Boise GreenBike will hit the pause button on the bike share program at the end of September but plans to revive and improve the service in the spring of 2021.
About a year ago, Valley Regional Transit’s bike share program started making plans to transition to a new vendor and bring in electric-assist bikes to replace the aging pedal-only bikes. The program had faced many challenges with out-dated technology, and a vendor who would no longer support third-party operators like Boise GreenBike.
Through the Request for Proposal process, Drop Mobility, a Canadian-based bike share provider, was selected last fall to supply the next generation of bike share to Boise. Feeling the program had always been too small, VRT chose to try and grow the system from the 127 bikes in operation today, to 300 or more over the next few years. Naturally, expanding the number of bikes was going to cost more to operate.
Boise GreenBike has always been an enterprise program of Valley Regional Transit. As such, it has relied on ride and membership revenue and sponsorship to cover the cost of operations. Sponsorships, and most importantly, the title sponsorships, account for 75% of the operating budget. VRT approached the existing title sponsors with the expansion proposal and was turned down, leaving Boise GreenBike with a massive hole in its budget. The City of Boise stepped in with a one-time grant to keep the program operational through the end of the fiscal year, September 30.
VRT had been actively pursuing new title sponsors when the coronavirus pandemic hit, creating significant headwinds as businesses lost the capacity for or interest in becoming sponsors. VRT is still working to recruit one or more title sponsors so it can continue with plans to launch the new, more extensive and all-electric system in the spring of 2021. For now, however, the city will be without a bike share for a few months. Failing to find new title sponsors will mean the end of bike share in Boise.
What happens with existing memberships?
Boise GreenBike will be reaching out to all members, especially those with credit in their accounts. Those riders will have the option of riding off their credits or accepting credit in the new system when it launches. Boise GreenBike will not be providing cash refunds.
More than ninety percent of Boise GreenBike riders are “Pay as You Go” members. For them, it is a simple matter of riding their balance down to zero. If they ride more than their balance, the additional time will be charged at the usual prorated $5 per hour.
For long-term members, those with Monthly, Student, Annual, and Premium memberships, the new bike share system will honor the remaining value they have in their accounts. Members will also be offered generous terms in the new system to get them to return as sustaining customers. In the meantime, the auto-renew on these long-term accounts has been turned off, so members won’t be charged for benefits they won’t be able to use. Also, effective immediately, the system will not allow any new long-term memberships. New riders will have only the “Pay as You Go” membership option.
What happens to the existing bikes?
The bikes are still perfectly serviceable, but the controllers will be shut off and removed since the hardware will become useless on October 1. VRT is developing plans for a second life for these bikes. They may be repurposed for community bike libraries, similar to a program established last year with Interfaith Sanctuary. The bikes might also be auctioned off.
What happens with the racks and station hubs?
The bike racks and station hubs will stay in place, as the next iteration of bike share will be able to use them. The only other change is that all of the payment kiosks will be removed. The kiosks were turned off with the start of the pandemic to eliminate the risks associated with people using touchscreens.
Members should direct questions about their membership status to the Help Desk at 208-345-7433, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.