bike share before re-opening

JUMP unceremoniously pulled out of Sacramento (the Sacramento region program that included West Sacramento and Davis) in the very early days of the pandemic. The bike and scooters disappeared, except for those few that are still out there, abandoned and never picked up. Though the company claimed that the devices weren’t being used, that is not true. Despite people not commuting to work (the stay at home was not yet clearly defined), they were still getting used, at perhaps half the rate as before. I’ve suspected that Uber/JUMP was already planning a pull-out, and saw the pandemic as a convenient excuse. Sacramento had been the most successful JUMP system in the US, in terms of rides per bike per day. Some argue that means they would not have pulled out unless they had to. But I see exactly the opposite reason, that they pulled the bikes and scooters because they were so successfully competing with what Uber considers (and has now demonstrated) to be its core business, ride hailing.

Lime also had scooters here for a while, but they disappeared as well. Spin had a program based on the campus of Sacramento State, and I saw a few of the scooters off campus, but they were never widespread. I’ve heard rumors of other scooter companies, but never saw any of the scooters. There were also some short-lived or planned but not implemented bike and scooter share programs in other cities around the region.

JUMP is now out of the bike and scooter business altogether. They sold the business, and apparently some of the bikes, to Lime. There are stories on the Internet from locations all around the US about Uber recycling the batteries and scrapping the bikes, so this is apparently widespread, and either already has or will shortly erase most of the bike fleet from existence.

Lime had an electric bike share bike for a while, though never in Sacramento. I saw them but never rode one, as the places they were available had alternative vendors that I was already using. The reviews I read said they were much better than the pedal bikes Lime was famous/infamous for, but nowhere near as good as JUMP bikes.

Apparently Lime is restarting bike share in the Denver area, using the JUMP bike model, starting this Friday. I have not heard any rumors of a restart any place else.

So, what does this have to do with re-opening from the pandemic? I have not heard anything from any of the agencies involved in the bike share program about how bike share can be brought back. SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), the original sponsor of the Tower Bridge pilot program (remember the white SoBi bikes?), SMAQMD (Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District), which provided some of the start-up funds, the City of Sacramento, the City of West Sacramento, and the City of Davis. Not a peep. There may be discussions going on, just not public, or there may not be.

This region, not just the area covered by the JUMP program, must have a bike share program. I am less certain that scooters must be part of the program, but I’m sure many feel they should. As people who were using transit but are not willing to right now, for an unknown but hopefully not too long period of time, search for alternatives, the choice to drive, and often to purchase a vehicle in order to drive, would be disastrous for the region. Our air quality has been wonderful for three months, but has already returned to the ‘unhealthy for sensitive individuals’ level even with only a fraction of the pre-pandemic traffic levels. If 80% of those who were using transit now drive, air quality will likely be in the ‘unhealthy’ for all category for much of the summer, and jump into the ‘very unhealthy’ category from time to time. We can’t let this happen. We must provide alternatives for people who cannot and will not drive, and that must include bike share. Of course the impact of motor vehicles, more than 40% of carbon emissions in the state, go far beyond current air quality to civilization-changing climate change, but my biggest concern right now is the short term impact on air quality.

Beyond air quality and climate, there are equity concerns about how we re-open. Yes, I know the JUMP system was not perfect. Even after expansion, it covered only part of the low income communities in Sacramento. JUMP had a low income uer discount program, but it was almost a state secret, and they never solved the issue for unbanked people.

We know that most transit users right now are essential workers and people who have no other way of getting to essential destinations. Those who can have been driving, but many can’t. They are not of a driving age (too old or too young), the have valid reasons they are unable to drive, and they simply do not want to be a part of the planet-destroying car obsession. What are we doing to do for these people? Are we going to put all our transportation eggs (funding and projects) into the cars-first basket, as we have done for too long, or are we going to change our futile ways and provide real alternatives? Are we going to commit low income people to a descending spiral of debt as they try to keep old cars running, or buy cars that barely run, just so they can get where they need to go?

