Over the last few decades, several urban communities have adopted bike-sharing programs. While various set-up options are possible, the concept is the same. Rent a bike on a short-term basis to get from point A to point B and leave the bike securely for the next person.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is seeking public opinion on whether a bike-sharing program would be viable in the Truckee Meadows.
Stantec Consulting, Alta Planning and Design, and Melchert Consulting were retained to complete a feasibility study last spring and develop a draft business proposal.
Last month the RTC invited the public to an open house at the Discovery Museum to share results from the feasibility study.
“In general there is definitely recognition this is a growing and scenic area,” said Joe Harrington, an RTC spokesman. “Residents may not want to carry their bike on the back of their car, and the type of tourist coming here is different from the one decades ago. They might want to gamble, but they also want to enjoy our outdoor amenities, restaurants, bars, so this (bike-sharing program) could be a great opportunity.”
Part of the prospect lies in keeping the region’s status as a bike-friendly community. In 2012, Reno was listed 42nd out of the top 50 bike-friendly cities in the U.S. by Bicycle.com. Based on feedback from consultants and the community, if a program were set in motion, the downtown areas in Reno and Sparks would be the first to see the program begin.
Amy Cummings, RTC’s director of planning, said the RTC feasibility study identified high-density areas to start small and launch the program in phases, should the program be adopted by the RTC.
Phase one would focus on downtown Reno and Sparks. In Sparks the route would start at the transit station on Victorian Ave and go to Legends Mall.
In Reno, the route would start at the transit station on 4th street and extend to Virginia Street through various locations in midtown, Cummings said. Phase two would connect Reno and Sparks at the two transit stations and begin to extend beyond the city centers, she said.
The third phase is a long-term plan to extend into South Meadows near commuter routes between residential and business development, such as for employees of IGT.
Amy Fitch, lecturer for UNR’s School of Community Health Sciences and chair of the UNR Campus Bicycle Committee, was on the RTC’s bike-share feasibility committee, whose recommendations were used in gathering data.
The committee reviewed various bike-share programs that have been successful in other locations while considering the Truckee Meadows, Fitch said. High-density locations were identified, and Fitch said the group generally favored a kiosk system with bike stations versus a computerized bike-sharing system.
“We eventually agreed that we should start small with a high density of stations within a smaller geographic area rather than trying to serve the whole Reno (Sparks) region,” Fitch said.
Recognizing that a successful bike share program had the potential to elevate the Truckee Meadows as a tourist destination and make the region more livable for local residents, Fitch said the committee was generally positive.
While areas around UNR were considered for students, concerns were voiced because of the hilly terrain and the fact that consultants were not confident students have used the bike-share programs in other locations.
“But we felt that there would be some demand from the campus community, perhaps more so from faculty and staff than students,” Fitch said.
City of Sparks Transportation Manager Jon Ericson gave credit for the initial idea of having a bike-sharing program in the Truckee Meadows to former Sparks City Manager Shaun Carey.
Ericson said Carey envisioned a bike-sharing program at the Sparks Marina and Victorian Avenue.
Ericson said that Carey approached him to look into it, and Ericson was able to secure funding through a Federal Highway Administration program for a pilot program.
Ericson said when he brought the pilot program idea to RTC’s Cummings, a friend and colleague, the idea grew.
Sparks resident Steve Metcalf moved to the Truckee Meadows seven years ago from New York City where Metcalf said he was a part of one of the largest cycling clubs in the nation. Attending the open house last month, Metcalf had positive feedback.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Metcalf said. “We should be encouraging seniors … to get out on a bicycle and go. It would collapse Medicare costs.”
The program would be implemented by the RTC as a public-private partnership.
Harrington said estimated costs to fully finance a bike share program for the first five years may be upwards of $10 million and depending on what Washoe County residents might want in terms of additional amenities. This cost doesn’t include ongoing maintenance and service for the program after five years.
“I think it’s an exciting program; it would be a great amenity to the community,” Ericson said. “And it looks great on paper. But in reality, can we afford it for operating and maintenance?”
Ericson said private investors need to be identified in this partnership to make it work as overall operation and maintenance of a program could be substantial.
Cummings agreed and said the RTC has looked at some of the long-term maintenance costs. In other cities, the program works with private companies to fund these costs, she said.
Another challenge the feasibility committee recognized was gaining permission to place the kiosks.
For Reno resident Marlowe Kulley, the biggest challenge she sees is infrastructure in and around downtown Reno.
“In general I think a bike share is a really cool concept,” said Kulley, who recently tested out a bike-share program in New York City. “However, for it to work here in Washoe County, we really need to improve the cycling infrastructure first….”
In 2011, the RTC adopted the Reno/Sparks Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which calls for adding miles of quality road riding. In 2017, the RTC plans to remove parking and add bike lanes along Virginia Street in and around UNR and some of the side streets through midtown, improving the Virginia Street corridor, Cummings said. Other intersections and streets slated to receive improvements in the next two years include the Pyramid Highway and McCarran Boulevard intersection and the 4th Street and Prater Way intersection.
The RTC is looking for public feedback at this time with public comment set to close on Sept. 15. The RTC plans to submit a draft proposal along with feasibility results and public comment to the RTC’s Board by the end of this year for review, said Cummings.
Please visit their website http://rtc-bikeshare.com to learn more and provide feedback.