Expensive sharing – Decatur says ‘No’ to bike program

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 6, 2014
This is a map from a feasibility study that examined the possibility of a bike share program in Atlanta and Decatur. Atlanta decided to move forward with the program, but Decatur declined, citing the project's cost.

This is a map from a feasibility study that examined the possibility of a bike share program in Atlanta and Decatur. Atlanta decided to move forward with the program, but Decatur declined, citing the project’s cost.

Decatur’s name is synonymous with cool, pedestrian and bike-friendly communities.

But a bike sharing program proved too expensive for the city to take on

As Decatur Metro noted, Atlanta has decided to forge ahead with the bike share program, buying more than 500 bikes and installing 57 stations around the city. Decatur has decided to pass on the project.

City Planning Director Amanda Thompson told DM that the program is too expensive.

To read the full Decatur Metro post, click here.

So how much would that bike share program have cost? Well, according to the feasibility study titled “Atlanta-Decatur Bike Share Feasibility Study”, the estimated cost would be between $6 million and $12.9 million over six years.

“To finance a system of this size, capital and investment revenue will need to be secured. User-generated fees are not enough to cover the full cost of the system,” the study says. “Grants, sponsorship and other investment strategies can help fill this gap.”

To read the feasibility study, click here.

According to a city of Atlanta press release, the city paid for some of the project’s estimated costs with $2.5 million in remaining bond money.

“In 2012, Mayor Kasim Reed committed to the goal of making bicycling an integral part of daily life for Atlanta residents, workers and visitors by allocating $2.47 million in remaining bond funds to complete several key bicycle projects by 2016,” the press release said. “These projects, along with others by the City and its partners, will add 50 miles of multi-use trails, bike lanes, and cycle tracks over the next two years.”

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

  • Robert Butera

    A quick economic analysis. $6M to $12M dollars over 5 years. Decatur was supposedly going to have about 3 out of 60 or so bike stations – let’s say 5%. So that is 300K to 600K over five years, or 60K to 120K per year. I have no idea if these are the actual dollars Decatur was asked to pitch in.

    It doesn’t sound like much (in the big picture of a city budget) and I am extremely pro-bike. But I wonder how much these would really be used, given that Decatur is an “island” in this bike rental plan – it really isn’t plugged into the rest of the system. I wonder how well the plan considered the demographics and potential usage in Decatur, vs the system as a whole. A big use of these bikes in other cities is to bike from point to point – rack to rack. That is how I have used them in DC, NY, and Paris. In Decatur, that would basically mean making it simple to go between downtown and Oakhurst.

    I wonder if this would have worked out better if they had considered more racks on an east-west axis and along bike routes – East Atlanta, Kirkwood, L5P/Path, Candler Park, Avondale center, etc.

    • Rebecca Serna Woiderski

      Robert, you raise a good point about Decatur’s size. But I think if Decatur and Emory and Oakhurst were connected via a safe bike network, people would use the bike for those purposes. Agree they probably would not be used to get from the MARTA station to Farm Burger 🙂

      • Robert Butera

        I’ve learned a bit in this thread I wish Decatur would provide more Info. And you implicitly raise another infrastructure issue – it is currently not easy for casual bikers to bike from Decatur to Emory. It is not far in terms of distance, but there are serious gaps in infrastructure to make it easy or even obvious for those who are not regular commuters.

  • Scott McFarland

    Does anyone have a cost breakdown of NYC’s successful CitiBike program? Seems like corporate sponsorship would help.

  • Chris Billingsley

    Thanks Dan-ish. I find it hard to believe but for the first time, I’m in complete agreement with Miss Thompson. I am opposed to ANY Decatur money being spent on this program. This was tried once before in Decatur and judging from how the yellow bike program disappeared so quietly after many reports that bikes were stolen and/or vandalized more often than legitimently used makes me want to oppose any program that is not funded completely through private groups. In my opinion, Decatur bike riders don’t need any help from the government. Hell, they are the 2% and can afford to pay extra taxes (not that I favor anyone paying more taxes).
    Good Job, Miss T!

    • Rebecca Serna Woiderski

      Yellow Bikes was a community free / discounted bike distribution program, not a modern, automated bike share program. Bike share is in its third iteration now, and the bikes have tracking devices, you have to have a credit card to get an account in most systems (a barrier to entry – separate topic re equity, but it does keep the bikes from ending up in the creek).

  • Rebecca Serna Woiderski

    Actually, the City of Atlanta is not putting ANY public money into the bike share program.

    The $2.47 million referenced is for bikeways – bike facilities that create a network of safe places to ride. See http://www.atlantabike.org/2.5millionforbikeprojects.

    The headline gets it wrong is this case. Decatur did not say no/it’s too expensive. They said not now/it’s expensive. Small but important distinction 🙂

    “City Planning Director Amanda Thompson tells DM that Decatur is not involved in Atlanta’s bike share AT THIS POINT and doesn’t have plans of participating IN THE NEXT FISCAL YEAR. Says Ms. Thompson, “It is still quite expensive to operate and we would need to identify a source of funding.””

    Decatur’s fiscal year ends June 30th.

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