60-Station Bike Share System in Planning Stages for St. Louis

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St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study

With the Great Rivers Greenway release of the Bike Share Study Report to the Community, it appears that St. Louis is poised to join the dozens of American cities investing in a transportation network with more choices for more people. The 116-page comprehensive report (below) outlines a two-year roll out of 60 stations with 540 bikes, with 30 additional stations and 250 bikes to follow.

Phase I would be concentrated on the central corridor, from Downtown to The Loop. A second phase envisions expansion to include the near south and near north sides, as well as downtown Clayton. A third phase would expand further north and south, and follow the MetroLink Blue Line in St. Louis County. The cumulative bike and station implementation costs are estimated at $12.4M-$13.7M, or approximately the cost of rebuilding 1/4mi of I-64 in the city. The feasibility study anticipates 217,000 bike trips using the system in its first year of operation.

St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study

GRG has clearly done its homework, or at least Alta Planning + Design has laid out the bike share landscape in an exhaustive manner. It’s up to local stakeholders, residents, and GRG to set expectations, choose the best system within the St. Louis context, implement the right plan, and then be nimble enough to continually adjust. There’s zero reason a St. Louis bike share system won’t be successful.

With a bike share system seeming imminent, the next, and most important, challenge for St. Louis is to invest in on-street bicycle infrastructure. This means protected bike lanes, two-way bike highways, bicycle storage lockers at busy MetroLink stations, painted bike boxes at intersections, and more. Bike share would represent a huge step forward for St. Louis, but there an entire additional level of commitment needed to make it work.

More from the St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study Executive Summary

Is St. Louis ready for bike share?
Across the nation, more than thirty cities such as Washington, DC; Kansas City; Indianapolis; Denver; and Chicago have implemented public bike sharing programs. Great Rivers Greenway, with many public and non-profit partners, has completed a feasibility and implementation study conducted by Alta Planning + Design to evaluate whether or not a bicycle sharing system is financially and operationally feasible in St. Louis.

What is a bike share system?
A bike share system is a network of shared bicycles available for short-term use – usually 30 to 45 minutes. As a membership-based or daily pass program, riders check out a bicycle from a network of stations, which are usually placed within a 1/4-mile to 1/2-mile radius of each other. They ride to a station nearest their destination, and then safely dock the bicycle for someone else to use. The major difference between bike sharing and bike rental is trip duration. Bike rental programs are typically designed for longer recreational rides, while bike sharing programs emphasize shorter errands or trips from point A to point B and the last mile of a commute. Bike share programs also aim to increase transportation options by helping people move quickly about their neighborhood or connect with the larger community without using a car.

What are the benefits it could bring to St. Louis?
Even a medium-sized bike share system (300-800 bikes) can bring significant benefits to the City and communities in St. Louis County. In mid-sized cities like Minneapolis, up to 25% of users reported using bike share instead of driving their car or taking a taxi. Another benefit is public health as the thousands of trips taken every month help to burn millions of calories with active transportation. Finally, bike share is good for business. In other cities, businesses located next to bike share stations in other cities report improved sales, especially eating and drinking
establishments.

Who would own and operate a bike share system in St. Louis?
Based on the results of the feasibility study, the recommended model for a bike share system in the St. Louis region is a non-profit ownership with operations performed by the non-profit or contracted out to a private bike share operations company. Bike share ownership is a better fit for a non-profit 501(c)3, whose Board would be comprised of key political, corporate, institutional and community leaders and organizations. This model offers involvement of numerous stakeholders, neutral governance, the ability to raise sponsorships and donations, and the ability to reinvest profits in expansion over time and operational improvements. Comparable examples are Pronto Cycle Share in Seattle, Nice Ride Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and San Antonio B-Cycle.

St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study Executive Summary

St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study Final Report by nextSTL.com

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  • Justin Idleburg

    There’s funding available now! I would like to help with this project. An help the community at the same time.

  • John R

    Anyone know if progress is being made on this? What the delivery date is? I wonder where we stack up on the “largest metros without bikeshare” list. As with Uber, all these exotic towns like KC, Indy. Cleveland and Cincinnati are making us look like 20th c. hold-outs.