The solution is bike share. Here is what I think needs to happen:

  • Equity concerns must be predominant in rolling out the new bike share system. Who really needs this option? How can we make sure it works for them? As one of my favorite people, Tamika Butler (and many others) has said, we don’t want to return to normal, because normal was never acceptable. High income state office workers are not the people the new system should be designed for, though certainly it should work for them too.
  • We must discard the idea that a privately owned and operated system can work to meet the transportation needs of the region. It could be a public system, or it could be a public/private system, but it cannot ever again be solely private.
  • Bike share is identified as a critical transportation service, and as a logical part of the transit system. This does not mean that it is operated by transit agencies, though it could be, but that transit agencies are a core partner in the program.
  • Major traffic attractors will not reopen until a bike share system is in place to handle the additional car traffic that might otherwise be generated. This most definitely includes shopping malls, and probably includes government offices in downtown Sacramento. Universities and colleges are not an issue, for now, as they will be online and not the trip generators they usually are.
  • Funding for bike share infrastructure (bikes and bike racks) will be diverted from road building projects. If the emergency powers of the state and county have any meaning at all, this is well within their power to do. When transportation agencies talk about the ‘color of money’, what they generally mean is that they don’t want to make the effort to justify different uses, and they are happy with the current mode share. Time to end that malfeasance.

bike share racks controversy

I attended the SACOG Transportation Committee meeting yesterday. Item 7 on the agenda, JUMP Bikeshare Contract Amendment, generated the most heat and most discussion of any item. The item would increase the amount allocated to the program by $48K. It was not the amount so much as the implications for bike racks that was controversial. The increase was to cover the difference between the cost of a shift from mostly corral racks, which had previously been specified, to JUMP “wave racks” (this is not the traditional meaning of wave rack) that were now being envisioned. Some of the exist Tower Bridge Bike Share Preview bike racks are of the corral type. The Santa Monica Breeze bike share racks are of the wave rack type. I can’t remember what the other SoBi systems have. Photos of each type are below, corral rack first and wave rack second.

Though the JUMP bike share system bikes will be owned by JUMP and operations are completely private, the rack capacity needed to make the system work are the responsibility of the three cities and the SACOG-led consortium. This is particularly so since Sacramento asked for a dock-optional system rather than the dockless system that JUMP is operating in San Francisco and Washington DC.

The City of Sacramento wants more of the wave racks to ensure that the bike share racks are not taken up by private bikes, making it impossible to park the JUMP bikes at the hubs. This is a reasonable concern in that Sacramento has far too few bike racks in most areas, and the bike share program will not install enough to overcome that deficit. However, many people on the committee questioned why an investment should be made in propriety racks when more racks are needed for everyone. The motion to recommend to the board was not passed, but a recommendation for the SACOG board to consider this issue was agreed to.

There was additional controversy about the JUMP bikes being assist-limited to 15 mph, though they are designed as legal class 1 electric bikes that can assist up to 20 mph. The other two cities apparently do not agree with this limitation.

There was also quite a bit of discussion of how alternative systems being implemented by Rancho Cordova and Folsom, and possibly other cities in the region, the dockless LimeBike, will affect or be affected by the JUMP systems and their bike racks. West Sacramento is permitting LimeBike Lime-E, an electric razor scooter type. I did not catch when that will go live.

Bike share open house

I attended the bike share open house hosted by the City of Sacramento last night. There were as many people representing partners and consultants as members of the public, and I did not see any low income or people of color. SACOG staff were present, as SACOG is the sponsoring agency for the bike share program, staff from Toole Design Group which is managing planning and selection of bike rack locations, and staff from JUMP, the selected bike share vendor.

Some things to report:

