Selectmen Vote to Support Joining Hubway Bicycle-Sharing Plan
Brookline may see two bike-sharing stations in Brookline Village and Coolidge Corner, with no cost to the town.
The May 2010 Town Meeting charged a committee with researching Brookline's role in a bike sharing program. After Boston's announcement of such a program, Brookline's Selectmen's Committee on Bicycle Sharing returned with their report, at the Selectmen's meeting last night, and the Selectmen liked what they heard, voting in support of joining the network and installing two stations in Brookline, launching in 2012.
"What is bicycle sharing? Well, the closest analogy is car sharing, like Zipcar. There are two key differences: one, the bicycles are not cars, obviously," Planning and Community Development Director Jeff Levine joked. "The second one, which is in some ways a more exciting difference: you actually don't have to return bicycles to the same place you checked them out from."
Levine explained that the system uses a centralized computer to log when a specific bike has been logged out and logged back in from a station. The Committee's report also explains that the stations are modular and solar-powered, so there is little installation required and stations can be removed entirely during the winter.
The Committee's recommendation is to initially install two of these stations in Brookline, which will be part of the larger Boston-area Hubway network. These proposed stations will be in Brookline Village and Coolidge Corner, although the details and exact locations have not yet been nailed down.
Board of Selectmen Chair Betsy DeWitt noted, "looking at the map of proposed station connections and thinking it seemed quite dense and quite desirable. You could easily bicycle anywhere in the metropolitan area when the network is up and running."
Board of Selectmen voted to support joining Hubway, and to negotiate a contract with Alta Bicycle Sharing. The vote included a note that this contract should require "little or no financial commitment on the part of the Town." As it currently stands, the project is almost entirely grant-funded. The Committee's calculations determined that operating the two stations in Brookline for three years will cost about $97,000 each, or $194,000 total. Between a Federal Transit Administration grant, a CLAMP grant and some donations, the cost to the town is $0--aside from some staff time.
"That zero might actually be a profit," Levine added. He said Boston is starting to negotiate a revenue sharing agreement. The Committee "didn't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," Levine noted, and have not yet begun that discussion.
The $97,000 per station includes operation, maintenance of the bikes, and winter removal. The presentation noted that Town Staff are still exploring the donation options, but they believe some town businesses and non-profits will make firm commitments to the project.
The report also detailed the proposed membership fees, which could be $50 per year, $10 for a weekly membership, or $5 for a day. Usage fees might be nothing for the first 30 minutes, then $1.50 for the first hour.
There are already a number of similar programs all over the world, including Washington, D.C.; London, England; and Melbourne, Australia. Levine quoted some statistics from the DC program. According to the Capital Bikeshare program, during the first seven months of operation, there were 330,000 trips logged by users and only seven accidents. In 2010, there were 338 accidents involving bikes. His conclusion was that people who participate in bike-sharing tend to be safer.
Details about helmets still need to be finalized. Selectwoman, and chair of the Bicycle-sharing Committee, Jesse Mermell said they are "an outstanding question." Alta Bikes will provide information, and there was talk of a voucher system to provide cheap, yet effective helmets, or a discount on a nicer one at a local bike shop. Selectman Richard Benka cited a state statute which requires bike rental businesses to provide helmets.
The bikes themselves have already been tested out by town staff. Matt Levine used the bike during the Brookline Bikes Beacon parade earlier this year. Selectwoman Mermell also confessed to members of the Committee riding one of the bikes around the sixth floor of Town Hall.
"People say the bicycle-sharing is a real connector." Mermell added "People use it as an integrated part of their commute."