Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority has launched an ambitious program to expand its bike-share program with the city of Austin. The transit company has announced a partnership with PBSC Urban Solutions Inc. aimed at replacing and expanding 80 MetroBike stations, 1,000 docks and 800 bicycles focused in downtown Austin, tripling the size of the bike-share system. The contract is an important part of the planned $20.6 million expansion for the bike-share program. The public can expect to see new bikes and stations beginning this summer.
Perhaps the most important news is that the agency plans to completely replace its full bicycle fleet to electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes. Currently, only 43 percent of the 600 bikes in the MetroBike fleet are electric-assist bikes, with the remainder made up of traditional manual bicycles. One reason Capital Metro and the city are able to move forward with this ambitious plan is an $11.3 million Transportation Alternative Set-Aside (TASA) grant awarded to the city last fall.
Council Member Paige Ellis sits on the board of Capital Metro. She told the Austin Monitor, “I’m excited to see the City and Cap Metro partnering to invest in sustainable and innovative transportation solutions and am especially eager for MetroBike to electrify their fleet. The current older, clunky red B Cycles aren’t as easy to maneuver for younger or older riders, and these improvements will help encourage closing that ridership gap. On-site charging connections for some of the new docks will also allow more bikes to be available for longer distance rides. These updates and investments align with our city’s mode shift goals, enhance mobility, and encourage an eco-friendly mode of transportation.”
Austin’s bicycle program started just over 10 years ago in December 2013. At that time, it was called Austin BCycle. In 2020, Capital Metro and the city of Austin signed an interlocal agreement with Bike Share of Austin as a major stakeholder in the system. At that point, Capital Metro officially took over operations, and Bike Share employees became employees of Capital Metro.
“This is a key piece of the puzzle we need to start building one of the country’s best bike-share systems,” Dottie Watkins, Capital Metro president and CEO, said in a news release. “This investment in our bike-share program will bring better flexibility and access for riders to connect to the larger web of mobility in Austin transit network.”
Capital Metro calls its MetroBike system “one of the best and most affordable ways for people living and working in and visiting Austin to make their short – and medium – length trips more enjoyable and sustainable.” The agency looks forward to fully integrating the bicycle system with its bus and rail system.
Capital Metro reports that since its inception, MetroBike has become a key piece of Austin’s transit toolkit. MetroBike usage has grown from fewer than 5,000 per month in 2019 to more than 12,000 during the pandemic. Use of the bicycle fleet has recently grown to nearly 28,000 monthly trips. They note that service peaks during major events, reaching 34,000 in 2021 during the Austin City Limits music festival and 37,000 during the South by Southwest festival in 2022. The city saw a big jump in ridership during the ACL Festival in 2022, with Capital Metro reporting more than 43,000 MetroBike trips.
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