FutureStructure

Boulder, Colo., Asks Residents to Weigh in on Dockless Bikeshare and How to Pay for Broadband

The city wants to impose some restrictions on bikeshare companies that the startups say will hamper their ability do deliver service.

by Shay Castle, Daily Camera / June 12, 2018

(TNS) — The Boulder, Colo., City Council will look at bringing dockless bikes and public broadband to the city in two separate public hearings Tuesday night.

First up will be a discussion on how to fund the first steps of what will eventually become a citywide broadband network. Before the council is a choice: Ask voters for the money, or figure out another way for the city to pay.

City staffers have laid out four options for funding the construction of a fiber backbone, the basic infrastructure that can be used to connect homes and businesses to a municipal broadband network. Building a backbone will cost roughly $15 million, according to Assistant City Manger Chris Meschuk.

Without a ballot measure, Boulder could finance the build with some combination of cash from the general fund and revenue from certificates of participation. With a $4 million budget shortfall looming, money likely would have to be reallocated.

If the council chooses to put the funding to voters, two other options exist: bonds or a short-term sales tax. If the council goes this route, a measure would be placed on the November ballot.

To be determined is who would complete the buildout and provide Internet to residents. At a May 8 study session, the council honed in on two possible routes to completion: partnering with a private company, or having the city finish and operate the network itself, a la Longmont and Fort Collins.

The cost of a total broadband rollout previously has been estimated at $140 million.

Exactly what the citizens of Boulder think is still unclear. The public will get its first look at results of a community survey at Tuesday night's meeting.

Following the broadband discussion will be a second reading of proposed regulations for dockless bike sharing. Several operators of the free-roaming cycles have expressed interest in establishing business here, but because of negative experiences in other cities — Seattle, Denver and Washington, D.C., among others — Boulder is contemplating a two-year pilot program.

The suggested rules limit companies to 100-bike fleets and require that all bicycles be equipped with a mechanism that allows them to be locked to a rack or other structure.

That latter provision "runs counter to the premise of a dockless bike sharing program," wrote Beijing-based ofo in a letter to Senior Transportation Planner David Kemp. California's LimeBike, one of the country's largest dockless bike companies, took issue with the lock-to and two other requirements being floated.

Fleet-size limits reduce profitability, and the proposed fees — $3,300 annually for a license the first two years and $1,800 per year after that, plus $100 per bike — are "far above generally prevailing fees," wrote Sam Sadle, director of strategic development for LimeBike in Colorado.

The suggested regulations, as they stand, will leave LimeBike "unable to operate" in Boulder.

Several entities expressed support of the program guidelines, including New York-based Jump Bikes and the Downtown Boulder Partnership.

"Many of our members have witnessed the negative impacts of unregulated dockless bike sharing in other cities," the Downtown Boulder Partnership wrote in its letter to Kemp. "The most common issue is the sheer number of bikes that can overwhelm public spaces and obstruct pedestrians from using sidewalks and plazas."

The proposed rules "will help ensure that Boulder avoids the worst impacts while enjoying the benefits of dockless bike sharing."

The public hearings will begin just after 8 p.m., following a 6 p.m. joint study session of City Council and the Open Space Board of Trustees to discuss and confirm the five focus areas of the Open Space and Mountain Parks master plan.

©2018 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.