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Capital Metro proposes incorporating Austin B-cycle as extension of public transit network

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

By late fall, public transit and bike-share users may be able to access both services with the purchase of a local bus day pass.

Under a proposed partnership with the city, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is looking to expand upon the symbiosis between its transit system and the city’s B-cycle bike-share program by fully incorporating the bike-share into its transit network.

With an integrated MetroBike system, Chad Ballentine of Capital Metro said the agency could reach areas that currently lack easy access to transit.

“Transit’s obviously the big piece that is the centerpiece of everything,” Ballentine told the agency’s board of directors Friday. “But then we’ve got bikes … which are sort of our smaller tools for expanding the core of the system, rather than just sending a bus everywhere.”

Ballentine said the agency is already working on a tool that will allow customers to plan their transit trips around the bike-share system in the Capital Metro mobile app. If the board and the city agree on the MetroBike concept in June, customers would also be able to purchase a bundled day or month pass for full access to the local bus network and the bike-share system at no extra charge.

As part of the new partnership, Capital Metro would create the MetroBike brand and take charge of planning and programming the seamless integration between transit and the bike-share system. For its part of the partnership, the city would manage the right of way and provide public amenities like wayfinding, workshops and safe bike paths. Daily operations would still be run by Bike Share of Austin, the nonprofit that maintains the B-cycle fleet.

To get the program started, Capital Metro is proposing a shared capital investment with the city to purchase the bike-share’s 200 electric assist bicycles currently on loan and eventually electrify the entire fleet. The agency also partnered with the city to apply for a grant through the Federal Transit Administration last week that would fund the entire electrification of the B-cycle fleet.

“It would really supercharge the rollout of MetroBike and really bring us far along in a very short amount of time,” Ballentine said. “We likely won’t find out about that until August. We’re not relying on it; it just would be a really awesome thing to have.”

Ballentine said the agency is also seeking annual operational funding from the city to add new bike-share stations at transit stops, converting stations into “mobility hubs.” However, he said a new modular bike docking station system means investments can now be as small as one bike dock per transit station.

Council Member Ann Kitchen welcomed the proposal to expand the program to new transit stations beyond Central Austin. “If you don’t live in the core, you don’t have access to this program,” she said. “So, expanding it along our transit lines that go deeper out into the community I think is just going to be a huge plus.”

The Austin Transportation Department will present more information about a potential MetroBike partnership at Thursday’s meeting of the City Council Mobility Committee.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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