatives from Microsoft and other tech firms in Mountain View urged the city not to jettison the Bike Share idea. The local Transportation Management Association — a nonprofit consortium of the city's tech firms — offered an extra $100,000 to help pay for three new Bike Share hubs in the North Bayshore and Whisman neighborhoods. The concept behind Bike Share could succeed at a low price if it was properly implemented, said TMA chairman Tom Herrington.
Sensing opportunity, other firms were ready to seize the moment, pledging they could offer a superior bike-rental system. Hinting that Bike Share was already becoming obsolete, Colin Roche from the start-up Swift Mile touted his company's prototype fleet of solar-powered bicycles that is "like Zipcar, but for bikes."
"We're not trying to disparage Bike Share at all, but there's some great new technologies out there that you can tap into," he said. "We're here to let you know that there's other options out there."
Given the sudden change in plans, Forsberg and other city staffers suggested a "time-out" to hire a consultant to study the available options and devise a plan. That study is expected to cost between $25,000 and $50,000.
The Mountain View City Council approved hiring a consultant on a 6-1 vote with Councilman John Inks opposed.
Following the meeting, Mayor Pat Showalter said that the council's Bike Share discussion seemed like a confusing muddle.
"It's clear as mud what's going on," she said. "There's tremendous amounts of support here, but there's also suspicion that the way we did it before didn't work well."
This story contains 858 words.
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