CITY HALL — A citywide bikeshare system could be on the fast track with the first step — the vendor contract — completed as early as December.
The City Council Tuesday night approved city officials’ recommendations for the program, which include the pursuit of corporate advertising on bikes, stations, and payment machines, with a 5-1 vote.
Bikeshares allow locals and tourists to ride a bike from one station to others throughout the city, paying annual, daily or hourly fees. City Hall’s very preliminary plan proposes 25 to 35 stations throughout the city, some of which would take up parking or sidewalk space. About 7,400 projected trips a month would result from the 350 shared bikes, city officials said.
The plan furthers City Hall’s philosophy of cutting down on car trips by making alternative forms of transportation readily available.
Santa Monica received $2.1 million in grants (with about a quarter coming from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the rest from Metro) for the bikeshare system, according to a city staff report. The grants stipulate the money must be allocated by December, but city officials are seeking an extension, which would give them time to work on bikeshare partnerships with surrounding cities.
There’s no guarantee that the extension will be approved, and the appeal may not be heard until December, so officials also plan to entertain proposals from bikeshare companies. The approved recommendation gives staff permission to put the program out to bid.
Even with the grants, staff projects an annual shortfall of about $500,000. Their leading suggestion for overcoming the deficit is through corporate sponsorships.
Municipal code currently prohibits off-site advertising and would have to be amended if council decides to accept corporate sponsorship, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said.
Councilman Bob Holbrook, the lone dissenting vote, opposed sponsorship and questioned the system’s ability to cover the deficit in any other way.
“I’ve been on this council for 23 years and I can’t tell you how many times it’s been suggested that we have sponsorship in Santa Monica,” he said. “It’s been sponsored on bus shelters every two or three years. We could probably get a sponsorship for Tongva Park. … I don’t know how we would sort this out and I’m not sure I want to sell Santa Monica to the highest sponsor.”
Everyone who spoke during the public portion of the meeting, including a representative from State Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor, and several representatives from pro-bike organizations, praised the plan.
Gina Goodhill Rosen, representing Global Green USA, has been working with Los Angeles to develop a bikeshare program. She urged Santa Monica to lead the way.
“This cannot come soon enough,” she said. “We are the only city that actually has funding and that puts us in a really unique position. … If we set the course for what this system looks like, then Los Angeles will have to adjust. I think either way, we’re in a good position, but I don’t want to wait around for another city to lead when we’re already in a good position.”
Councilman Kevin McKeown said he was open to hearing offers from sponsors, noting that it was a decision they could make at a later date.
McKeown, who is the Santa Monica representative for the Westside Cities Council, also expressed a desire for Santa Monica to lead the bikesharing charge.
“Will this work in L.A.? Well it works in New York. It works in Paris. It works in London. And it rains a lot in those cities. I think it’ll work here,” he said. “Will our other cities in the region respond and come along with us? Of course they will. [Westside Cities Council] meets on Thursday night, and based on what I heard here tonight, I’m going to be on fire.”