Downtown Springfield has a new intermediate line of transportation planned. Springfield Bike Share, a nonprofit organization, is working on bringing a communal bike program that would allow users to rent bikes for short trips.
“Bike shares are a transportation alternative that allows someone to go from point A to point B within a particular system area using a bicycle,” said Cody Stringer, a cycling enthusiast who leads Springfield Bike Share.
The system is designed with stations for bike pickup and drop off.
Stringer said the goal of the bike share program is to make Springfield more livable by creating more options for transportation, reduce traffic congestion and make the community healthier.
“It’s a great way to attract and retain young professionals,” he added.
Stringer said he’s benchmarked key metrics for bike shares, like high density business and residency areas, and studied successful models, such as Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare and New York City’s Citi Bike.
“We felt the data indicated a bike share program would be successful,” he said.
Already, 132 public bike shares and 30 private bike shares are operating in the United States, according to data from the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a group of 62 major North American cities and 10 transit agencies.
A vendor for bikes has been selected and most of the planning is completed, Stringer said.
“We put out a request for proposal a year ago and went through the bidding process to select Gotcha Bike,” Stringer said. “They have a really nice technology platform.”
The terms of the deal with Charleston, South Carolina-based Gotcha Bike LLC are still being determined, said Anne Morgan, Gotcha vice president of client services.
Costs of bike development were also not disclosed.
Gotcha launched in 2009 after CEO Sean Flood overheard students at Florida State University discussing the need for a new mode of transportation on campus, Morgan said.
The company’s first product was a six passenger electric vehicle, Morgan said, where users flag down rides using an app or phone number. Drivers are trained by Gotcha to use the electric ride chairs.
The company has 40 partnerships with municipalities and universities across the country with 60,000 riders traveling 534,000 miles last year, Morgan said.
To the station
To bring his vision to life, Stringer has earned financial commitments from four entities and a partial commitment from a fifth. Each partner – Positronic Industries Inc., City Utilities, U.S. Bank, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and BKD LLP – has agreed to fund a bike station.
“It’s really about shared value and what value they’re getting from either having their name on a healthy transportation option or from having a station near their physical location that can serve their employees,” Stringer said of the partnerships with Springfield Bike Share.
The cost of the stations depend on capacity. The smallest bike station would house six bikes and cost $8,000 to fund per year, Stringer said. A larger station could hold 10 bikes and cost $12,000 annually.
Stringer already has mapped out four stations: on Boonville Avenue behind the efactory, the CU Transit Center on Main Avenue, at Jubilee Park on St. Louis Street and at the Walnut Street and Kimbrough Avenue intersection.
BKD plans to co-sponsor a station near its office, 910 St. Louis St. Stringer said the accounting firm is seeking a funding partner.
“We would like to have a sixth,” Stringer added, citing a possible site in the retail district near South Avenue and Walnut Street.
Bike share programs have gained popularity on college campuses.
According to NACTO data, 94 bike share programs operate at universities nationwide. The University of Missouri is one of those schools, with The Reserve Columbia Bike Share.
Springfield schools could be next.
Stringer’s been talking with Missouri State University officials about the idea for a couple of years.
“It’s very preliminary with other schools,” Stringer said. “We’re currently coordinating with three schools in town.”
Stringer is in discussions with Drury and Evangel universities as well.
He said the upside to MSU’s involvement is a greater connection with downtown and the IDEA Commons area.
A challenging path
One holdup for Springfield Bike Share is a city ordinance change regarding objects blocking the public rights of way.
Stringer seeks to revise city code to allow the stations to be placed on public property. He proposed the idea in August to the city’s Finance and Administration Committee.
City Traffic Engineer Eric Claussen said the next step for the bike share proposal is getting it on the Springfield City Council agenda. Claussen expects the ordinance could get a vote before year’s end.
Stringer said delays in MSU’s internal process has hampered the program on campus, but he’s at least satisfied there are six stations mapped out at the school.
“We were hoping to launch already,” Stringer said.
Now, Stringer hopes to launch Springfield Bike Share in the spring.
He’s planning to start with 25 bikes and anticipates bike production by Gotcha would take two months.
“Our total focus is on the city and navigating that process and making sure the folks on that committee and on City Council understand what we’re trying to do,” Stringer said.
His early model calls for membership rates at $7 for 24 hours of bike use or $75 annually. Weekly and monthly memberships also are part of the plans, for $15 and $25, respectively.
“It’s like having a bus pass,” Stringer said.
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