Amherst considers further study of regional bike-sharing program



Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2015

AMHERST — Town officials are considering endorsing continued analysis of a regional bike-sharing program that would bring bicycle kiosks to Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

The Select Board on Monday deferred action on a memorandum of understanding related to the Pioneer Valley Bike Share System, which aims to create a similar program to those that exist in Boston and San Francisco, where riders pay fees to access bicycles for commuting and recreation.

If signed by the Select Board, the new agreement would commit Amherst to moving through the next stage, during which the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission will work with communities, as well as the University of Massachusetts, to seek grants for capital equipment, develop a collaborative business plan, select and engage a vendor and designate a lead community or agency to oversee operations.

“It’s only an agreement to move forward to the phase 2 feasibility analysis,” said Stephanie Ciccarello, the town’s sustainability coordinator.

The PVPC, which oversaw the initial feasibility study, has hired Alta Planning + Design of Cambridge to complete the next phase, Ciccarello said.

Signing the agreement does not force the town to make a financial commitment to the capital costs of starting the bike-sharing program or any of the operating costs.

Estimates indicate capital costs systemwide would be between $436,000 and $1.1 million, with annual operating costs at about $400,000 to $500,000 a year.

Ciccarello and Christine Brestrup, interim planning director, have met monthly with members of the Pioneer Valley Regional Bike Share Advisory Committee since April 2014.

Ciccarello told the Select Board that the town’s transportation plan, completed by consultants Nelon\Nygaard of Boston, identifies Amherst as a good community for a bike share.

A preliminary study suggests that Amherst initially would have six stations with 96 docks and 54 bicycles that would cost $288,000, while Northampton would have five stations with 80 docks and 45 bicycles at a cost of $240,000. Subsequent expansions would double these costs.

Brestrup said Amherst would likely need to pay up to $30,000 for the bike-share program, but regional officials intend to seek federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grants.

Interim Town manager David Ziomek said if those grants are not available, “we’ll hit pause” on the bike stations.

Significant revenues would come from user fees and advertising. Brestrup said that in Boston many of the bikes and kiosks are sponsored by a bank.

The program could begin as early as 2017. Based on national averages, an annual membership would be $63, and one-day casual riders would pay $8.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




 


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