A bicycle sharing program that will feature a fleet of 300 electric bikes across Marin and Sonoma and counties is on track for an early 2022 rollout, transportation officials said.
The Novato, San Rafael and Santa Rosa city councils have already voted to endorse the grant-funded project. The Cotati City Council is set to consider approval Tuesday, while transportation planners are preparing presentations for Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Larkspur city councils.
“By the end of the year, the program could be ready to launch,” said Scott McDonald, senior transportation planner at the Transportation Authority of Marin.
TAM and the Sonoma County Transportation Authority are developing the plans for the three-year pilot program. The project is being funded by a $826,000 grant issued by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transportation planning agency.
“This program is really being set up as a transit corridor program to fill that gap of first- and last-mile transportation,” McDonald said.
McDonald said planners are working to identify where the bike share stations will be situated. They will be concentrated near the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit stations and key employment areas.
The bikes will be maintained by Bolt Mobility, a bike share provider in urban and suburban communities.
Half of the bikes will be placed in Marin, while the other half will be in Sonoma County. There also will be an additional 50 bikes available to expand the program during the pilot program if needed, McDonald said.
The bikes can be reserved through a phone app linked to the Clipper Card, which is used on SMART, Marin Transit, Golden Gate Transit and other Bay Area municipal transit systems.
The Marin County Bicycle Coalition supports the program, said Warren Wells, the nonprofit’s policy and advocacy director.
“This is a great way to get people to and from SMART stations around town in a space and energy efficient way,” Wells said during last week’s presentation before the San Rafael City Council.
However, Wells said bicycle advocates are concerned about the number of bicycles that would be available. If it’s a popular program, there might be too few bikes, he said.
“In my experience, what can happen is, if people can’t reliably expect a bike when they get to a station, they go to something else,” he said. “I’m very, very supportive of this in theory (and) really want to help make it work, and we’ll do everything that we can from our position.”
McDonald said the number of bikes and stalls could expand, depending on the success of the program. After the initial year, there would be enough information to determine what the future could hold, he said.
San Rafael Councilmember Maika Llorens Gulati said she was excited about the project, but she wants to make sure that bikes also would be available to people in low-income communities.
McDonald said there will be annual and monthly memberships as well as pay-as-you-go options. Additionally, there will be discounts for students or for those who can establish they receive government aid.
Pricing has not yet been determined, he said.
San Rafael Mayor Kate Colin said, “This is exactly what we’re looking for to get people out of their car and into transit.”
More information about the program is at tam.ca.gov/projects-programs/bikes.