Mike Koozmin/S.f. Examiner file photoBay Area Bike Share has nearly 350

Bay Area Bike Share ready to expand with better equipment

Bay Area Bike Share has been waiting nearly a year to expand, and not only is the wait over, but the regional system stands to benefit from the delay.

In December, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which runs the program, sought to expand the system. That included adding 300 more bikes in San Francisco and bringing the system to four new cities.

But the order, which should have taken six months to fulfill, was stalled because the software and hardware provider went bankrupt and the operations and maintenance contractor was put up for sale.

Now, operator Alta Bike Share is being acquired by Bikeshare Holdings, a new investment venture that includes the CEOs of fitness company Equinox and real estate firm Related Companies along with private investor Jonathan Schulhof.

And software and hardware provider PBSC Urban Solutions emerged out of bankruptcy.

The upside of the delay is that the technology has improved, giving Bay Area Bike Share more to choose from, said Karen Schkolnick, air-quality programs manager for the air district.

“We're coming out of the tunnel of uncertainty in the industry, but we're still waiting to get complete information," Schkolnick said. “There won't really be any changes that will negatively impact our program. If anything, we are anticipating that there will be new options or benefits that may come.”

The Alta Bike Share acquisition is being finalized, but Schkolnick said the air district can order 300 bikes and 30 stations to bring the total to 1,000 bikes and 100 stations across the existing Bay Area Bike Share network by early 2015.

Alternatively, it could wait and instead merge the order with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's planned expansion in Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. The commission, which is assuming a larger management role with the system, approved $8.7 million in funding this year to add about 750 bikes in the East Bay and expand the existing program. Meanwhile, the existing system spanning San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose continues to be successful.

At the end of September, just over a year after launching, 347,485 trips had been made and there were 34,495 casual members using the system.

As of August, there were 5,012 annual members.

“After the anniversary date, we've had resubscription from existing members, so things are growing steadily,” air district spokesman Ralph Borrmann said, “and we continue to work toward the expansion that we have planned.”

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