Bike-share system could come in fall

As the bike-share movement gains momentum around the world, bringing the program to Minneapolis has taken longer than expected. Complications in securing the $1.75 million in federal funding necessary to implement the program have pushed the projected startup date from May to September of this year. With the current plan, Minneapolis could house the countryâÄôs first full-service system, which would cover downtown, Uptown and the University of Minnesota campus. The program will be called Nice Ride Minnesota and will run each year from April to November. Despite the holdup, program planners remain hopeful. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to happen,âÄù said Bill Dossett, a volunteer for the Nordic Ski Foundation , the non-profit group chosen to develop a business model for the program. âÄúItâÄôs the question of whether weâÄôre going to be one of the first or whether weâÄôll be going along with the crowd.âÄù Using Web-based subscriptions and self-service, solar-powered kiosks, the program would start by bringing 1,000 bicycles to 75 stations. Participants could purchase year-long subscriptions for about $50 or one-day passes for about $5. Successful implementation of the system will require cooperation from several groups, including the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Metro Transit and the University. While the University has yet to commit to a partnership or financial contribution to the program, theyâÄôve helped it along by facilitating an on-campus student survey and hosting a public bike-share forum, Mary Sienko, spokeswoman for the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, said. Before making the commitment, Sienko said, PTS will need to evaluate their budget and receive hard data on the programâÄôs feasibility. The largest chunk of funding is anticipated to come from the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, a federal grant aimed at reducing dependency on motor vehicles. Transit for Livable Communities , the non-profit group chosen to administer the federal dollars, will vote in March to determine whether the program will receive NTP funding. âÄúWeâÄôre really excited for that vote,âÄù Dossett said. âÄúWeâÄôve spoken with [TLC] board members and know weâÄôve got some strong support.âÄù NTP funding would cover more than half of the nearly $3.4 million in projected start-up costs, most of which would go toward the purchase of bicycles and kiosks. Additional funding for the program has been included in the cityâÄôs 2009 budget, including a proposed $100,000 from the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development and $250,000 from the MayorâÄôs proposed budget. Andrea Petersen, CPED projects coordinator , said she expects the bike-share program to boost economic development and reduce traffic congestion downtown. Annual operating costs for the program would run about $1.5 million per year and are expected to be covered by revenue from operations and corporate sponsors. While other cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C., and Denver, have instituted small-scale pilot programs, Dossett said they arenâÄôt effective because theyâÄôre unreliable. âÄúPeople are looking for multiple transportation options rather than thinking of the car as their only solution,âÄù Dossett said. âÄúBike-share will be one of the many transportation options to surface.âÄù