The Breeze Bike Share program is losing revenue and ridership to competition from dockless scooters and bikes.
Breeze is a program that allows riders to rent bikes by the hour on an app or for a monthly or annual fee. The City of Santa Monica launched Breeze in 2015 and integrated it with similar systems in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and UCLA last April to give users access to bikes across the region. 289,159 trips were taken on Breeze bikes in 2016, climbing to 317,826 in 2018.
When the City launched the Shared Mobility pilot program last September, giving four scooter and bike companies license to operate in Santa Monica, officials said the program was intended to build on Breeze’s success.
Instead, the widespread adoption of dockless devices has depressed Breeze ridership and the revenue the City collects from the program. 212,175 trips were taken on Breeze bikes in 2018, exactly one-third fewer trips than the year prior. The City lost $6,130 on the program in 2018 after earning $316,769 in 2017. Breeze has spent $162,084 more than the $456,403 in revenue it has generated so far this year.
“Even with projected revenue losses in 2019, Breeze is among few municipal bike share systems that have operated with a surplus of revenue,” said City spokesperson Constance Farrell.
City Councilmember Ted Winterer said riders have turned from docked bike share systems to e-scooters and e-bikes because they can find dockless devices more easily. Electric motors also put the devices at an advantage, he said.
“Breeze has been an invaluable resource for people in the last three years, and it’s only recently that we’ve seen a decline in revenues,” Winterer said. “Now, there are new for-profit players in this arena and people like new, bright, shiny things.”
Breeze is still Santa Monica’s most affordable shared mobility option and has a partnership with Community Corporation of Santa Monica for low-income residents, Farrell said.
City Manager Rick Cole said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that it’s time to restructure the service or its funding. About half of Breeze’s funding comes from its partnership with Hulu and user fees generate the remainder. The funding Hulu provides will remain level through November 2020.
Winterer said at the meeting that the City would either have to commit to subsidizing the service or scale it back. In an interview with the Daily Press, he said introducing electric motors to the bikes could attract ridership and revenue, but also raised the possibility of allowing a private bike company to use Breeze docks for their own devices.
“If there’s a better option in the private sector than the Breeze bikes, that would have to be a revenue-sharing agreement,” Winterer said. “We have a coterie of loyal Breeze users and we don’t want to just pull the plug on it, but we need to parse through the possibilities.”
The City will share insights about the Shared Mobility program, which includes Breeze, by this fall and Council will discuss the future of Breeze then, Farrell said.