Ann Arbor’s first bikeshare program, ArborBike, is up and running, with locations both on and off campus for student and city resident use.
The Clean Energy Coalition, a nonprofit environmental organization based downtown, is working in partnership with the University, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and the city of Ann Arbor, launched its first bikeshare program Thursday.
ArborBike will ultimately have 14 stations around the city by the spring, five of which will be on campus. Riders rent bikes using an electronic check kiosk and are able to return them to any of the stations.
“(Former University President Mary Sue Coleman) had pitched the idea to us when she had visited a bike share community and felt this was something that would benefit (the University) community,” said Heather Seyfarth, program supervisor of CEC, in an e-mail. “Meanwhile, the city was also exploring the feasibility of a bike share program.”
CEC acted as a third party by negotiating funds and grants, ultimately being named as ArborBike’s primary owners and operators.
“It was a joint effort and (the CEC) felt it would be best to have a third-party and that’s how we got involved as a non-profit,” Seyfarth wrote.
Capital costs were covered by a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant. The city of Ann Arbor matched 25 percent of the funds from CMAQ. The University’s Planet Blue initiative is ArborBike’s title sponsor, and pledged $600,000 over its first three years.
Despite Michigan’s harsh winters, Seyfarth said Michigan’s climate wouldn’t affect business for ArborBike. CEC will be closing down and storing the stations during the winter and reinstalling them in April.
“We are exploring the possibility of leaving them out in future years,” she said. “In other bike share communities that have snow, some are starting to leave them out all year due to popularity.”
Public Policy senior Bobby Dishell, Central Student Government president, said CSG approached the University with a request to offer discounts to students. Currently, costs of membership cards to use the bikes range from $6 for 24 hours to $65 for one year.
The first 60 minutes of every ride are free and each additional 30-minute period accrues a $3 fee. The bikes, which are provided by B-Cycle, have pre-installed GPS trackers to both monitor riders’ trip and prevent the bikes from being stolen.
Seyfarth said theft hasn’t been a problem in other cities with bikeshare programs, and she hopes ArborBike continues to spread throughout the city.
“We hope to increase ridership and expand the system,” Seyfarth said.