    • Alex Ihnen

      The plan is sitting and waiting for funding, without a current effort to secure funding. EWG tried for 80% federal funding via CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds. GRG was the local match/sponsor. Some cities have been awarded CMAQ funds for bike share. Here, the Loop Trolley project was forwarded by EWG for $5.4M. This was requested as a way to fill the remaining budget gap we reported in November. This final list produced by this region (EWG), including fuel efficient buses, etc. etc. etc., meant that bike share wasn’t going to get funded.

  • +10 for trying to encourage alternative transportation, but minus several dozen for the actual plan.

    The problem with this is that it primarily puts bike stalls in places people go to — rather than where pairing that with locations from which they come from. It’s all Point B — where are the necessary Point A starting points?!

    Overall, this speaks clearly to an overwhelming mindset in St. Louis — namely that biking is just a leisure activity rather than a purpose-driven one.

  • Mathew Chandler

    how about connect neighborhoods not serviced by the metro link to it via bike share. Say i live in benton park and want to get to the loop, i go to arsenal and Jefferson and get a bike from bike share, ride it to the central corridor which is about the only place serviced, park my shared bike at the dock located conveniently bedside the metro link, ride that, hop off when desired and grab another bike which would be conveniently located next to the metro link, ride and/or walk around and spend money . I think this could be a cost effective way to add access to metrolink and pub transportation to neighborhoods not serviced.

  • Hmmm

    First of all, of course Alta consulting will say that bike share is feasible – they are related to Motivate (formerly Alta Bike Share) which runs bike share systems for cities. It’s fun to criticize highway engineering firms for these kinds of conflicts of interest, but they also exist in the bike world.

    Furthermore, it seems like there are more effective ways to invest $10 million before putting more people on streets that lack adequate bike infrastructure. (Bike STL phase 3 is rather disappointing; painting sharrows is not a true substitute for truly separated bike traffic, which is what will take to get average people out on bikes.)

    So perhaps spend the bike share money on more actual lanes and trails. Or it could be enough to give every STL public schools kid a B-Works style recycled bike.

    The availability of bikes is not the problem; it’s the inadequacy of the facilities. What do you tell a tourist (or even local) who picks up a shared bike downtown (most like w/o a helmet) and wants to get to Forest Park easily, conveniently, and safely?

    • Adam

      It’s going to take considerably more than $10 million to build out dedicated bike lanes and/or protected lanes. At the same time, there’s not going to be any significant investment without demonstrating sufficient demand for it. If we put it off until some point in the distant future, at which time our infrastructure is deemed “sufficient”, we’ll never have bike share. Other cities have implemented it without doing so. It makes more sense to implement it and improve the infrastructure in parallel. Also, I suspect that Alta wouldn’t consider it feasible if they didn’t expect to make money, i.e. if they didn’t expect people to use it.

  • Michael K

    I live in Washington DC and use the system regularly, year round. It’s great for my 20 minute ride to work, some quick errands — and I even rode it in a tux to attend the innaugral ball. It’s also great for visitors to use to get around. BUT – the city also needs to invest in dedicated bike lanes and mmake it easy to plan trips using a phone app, etc.
    And yes, having stations within three blocks of my house make all the difference!

  • What is important to learn from cities that have already implemented bike share systems is that it is not as important as you think to place stations near major landmarks. It turns out that some of the most heavily used bike share stations, in virtually every city, are those in dense residential neighborhoods.

    • dick

      Then once again st louis has failed to bring alternative transport to the area that will use it the most, the near south side.

  • rgbose

    Someone should calculate how much this saves in street damage and how much money will stay in the region.

  • Jeff Leonard

    a recent article from Columbus about how they’re trying to use bike lanes to slow traffic and make the downtown more pedestrian

    friendly.http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/02/09/addition–subtraction.html

    • Adam

      “It may take people a little longer to get where they’re going because they were speeding before, but now they’re driving a reasonable speed through our neighborhoods,” said Patti Austin, administrator in the Division of Traffic Management.

      I’d love to hear somebody in our Streets Department say this on the record, and not just about downtown.

