More bike share

The Tower Bridge Preview bike share is going to have some expansion in about a month, up to five new hubs on the Sacramento side. I had heard previously that there would be no expansion before full roll-out, which is no sooner than November and quite possibly far beyond that since a major corporate sponsor has still not been identified. 

The best news is that one of the hubs will be at Sacramento Valley Station, the train station, and it will be a large hub. This is mentioned in Melanie’s StreetsblogCal post: Eyes on the Street: Sacramento’s First Cycle Track Appears Near Amtrak, and I also heard the same when I ran into Phillipe at the 18th & Capitol hub, doing maintenance and re-balancing. It was a major oversight to not include a hub at the station, but that will be fixed!

I talked with the other person who is regularly parking a bike at the station, for a commute into the Bay Area a few days a week. That person said they love the system, use it for this and other trips, but wished there were a regular hub at the station. The bike has always been there at the end of the day to be used for the return trip. I’m parking a bike at the station for nearly every Amtrak trip I take (to the Bay Area, to Truckee, and to South Lake Tahoe). Since I’m often gone more than one day, other people sometimes check out the bike, which is fine with me since I live close enough to walk. 

If you are using the system, you noticed a few days ago that the display screens on each bike changed, with some additional information and tips. The ability to unlock a bike with a RFID card, meaning the Connect Transit Card, is prominent. But not yet implemented. SoBi and the ConnectCard are working out the details. Card use will initially just be for unlocking, in the same manner that the Clipper Card can unlock a Ford GoBike in the Bay Area system, but you will have to have a Social Bicycles account and bike use will be charged to the account rather than the card. The display also mentions unlocking with a phone number, but I’m pretty sure that is not implemented either. 

Please share stories here about your use of the bike share. Since that company, SocialBicycles, and the partners, SACOG and the two cities, have said next to nothing about the success and challenges of the bike share, it is even more important that we talk with each other. 

 Oh, and if you are looking for employment, SocialBicycles is hiring an Operations Manager for Sacramento. 

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

on-demand bike lockers at Sacramento Valley Station

BikeLink-cardForty on-demand bike lockers have been installed at Sacramento Valley Station by Capitol Corridor. They are located between the station exit to the platforms and the thruway bus area. These lockers use the BikeLink chip-card system, which I wrote about in 2013 (BikeLink). These join long-term lockers and the Pedal Stop bike station, and new lockers at the Amtrak/Capitol Corridor station in Davis.

Unfortunately, you can’t purchase a BikeLink card in the station, at least not yet. You can purchase them in the Cafe Car onboard all Capitol Corridor trains, but of course if you arrive at the lockers without a card, that doesn’t help you for this trip. You can also order cards via BikeLink. I am not sure how long it takes to get cards through the mail, but I think I remember about a week. The BikeLink map shows three vendor locations in Roseville, since Roseville now has BikeLink locker locations, though I have not used these. The cards cost $20, and that full value is available for locker rentals, though if you use a bike station location with multiple bike racks, such as the Folsom station and several in the bay area, you do have to pay a one-time $5 fee.

The lockers cost 5 cents per hour. That’s a pretty incredible deal given how much car parking costs, and the peace of mind knowing your bike is very unlikely to be stolen or vandalized. Even your seat will be dry!

Hopefully this will be the beginning of more installations showing up around Sacramento and the region, as business and agencies realize what a convenience and encouragement for bicycling the lockers are.

Thank you, Capitol Corridor!

Sac Grid 2.0 additions

The Sac Grid 2.0 plan is a good one which I mostly support, but I have had, and do, and will have, some suggestions that I think would improved it.

Access to and from the Sacramento Valley Station (Amtrak) is of critical importance for walkers, bicyclists, and transit users. Bicycling and walking are handicapped by the one-way streets, high-volume and high-speed streets, and prohibited pedestrian crossings. It is not clear from the maps presented, and the projects may not have been clearly enough defined, to know whether these issues will be completely or only partially solved by the Sac Grid 2.0 plan and resulting projects. Two key issues are: 1) exactly how I Street will be modified to improve access, and 2) whether access will be provided to the train platforms from the Class IV separated bikeway through the railyards that connects F Street in the east to Jibboom St and the Sacramento River Bike Trail on the west.

There are locations where pedestrian space is already so constrained and pedestrian use is so high that some roadway must be reallocated to sidewalks. Two examples are 16th Street between P and O Streets on the east side, where the restaurant seating leaves far to little pedestrian space, and J Street between 21st and 22nd Streets on the north side, with the same issue. As more and more properties are redeveloped and the pedestrian realm activated along 16th Street and J Street, these issues will become more profound. The city is already proposing some reallocation in both these locations, but I am concerned that the reallocation will be to bicyclists and not to pedestrians. Despite myself being primarily a bicyclist, I believe that pedestrians are more important than bicyclists to making a place livable, walkable, and economically successful. So I hope that in cases where a limited amount of road space must be reallocated to one or the other, pedestrians will receive preference.

The Chicago complete streets mode priority diagram, which I’ve shared before, visually summarizes my feelings about transportation in the grid, and beyond. I’d like to see the city adopt this diagram to express priorities. I know some in the bicyclist advocacy community would like to see bicycle in position one or two, but I think the indicated priorities will lead to the most livable place, and therefore the happiest environment for everyone.

ChicagoCompleteStreets

The city has said that the element maps will be posted to the Sac Grid website soon, and when that happens, I can point out some additional areas of concern.

5th Street mess at Sac Valley Station

With this post, I’ve added a new category to my blog: re-gridding Sacramento. I’ll have more to say about that category, and many more posts, in the near future.

Sac Valley Station exit, forced right
Sac Valley Station exit, forced right
5th St to I St, forced right turn
5th St to I St, forced right turn

Let’s say one was driving and wanted to leave the Sacramento Valley Station (Amtrak and Capitol Corridor) to head southbound or eastbound. Tough luck. The exit at the east end of the parking lot forces you to turn right, to the south, onto 5th Street. I often see people turning across the double yellow line to go northbound on 5th Street, and to be honest, I don’t blame them, because this is the logical though illegal way to go south or east.

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