  • Rollout date is between the middle of May and the end of June.
  • There will be 900 bikes total, about 600 in the City of Sacramento and the remainder in West Sacramento and Davis.
  • The bikes will be limited to 15 mph, even though they are designed to operate at up to 20 mph. Under state law, Class 1 bikes can operate with pedal assist up to 20 mph, but a decision was made to limit them based on (probably misplaced) safety concerns.
  • The service area is considerably larger than the pilot Tower Bridge Bike Share, a very positive sign. You can see the boundary at http://wikimapping.net/wikimap/SACOG_Bikeshare.html, and add suggestions while you are there. Scroll to the left to see the Davis section. The open house had a large paper map for the same purpose.
  • There will be some sort of discount for low income people using the system, probably the JUMP Boost program, which is a $5 membership the first year, and $5/month thereafter, for 60 minutes of ride per day. In Sacramento, the eligibility might be based on SMUD status. At least initially, the only other option will be the standard $2 for the first 30 minutes and $2/hour after that, prorated. Other types of membership or charge may be implemented later.
  • Nearly the entire service area in Sacramento is moderate and high income, with just a small area in neighborhoods south of Broadway and around Power Inn being included. The city doesn’t have a plan yet for how to reach out to these potential users, and others not included in the boundary.
  • Bike racks will be provided in a quantity of at least two per bike in the system, so 1800 rack spaces. The use of these racks will be discouraged for other bicycles, in order to keep the spaces open for the bike share bikes. Bikes will be required to be parked at these hubs or stations at the termination of the ride, though they can be put on hold (with the meter running) at any other location. Leaving a bike away from a hub incurs a fee of $2, the same as the current SoBi system. Popular and busy locations will have multiple racks, while other have fewer, or one. Many or most of the locations, particularly outside the central city, do not have bike racks yet, so these will be added by JUMP before rollout. The user agreement requires that bikes be locked to a bike rack, not to other objects or left free-standing. It is not a dockless system.
  • JUMP has designed charging racks where a parked bike will charge. Larger locations will have some of these charging racks, though it is not clear if they will be installed at rollout.

There are two additional open houses scheduled, both in Davis. Friday, March 2, 11 to 1 at UC Davis bus terminal, and Saturday, March 3, 9:30 to 1 at the Davis Farmers Market. These will be less formal, and will offer the opportunity to ride the JUMP electric bike.

Bike Share Open House Feb 21

from a City of Sacramento email:


Join the City and SACOG for a Bike Share Open House!

What is bike share?

Bike Share provides short-term bike rentals that you can pick up and drop off at various locations around Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Davis. Jump will soon be rolling out 900 bikes for anyone to use, and we want to hear from you!

You can find more information about our regional bike share program here.

When and Where?
Wednesday, February 21st, 5:30-7:00pm

City Hall, 915 I St, Room 1119 (off of H Street)

Can’t attend the meeting?

Share your thoughts on the online map!

Questions?

Email: bikeshare@sacog.org

More information can be found here.

bike share so far

SoBi bike at Sacramento Valley Station
The Tower Bridge Bike Share Preview has been operating in Sacramento central city and part of West Sacramento for two months now. I have been using it from time to time, and have some experiences to share. 

These SoBi (Social Bicycles) bikes are a combination of hub bikes and park-anywhere bikes. If you return a bike to a hub, you pay only rental time. If you lock a bike up anywhere within the two geo-fenced boundary areas of Sacramento and West Sacramento, you pay an extra fee of $2. If you Park it outside the geofence, you pay $20. Except for one bike that ended up being stolen, I’ve never noticed a bike being left outside the geo-fence, but bikes are sometimes left outside hubs. This was common in the early days, but seems to have tapered off. It was earning quite a bit of credit on my bike share account returning these bikes to hub, which earns a credit of $1.50, but most days now there are no bikes outside of hubs in the morning, when I look, and return. 

One of the cool things about the SoBi system is that temporary geo-fenced areas can be set up at other locations, for special events. The only instance of this that I’ve noticed is when one was set up at the Sunday Street at Broadway open streets event, but the capability is intriguing. 

Of the six hub locations in Sacramento, four are located near drinking establishments. Most of the bike share use I observe visually and by watching patterns in the app map is bar-hopping. This is certainly a valid use of the bikes, and I’m glad these people are pedaling instead of driving. 

In most bike share cities, a prominent service of bike share is as a transit extender, serving as a “first-mile/last-mile” access to and from transit. None of the hubs in Sacramento were located with that in mind. The greatest shortcoming is that there is no hub at Sacramento Valley Station, the Amtrak station. I have been riding a bike to the station at times, for trips where I’m not taking my own bike with me. Someone else has regularly been leaving a bike at the station on weekdays, presumably commuting on the Capitol Corridor train. The station is at least within the geo-fence, so the charge for doing this is only $2, but I do not understand why the station did not get a hub in the original layout. This is just a pilot, and presumably in the formal rollout in November or beyond, there will be hubs at transit locations. SACOG had said that part of the purpose for the preview was to gather information about patterns of use, but no information is being gathered about transit-related use because none of the hubs were located with that in mind. I asked SACOG about hub locations, and they said these had been determined by the cities, but when I asked Sacramento, they said the locations had been selected by SACOG. 