  • opendorz

    This is such a no-brainer. As they say, “git ‘er done!”

  • Presbyterian

    I would use this.

  • tbatts666

    It certainly appears they have really done their homework!

    Wish soulard was included in 1st phase.

    I foresee some major bike lash in st Louis’s future. Let’s all be prepared to make the case for bike infrastructure.

  • Matt

    Having used the Divvy system in Chicago, this is a very nice travelling alternative. I feel that one of the biggest hurdles with certain areas of the city is traffic and having this as an option so that you can navigate not-so-busy alternate routes is always a plus. Also, you never really appreciate what a city has until you slowly navigate the streets of an urban core instead of zooming by in your car. Bikes make it so much easier to just stop for a second and really take in everything around you.

  • A.J. Wilkes

    More importantly, is this a sign of the City getting behind more bicycle infrastructure (i.e. removing car lanes for separated bicycle lanes) that only cost repainting roads? It’s not a bizarre dream to think St. Louis could become a leading bicycle commuting city, our weather is better than Minneapolis’. I’ll keep praying that Slay decides he wants his legacy to be the mayor who turned back on 50 years of automobile development to make St. Louis city a happier and healthier place for the people that want to live be in it rather than a system of roads for people that can’t wait to leave.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Exactly.

  • Murphy Lee

    Could you elaborate on “In mid-sized cities like Minneapolis, up to 25% of users reported using bike share instead of driving their car or taking a taxi”? Is that 25% having done so at least once ever, 25% using it as their primary mode of transportation, or what? And is that data just from Minneapolis, or if not, what were the other mid-sized cities?

    • Murphy Lee

      Whoops, sorry, realized this wasn’t actually posted by the people who put together the report. At any rate, I can’t seem to find what that actually means in the full report (though I can’t get the search function to work so I may have missed it while skimming)

  • Daron

    That’s a great document they put together!

    BJC’s main plaza and the CWE Metro station is the most obvious place to center this network. It is a huge employment center and a major transfer point for buses and trains. It is also annoying to get to quickly from parts of the wider CWE and Grove areas. From the rest of the region it is easy to get to by bus and train, so taking a bike from there to the Grove or into Forest Park would be great. A lot of people’s short commutes could be improved with this option.

    Keeping the CWE dead center on the map is really important, and I’m glad they have taken this approach. I just hope they really invest in FPSE as part of Phase I.

  • dick

    Looks decent. Too bad phase one leaves out the south side and gives yet another alternative tranport mode to thr central corridor. I don’t mind the bus, but you guys got metrolink, carshare and now bike share while I’m still waitin on the 70 like a chump.

    • Daron

      Come on dick, don’t be selfish. You can take a bike when you get off the 70, and then you’ll feel less like a chump. You’ll get to the contemporary art museum or Urban Chestnut a lot faster.

      It should be noted that the central corridor and its
      various city centers are currently islands to each other. Getting from a restaurant
      on Euclid to a concert in Grand Center is not that easily done by bus or
      train. The wrong-headed idea of bus hubs as stand-alone bunkers of concrete removed from destinations rather than overlapping lines using shared bus stops only adds to this reality of disconnected hubs.

      Bike sharing stations at these hubs and at their edges should allow more back and forth movement so people do not have to go really far out of their way in order to avoid driving. We’re getting a Target on Vandeventer, but there’s almost zero alternative transportation in place to get people there. A bike sharing network can help stitch the central corridor together. Seriously if this is going to work we need seamless urban fabric from east to west before we move north and south. It’ll work out for the better when it finally does expand south. Many of the Wash U students that would bike from Skinky-D to the Danforth Campus will eventually graduate and move to south city. The adoption of the program can follow them.

      • dick

        Still looking forward to it, and I’m glad the South Side will be included eventually. To nit pic it is Very Easy to get from CWE to midtown/grand centet, look into a little thing known as the #10.

        • Daron

          For whatever reason I end up taking the #10 less than once a year. It runs every half hour and only along Lindell. It’s useful! But it’s more than a few blocks from the proposed Target and not particularly convenient from all points in the CWE to all points in Midtown.

          You’re right though, it is a good route.