Transportation | Ecotrope

Portland Ventures Into Bike Sharing Program

Ecotrope | Dec. 12, 2012 3:38 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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Alta Bicycle Share also runs the Capital Bike Share program in Washington, D.C., which has logged more than 2 million trips since 2010.

Alta Bicycle Share also runs the Capital Bike Share program in Washington, D.C., which has logged more than 2 million trips since 2010.

The City of Portland took a big step toward launching a bike sharing program today.

The city council voted 4-0 to contract with Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share Inc. to install and operate a system that will rent out 750 bicycles at 75 stations.

But the company still has to raise a big chunk of the money it will need to build the system.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation estimates the program will cost around $4.6 million to launch. Alta says it will cost around $1.9 million to operate the first year. The city has pledged to reimburse the company for $1.8 million of the costs using federal grant funds, and Alta will be responsible for raising the rest of the money it needs through sponsorships and user fees.

Bike sharing programs in other cities have proven to reduce car trips, and city officials are hoping Portland’s program will help the city reach its goals for greenhouse gas emissions and bicycle commuting.

The contract with Alta includes a requirement that 50 percent of the hires for the program will go to people from under-served communities.

Mia Birk from Alta Bicycle told the council she’s excited to get started but also offered a “reality check.” She started the company in her kitchen in southeast Portland, and now has offices across the country and more than 100 employees.

“This contract is going to be a challenge,” she said. “The responsibility for the bulk of fundraising and operations are on us. In the other cities, the cities pay us to operate the system.”

The company agreed to do the fundraising for the city of New York, she said, but Portland doesn’t have the “deep pocket companies” that New York does, she said.

“I’m excited about it, but I’m also cautious,” she said.

Mayor Sam Adams said he hops bike sharing will promote health, safe and affordable transportation, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a boost for businesses near the bike sharing stations and for under-served communities.

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