Santa Monica’s Breeze Bikeshare system has been wildly successful since opening in 2015 surpassing more than a million rides last month. However, the bright green bikes will soon have some company on local roads from the newly expanded, and as yet incompatible, Metro bikeshare system.
The new system, supplied by Bicycle Transit Systems, Inc. installed 15 stations with 165 Metro Bikes throughout Venice and Santa Monica this week. The Metro system will be available at the Venice Beach Boardwalk, the Abbot Kinney shopping district, Muscle Beach, Rose Avenue, Downtown Santa Monica Expo Line Station, the 17th Street/SMC Expo Line Station and the Marvin Braude Bike Trail along the beach.
The September expansion is the third for the Metro system this year including an expansion into Pasadena and at Port of Los Angeles in July 31. The combined expansion has resulted in approximately 1,400 bicycles at up to 125 stations.
Breeze provides 500 bikes distributed across 88 hubs in its service area, including five in Venice and at all three Santa Monica Expo stations. The Breeze provider, Social Bicycles (Sobi), also has local bikeshare systems to Long Beach, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and soon UCLA. The Sobi systems currently share some connectivity across cities. A customer with a Santa Monica account can unlock a bike in any Sobi system nationwide but annual or monthly passes do not transfer across systems. An out of network user can get a bike but they will have to pay the per-minute cost for the entire ride.
Kyle Kozar, Santa Monica’s Bike Share Coordinator, said plans are afoot to further integrate the neighboring plans and possible allow cross-system memberships.
“You’re one account will unlock any of those bikes,” he said. “You will be able to flow freely within an additional area.”
However, Breeze and the Metro system have no overlap. The bikes operate on different technologies that are currently not compatible. Both systems allow riders to use an existing TAP card as a key to unlock a bike, but riders can’t use a TAP card to pay for bikes and individual accounts must be created via either the Metro bikeshare website or the Breeze platform.
The Metro and Breeze systems differ in several ways. Metro’s bikes can only be picked up and returned to a specialized dock. Breeze Bikes are available at hubs but each bike also has an independent lock allowing it to be secured anywhere. Breeze Bikes secured outside a hub are available for pickup to any user.
The two systems also differ in pricing. Metro bikes offer two memberships. The first charges $40 per year and customers pay $1.75 per 30 minutes of ride time. The second is $20 per month and rides of 30 minutes or less are free with a fee of $1.75 per additional 30 minutes. Pay as you go on Metro is $3.50 per 30 minutes.
Breeze has three memberships. Annual ($99/year), Monthly ($25/month), and Student ($7/month) memberships provide 90 minutes of ride time per day with a per minute charge if users exceed 90 minutes. Pay as you go on Breeze is calculated at 12 cents per minute (equaling $7 per hour).
Breeze accounts will not transfer to Metro nor will Metro memberships work on Breeze bikes but officials said the two systems are not in competition with each other.
“We believe the two bikeshare systems in Venice will be complementary with each other,” said Avital Shavit, a Senior Manager for LA Metro. “When the bikeshare services overlap, they will provide greater choices to pick a bikeshare system that meets (rider’s) needs.”
She said Metro’s expansion “fills in” central Venice for customers who might not have been close to a Breeze station and will encourage more people to take advantage of a bikeshare program.
“They do complement each other in that respect,” she said.
Santa Monica’s Mobility Manager, Francie Stefan, said City Hall was happy to see Metro expanding its definition of transit beyond trains and buses.
“We’re happy to see that they are seeing bikes as a viable transportation method, getting behind them and funding them,” she said.
Stefan said customers who do see both systems side by side might have some initial confusion and the goal is to facilitate bike riding by providing enough education and support to allow riders to make an informed decision.
“We want to make sure they understand the system that’s best for them,” she said.
Stephan said adding Breeze stations to Venice was a request of Los Angeles officials and while there are no current plans to add more Breeze hubs, the nature of Breeze Bikes allows users to take them anywhere within the service zone so the bikes will continue to travel throughout the area provided customers want to use them.
Metro is studying the feasibility of future bike share expansion to more than 20 other parts of the county, including Hollywood, North Hollywood, MacArthur Park, Koreatown, the San Gabriel Valley, East Los Angeles/Boyle Heights, Burbank, Glendale, Culver City, Palms and others. Metro seeks to create a regionwide system of more than 4,000 bicycles pending ongoing Metro Board approval.
For more information, visit breezebikeshare.com or call (310) 828-2525. For more information about Metro Bike Share visit bikeshare.metro.net or call (844) 857-2453.