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To Fund Micromobility, Connect It to Public Transit

Speakers Thursday at a webinar organized by the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association (NABSA) discussed how micromobility, including bike-share systems and e-bikes, is becoming part of larger transportation ecosystems — and securing public funding.

Helmeted bicyclists ride down a busy bike lane separated from one-way city traffic by striped posts.
Seattle recently took over the faltering Pronto bike program.
(Facebook/Pronto Cycle Share)
Repositioning bike-share as a legitimate form of public transportation to connect with public funding, and integrating bikes and scooters into comprehensive transportation plans with infrastructure and policy, can forge a more expansive, mature view of micromobility, advocates said Thursday.

“It really is about, fundamentally, the definition of public transit, and that bike-share is included,” said Brodie Hylton, executive director of Cascadia Mobility, a nonprofit based in Eugene, Ore., speaking Thursday at “Public Funding for Shared Micromobility,” a webinar organized by the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association.

Cascadia Mobility is the nonprofit operator of the bike-share system in Eugene. Functioning as a nonprofit makes it easier to form partnerships and secure other funding sources, Hylton said. “The value of the nonprofit model, or the two-wheel transit agency model, is to tap into partnerships and resources to allow us to extend our reach; that is perhaps harder for a for-profit operator to necessarily do.”

Fares this year are expected to make up 25 percent of Cascadia’s revenue, with another 25 percent of the revenue coming from Eugene’s Lane Transit District. The cities of Springfield and Eugene contribute roughly $100,000 combined; other funding comes from federal grants, the University of Oregon and other partners.

In the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario, the bike-share program occupies its own line item in the city budget, Peter Topalovic, active transportation manager for Hamilton, told panel members.

“I know cities where they’ve taken money from public money, but not necessarily a line item in the operating budget. I think that’s more rare,” Topalovic said, adding the bike-share allocation “is not hidden. It’s not buried in some other budget. It’s very out in the open that we’re providing this function.”

Hamilton provides the bike-share operation for $55 per bike, per month. The system was designed in symphony with the city’s transit network, so that “it could be seen as a city transit service,” said Topalovic.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) invested some $20 million from its transportation electrification initiative — which generally funds the acquisition of e-buses or other forms of electrifying transportation — toward the Bay Wheels bike-share program.

Launched in 2017, Bay Wheels operates in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Emeryville and Berkeley, spanning three counties. The system is run by Lyft, said panelist Laura Krull, principal planner and bike-share program manager for MTC.

E-bikes were introduced in San Francisco and San Jose in 2019; today, there are about 2,200 e-bikes at 65 stations.

“E-bike trips are definitely increasing faster than classic bike trips,” Krull said, calling the e-bike evolution a sensible pathway for the funding from the electrification transportation division of MTC.

“There was kind of this key nexus here between the T.E. [transportation electrification] program, this expressed interest in e-bikes, and then the fact that the MTC managed the Bay Wheels bike-share program. Thus, our funding source was really born,” she said.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.