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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

First Slated for 2013, Portland Bike Share Isn't Rolling Out for Another Year

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM

bike_share.jpg

It's official: Bike share isn't coming to Portland this year.

Portland Bureau of Transportation officials announced today that a series of supply shake-ups has persuaded the city not to press forward with a long-awaited 750 bike system as planned. The revelation marks the second year PBOT's had to delay a bike share system. The original launch date was set for spring 2013.

The official announcement comes a day after Commissioner Steve Novick—in charge of PBOT—told the Oregonian he's "uncertain as all get out" about the project's roll out date.

That the system is going to be delayed was already a foregone conclusion (one we've explored several times). The equipment the city now hopes to purchase for bike share won't even be available until this summer, and a system takes month to set up.

But Alta Bicycle Share, which Portland tapped to run the project, has said it can get a system off the ground this year. PBOT's message today: Don't rush it.

"We’ve been trying to think through where we’re at at the supply chain and where that fits in with the timing of a launch," said Dylan Rivera, a PBOT spokesman.

This time around, the problem isn't necessarily sponsorship funding, which officials say delayed a launch last year. Novick and others say the city's very close to announcing a mult-million dollar deal that would pay for the system—originally slated to cost around $5 million to purchase and run for five years, but now with more-uncertain costs attached.

The big issue now is the bankruptcy filing in January of Public Bike Systems Company (PBSC, also known as Bixi), the Canadian firm slated to supply a bike share system. In the wake of that filing, Alta scrambled to put together a deal with 8D Technologies, another Canadian company with a long history of developing software for bike share systems. The problem: 8D's never manufactured the kiosks or docking stations bike share relies on.

The city says it wants to be certain that equipment is functional and bug-free, rather than rushing a rollout.

"Our first and foremost piece of it is having a very high level of comfort with the product that’s being provided," said Steve Hoyt-McBeth, project manager at PBOT.

There's also a weather component. PBOT has been keen to launch bike share in the spring or early summer, when it would benefit from months of sun and Portland's annual influx of tourists. That's not going to be possible this year.

In a phone interview prior to the city's announcement to the Mercury, Alta Bicycle Share Vice President Mia Birk said she hadn't heard whether the city would want to delay rollout.

"The city’s in the driver’s seat in the schedule at this point," she said. Asked about the 8D equipment, Birk said it's "ready for orders to be placed. Place an order now and the kiosk and the bikes will be ready for summer launches." But Birk said firm cost estimates for the system aren't yet available, and Alta doesn't even know yet what kind of bikes it will purchase.

In another bit of news, Birk says Alta is still considering purchasing a portion of PBSC when it's broken up during bankruptcy proceedings. According to reports, Alta had considered purchasing the company before it declared bankruptcy, but decided its financial situation was too dire.

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