So far as I know, SACOG has not provided any use data for the bike share system, at least it has not showed up on any of the meeting agendas. I look forward to seeing what the system has to say about patterns of use during the preview. 

When I’m using the bikes, people often ask me questions about how it works. I tell them how easy it is to download the app and set up an account, and go, but most people seem to think this is too difficult and don’t end up doing it. Even young people who are used to downloading apps don’t seem to want to do it. Once your account is set up, you enter you member number and passcode on the GPS unit located on the bike, in order to unlock. I’m not sure how the system gets over that hump of few members. I have noticed that users of the Bay Area Ford GoBike are mostly using their Clipper Cards (equivalent to the ConnectCard) to unlock bikes, rather than using the application, though the charge is to the GoBike account rather than Clipper. Hopefully the SoBi system can be linked to ConnectCard for unlocking, and maybe even charging. 

The Ford GoBike system has created a $5 per year low income membership (regularly $149) in order to encourage use by low income but bike dependent members of the community. It is partnering with the bicycle advocacy groups and low income bicyclist clubs such as the scraper bike folks, in order to sell the benefits of bike share to a wider audience. The locations of the stations (GoBike is a station-based system and the bikes are not designed to leave anywhere other than a station) have also been extended into several low income neighborhoods, though certainly not all of them. I do not know what plans the Sacramento system has for meeting the needs of low income users, but I look forward to finding out. 

Previous posts: riding the bike share, almost bike share

MTP-SCS comments

mtpscsSACOG is working on the 2016 update of the MTP-SCS (Metropolitan Transportation Plan / Sustainable Communities Strategy) or Greenprint, with the draft having been out for a month and the deadline for comments on November 16. The last of the public meetings will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, November 10, 6:30-7:30PM, at SACOG Offices, 1415 L Street, 3rd Floor, Sacramento. I hope you can attend.

I have been part of a 350Sac Transportation Committee effort to review the document. I’ve reviewed parts of it, Chapters 1, 4, and 5C, and Appendix A, but have not had the time to review the whole thing – it is massive. The comments below are my own, not the committees. Your comments on the plan are welcome and important. If you can’t tackle the whole plan, pick a small part of interest to you, and comment on that part.

Continue reading “MTP-SCS comments”

Active Transportation Program (ATP) in region

This is not fresh news, but I just realized that I had not posted about grants in the Sacramento region under the Active Transportation Program cycle 1 awards in 2014.

Regional grants from the statewide program:

  • PLA, Roseville, Downtown Roseville Class 1 Trails, $2,547K
  • SAC, Elk Grove, Lower Laguna Creek Open Space Preserve Trail, $1,778K
  • SAC, Sacramento County, Howe Ave Sidewalk Infill and Bike Lane Improvements, $1,853K
  • SAC, San Juan USD, SRTS, $250K
  • YOL, Davis, SRTS Program, $562K
  • YOL, Woodland, 2014 SRTS, $539K
  • YUB, Marysville, SRTS Project & Programs, $489K

SACOG region grants:

  • ELD, El Dorado County Transportation Commission, Western Slope Bicycle Travel Opportunities Map $50K
  • PLA, City of Auburn, Nevada Street Pedestrian & Bicycle Facilities $799K
  • PLA, City of Colfax, North Main Street Bike Route Project $264K
  • SAC, City of Galt, South Galt Safe Routes to Schools $1,800K
  • SAC, City of Rancho Cordova, Mather Rails to Trails Project $2,235K
  • SAC, Sacramento County, El Camino Avenue Phase 2 – Street and Sidewalk Improvements $1,692K
  • SAC, City of Folsom, Oak Parkway Trail Undercrossing and Johnny Cash Trail Connection Project $992K
  • SUT, City of Yuba City, Franklin Road Improvements $313K
  • YOL, City of West Sacramento, Citywide Bike Lane Gap Closures $525K
  • YUB, Yuba County, Ella Elementary School Safe Routes to School Project $1,195K

There are also three projects on the SACOG contingency list.

