Pitkin County considers bike-share contribution
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – A proposed Aspen bike-sharing program that proponents hope to launch this spring could get a boost from Pitkin County.
County commissioners appeared amenable Tuesday to allocating some or all the $165,580 in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds that it expects to get from the federal government to the WE-Cycle program. To obtain the funds, though, the county is expected to provide $34,420 in matching money; commissioners are looking to WE-Cycle to provide that match through its other fundraising efforts, and representatives of the nonprofit said they are willing to do so.
WE-Cycle is working to raise $550,000 to launch the bike-sharing program in May with 100 bicycles and eight to 10 kiosks or docking stations. It has raised about $160,000 so far, including CMAQ funds from the city of Aspen and support from the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Institute and The Manaus Fund, plus pledges and the promise of a $50,000 matching grant for funds given by the city, county and RFTA.
The CMAQ funding can only be used for certain uses, and a bike-share program qualifies, commissioners were told.
The program will allow users to get a bike from a docking station for short point-to-point trips around town. Memberships will be available for a day, five days or a season (May 15 through Oct. 15), or users can pay for the time they have a bike checked out.
“I think there’s no question you have general county support,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
However, he and other commissioners questioned the long-term viability of the program, seeking assurance that their investment won’t be squandered in a trial run that doesn’t pan out.
Organizers have a 10-year business plan and visions of expanding to other communities in the valley, said WE-Cycle organizer Philip Jeffreys.
If the program doesn’t not work as planned and has to be dismantled, the fleet can be used for a city/county bike system for employees of the two governments. Both governments already offer staff bicycles in a less formal system.
If the program can reach out to bus riders coming from Snowmass Village to Aspen who could then hop on a bike to get around town, it should do well, predicted Commissioner George Newman.
“That in itself should surpass your conservative numbers, if you can reach that market,” he said.
“If, indeed, their projections are right, then it’s well worth the investment,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley. “It’s a gamble I want to take.”
Between WE-Cycle use, and other bicycle use inspired by the launch of the program, organizers have estimated 25,835 car trips will be replaced by bike use.
If the program is launched, Hatfield called for a post-bike season analysis of its use.
“We need to understand how it was used and who used it,” he said. “I really want to get as much data out of this as possible.”
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