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Transportation

Why Don’t Transit Agencies Do Bikeshare?

A decade after their arrival, most docked bikeshare systems in U.S. cities aren’t actively managed by public transportation officials. That’s a big missed opportunity. 

Metro Bike bicycles in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. 

Metro Bike bicycles in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. 

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg

Not long after the bikeshare service Austin BCycle launched in 2013, local leaders in the Texas capital began to wonder if it might make more sense to give Capital Metro, the regional transit agency, a more active role shaping its future. “We’re a mobility provider,” says Chad Ballentine, Capital Metro’s vice president for demand response and innovative mobility. “It was a natural extension for us.”

Last fall, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to depress transit ridership, Capital Metro assumed the lion’s share of bikeshare planning and oversight, rebranding the system MetroBike. Today a resident or visitor can buy a combined Capital Metro ticket and bikeshare pass with a single click. Looking to the future, Ballentine says the agency will incorporate MetroBike docks into new routes, such as planned MetroRapid bus lines. He also sees bikeshare as a way for the agency to serve people if demand is too light to justify fixed-route bus service.