Photo by Michael Yanow

Santa Monica’s new bikeshare operator just opened its first system a few months ago, but it’s already eyeing the big prize: Metro’s proposed system.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently solicited bids for a 4,000-bike system. CycleHop will be submitting a proposal and moving its headquarters from Miami to Santa Monica, the company’s CEO Josh Squire told the Daily Press last week.

Bikeshares allow riders to check-out bikes from one station and drop them off at any other station in the city.

“We know how important regional compatibility is and we’ve seen that in the systems who are most successful,” he said. “We’re making a commitment to the region by moving our headquarters here.”

City Council voted unanimously in November to have city officials negotiate a $5.6 million contract with CycleHop for the purchase, installation, and operation of 500 bikes and 65 to 75 stations throughout the city and beyond. Contract extensions could bring the total cost to $10.4 million over an 8-year period.

Metro had asked city officials not to move forward; they wanted Santa Monica to wait so that they could ensure compatibility. With the $2 million worth of grants moving closer to expiration, council decided it couldn’t wait any longer.

Last month, Metro officials told the Daily Press that Santa Monica’s decision to go with CycleHop is not having a significant bearing on the process.

“We have to proceed with our own procurement process and for us the scope would be a little bit grander because we are looking at an entire region,” Laura Cornejo, deputy executive officer of Countywide Planning and Development, said at the time. “So I think for us we have to really stick to the procurement process and make sure that the integrity of that process stays intact.”

CycleHop launched full or partial systems in Tampa, Orlando, and Phoenix in December and January after months of delays. In those cities, CycleHop is the system owner and so they got little help from local government. City Hall is paying CycleHop to build and operate the system. This should make it easier for CycleHop to deliver.

Squire is not worried about his company’s relative newness.

“Yeah, we haven’t done these large, giant cities but we’ve learned from their mistakes,” he said. “And there’s been a lot of mistakes in New York City and they’re still battling with those mistakes. Do you really want one provider to control every single large city in the country while they’re still trying to fix the other’s mess?”

Squire told the Daily Press that it’s the Social Bicycle (SoBi) technology — which comes on the CycleHop bikes — that will make it a good fit for Los Angeles County.

SoBi allows riders more flexibility when returning bikes — they don’t have to be returned to a hub like most other bikeshares.

Additionally, they already have the ability to allow users to pay through a prepaid transit card, like Metro’s TAP card.

“We were at the pre-bid with Metro and they were like, ‘hey, you know we really want integration with the TAP card but we know it’s going take you time to figure that out and we want to make sure that you’re going to think about it.’ We’re just smiling and saying we’ve done it already,” Squire said. “We’re ready to go.”

Currently, CycleHop has a rented space at ROC in Downtown Santa Monica. In the coming months, Squire said, they’ll be looking for a larger office in the city.

“We’re building the local presence here to implement bikeshare in Santa Monica,” he said. “On a larger scope we’re thinking regional implementation. We are thinking in that direction. We’re just excited about coming out west. We just see a lot of opportunity in California in general.”

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