No to the southeast connector

In response to the Viewpoint: Sacramento County Needs SouthEast Connector by Roberta MacGlashan and Steve Miklos in the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday:

ConnectorClientMap2bThe southeast connector is a 1970s solution to modern transportation questions. It is based on the model of people living a long way from where they work, and commuting long distances, for example, from El Dorado Hills to Elk Grove. Many people are looking now for a different way to live, with home, work, shopping and cultural amenities all close to each other. They are looking for transportation alternatives, which are scarce in the Sacramento region.

The southeast connector will also produce sprawl all along the corridor. Even before the project is scheduled for construction, developers are wanting to turn agricultural land into yet another subdivision. Cordova Hills is just one example. The Sacramento region already has an oversupply of suburban housing and suburban office parks; we don’t need any more. Some people will continue to choose suburban living and long commutes, but the question is why the rest of us would want to subsidize that choice to the tune of $456M dollars.

The Sacramento region certainly needs transportation infrastructure, and some small part of that infrastructure might be new roads, but what we really need to meet the demands of people for livable places and a vibrant economy is alternatives to single occupant cars. We need a more extensive light rail system, a bus network that serves more people, frequent Amtrak service, and streets that are safe and welcoming for bicyclists and pedestrians. We won’t get that if we spend huge sums on the connector.

We know that freeways such as the connector do not reduce fuel consumption or air pollution. Instead, they induce more driving and increase both. If you don’t believe that freeways induce traffic, just look at Interstate 80. It has been under an almost continuous process of expansion, yet it is always congested, and the new construction underway will be full as soon as it is finished. The economic and freight needs of Interstate 80 could be met by a four-lane freeway. The other lanes are there for commuters. I don’t accept long-distance commuting as an economic benefit, in fact it is quite otherwise.

Though the viewpoint talks about $456M as being the “total cost,” it is only just the beginning. There will be interchanges and widening and enhancements, costing in total many times as much. It would be better to cancel the project right now and re-think the transportation network we need in the Sacramento region.

Capital SouthEast Connector JPA website

Sustainable Communities Grants in Sacramento region

The California Strategic Growth Council just announced Sustainable Communities Planning Grant and Incentives Program, detailed in “SGC Awards Grants to Boost Smarter Urban Planning in CA Cities” on Streetsblog LA.

The Sacramento region received:

  1. Accelerating Local Implementation of Sacramento Region Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, $885K (Sacramento Area Council of Governments)
  2. Downtown/University Gateway District Plan, $591K (City of Davis)
  3. Sacramento Intermodal Phase 3, $492K (City of Sacramento)
  4. Pioneer Bluff Redevelopment Master Plan, $378K (City of West Sacramento)

Car free gains?

I read with interest the Streetsblog DC post “The American Cities With the Most Growth in Car-Free Households” and wondered about Sacramento. I dove into the American Community Survey, using the same 2012 ACS 1-year and 2007 ACS 1-year data that the research had used to look at the number of car-free households in other cities. Over the period when the national average increased from 8.7 percent share of households without a vehicle to 9.2, the six-county Sacramento region increased from 5.7 to 6.8. Not very impressive, but the change or delta was an impressive 18.8%. Yolo County, probably Davis, led this change with a remarkable 76.2% increase!

Below is the chart of change from 2007 to 2012, for the City of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties, and the region, which is an average of those six counties. Following the chart are the numbers I retrieved from ACS. If you would like to look for yourself, go to the ACS Advanced Search, and then under Topics select Housing > Occupancy Characteristics > Vehicles Available.

In the blog post, the largest major city increase was Detroit at 5%, and our neighbor San Francisco was sixth at 1.9%.

I’m not quite sure what to make of these numbers. Is there a flaw in my logic? I had to impute the no vehicle households from the total households and percentages for 2007, because the actual number doesn’t seem to be available in the data tables. Were the numbers so small in 2007 that such large changes don’t really mean much? I don’t know. Your thoughts?

change in no vehicles, 2007 to 2012
change in no vehicles, 2007 to 2012

ACS data
ACS data