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MetroBike program gears up for 10-year expansion project

Tuesday, May 17, 2022 by Kali Bramble

Cyclists can expect to see expanded bike-share infrastructure roll out in the next few years, as the team behind the city’s MetroBike program prepares to bring an updated interlocal agreement to City Council this summer.

Since 2013, MetroBike (formerly B-cycle) has relied on nonprofit-run Bike Share of Austin to manage daily operations. Now, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority hopes to integrate the organization as employees who would help to oversee the ambitious MetroBike strategic expansion plan proposed last year.

“We want to make sure that they have good wages, good benefits and a long-term plan for sustainability of the program,” Chad Ballentine, a vice president at Capital Metro, said. “I’m amazed at what they (have done) with so little, but we’re a very grown-up city … it’s time we really formalize things and make sure that we are building this out for the long run.”

The MetroBike program has grown dramatically in its first nine years of life, with a fleet now totaling 847 bikes across 79 stations. In step with Project Connect and mobility infrastructure bonds, the MetroBike team hopes to expand to areas outside of Austin’s urban core and integrate into future public transportation development.

“We’ve seen in other countries that you can get off of a bus and get onto a bike easily,” Ballentine said. “It needs to be seamless and it needs to be simple … so that mobility isn’t something that you have to struggle to figure out, it just naturally happens.”

Along with expansion, MetroBike will undergo a number of equipment enhancements, including a transition away from mechanical bikes to a 100 percent electric fleet. Docking stations will also see upgrades to a newly piloted modular dock system that is less labor intensive and takes up less space, allowing for more flexibility in installing future stations.

The MetroBike team will bring its interlocal agreement proposal before Council sometime this summer. If approved, the agreement will formalize the partnership between Bike Share of Austin, the city’s Transportation Department and Capital Metro, laying the groundwork for its future plans. The tripartite team aims to jointly fund an ambitious $11 million for the 10-year project.

“We really want bikes and bike share to kind of be ubiquitous in this town,” Ballentine said. “We know there’s an appetite for it.”

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