I had no idea this blog was so powerful, but a few days after I posted my somewhat critical take on Trek’s bike-share program, New York picked the other guys to run theirs.
Also, I meant to link to Letter From Here on B-Cycle.
I like bikes. I like cities that support bikes. But I don’t think I like Madison’s new B-cycle program. Before the program started, my understanding was that for a small fee, I could check out a bike at a station and drop it off at another station. Pretty useful if I needed to get quickly from place to place in town and didn’t have my bike with me. But no — in order to get on a bike at all, I have to purchase a “24 hour pass,” which costs ten bucks. But a 24-hour-pass doesn’t mean unlimited use of the bike for 24 hours — it just gives you the right to use the bike for half-hour trips. Any more than that — say, if you want to take the bike to a store, buy something, and return the bike, rather than just going station-to-station — and you’re on the hook for more money: $2 for the second half-hour, $5 for each half-hour after that. Who’s the market for paying $12 to run an errand by bike?
I can only think of two contexts in which this makes sense. If I were a tourist, I would certainly pay the $10 and do free rides from place to place in order to get around Madison quickly and without worrying about parking. As a local, I suppose if I thought I were likely to use the service a lot, I could pay $65 for an annual membership. But I suspect the per-use cost would end up being very high.
Bike advocates who get good use from these programs — explain to me what they’re for!
Update: Just to clarify for some commenters below — this program is private, operated by Trek, not (as far as I understand) subsidized by the city. Trek has B-cycle systems running in about a dozen cities, and in most of them the daily rate is $5 or $6 (though in San Antonio it’s also $10.) In Chicago there’s no daily pass at all, just a $5 minimum for a short ride. B-cycle is one of two finalists to run bike-sharing in New York; I wonder what they’re proposing to charge? In DC, which has a $5 minimum (different company), the service is apparently doing well; its 109 bikes made over 64,000 trips in March 2011. Of course, DC’s combination of masses of carless tourists and mediocre public transportation is hard to match elsewhere. But there are also 8,800 annual members, presumably locals; I wonder how many Madison has?
Re-update: Actually, it looks like these programs do involve some municipal money in most cities. Trek’s original proposal was that Madison would contribute $100K per year. Mayor Soglin’s counteroffer was “How about nothing? Is nothing good for you?”
As my beloved Orioles close out 2008 with a 4-19 undead September, my newly adopted NL team, the Brewers, are in the playoffs for the first time since they broke O’s fans’ hearts on the last day of the 1982 season to win the AL East title. And as in 1982, the Brewers seemed to have a playoff berth well in hand with a few weeks to go, then came this close to blowing it, then recovered just in time. Barack Obama must be watching, and hoping his story comes out the same. But he can’t be rooting for the Brewers too fervently; he’s a White Sox fan, and if Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes are at issue, a Chicago-Milwaukee World Series is close to his worst-case scenario. (If the polls stay as they are now, the damage in the Philadelphia suburbs from a White Sox – Phillies matchup is probably worse.)
But the World Series this election really deserves is Brewers – Red Sox. In the Brewers you have the young, exciting team from the side of the aisle that’s won only two of the last six series. And the Red Sox are the team with some experience in the big game, the team that it used to be cool and transgressive to like, before they turned into a carbon copy of their hyper-rich former rival now fallen on hard times.
Mark Attanasio, the Brewers’ owner, was at a multi-million dollar fundraiser for Obama in LA two weeks ago. John Henry, who owns the Red Sox, gave tens of thousands to the DNC in 2004 but according to Fundrace has stayed out of the 2008 campaign. Draw whatever conclusions you will.
I do think Obama’s going to win Wisconsin. And not just because he’s ahead in the polls, or because he reminds me of the Brewers. It’s because he rides a Trek.