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St. Louis Bike Share Study Recommends Initial Locations, Membership Prices

A feasibility study on a potential St. Louis bike share system just released its results, noting while there is big demand here, it is less than that in a city like Washington, D.C. (pictured here).
Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz, via Wikipedia

New recommendations from the St. Louis Bike Share Feasibility Study are calling for an initial phase involving 540 bicycles at an initial cost of up to $3.3 million.

Lead agency Great Rivers Greenway and its partners at St. Louis, St. Louis County and Metro are releasing the study's findings to the public on Thursday, during its final open house between 4:30 and 7 p.m. at the St. Louis Public Library’s Schlafly branch. Residents can weigh on in the recommendations and respond to additional inquiries for input.

The study recommends first putting 60 bike stations in high-demand areas including the downtown, Midtown, Central West End, Forest Park, The Grove, Delmar Loop, Carr Square, Vandeventer and Academy neighborhoods. This initial phase, the study estimates, would cost $1.8- to $3.3-million in capital costs.

Assistant project manager Elizabeth Simons said the feasibility study looked at the existing conditions in St. Louis to see which would help or hinder having a bike share here. One strength, she said, was the city's concentrated neighborhoods.

“We’ve got some major destinations for residents and tourists, such a Forest Park and Downtown, and we have several districts that are dense, have a mix of uses that are very walkable," she said. "So folks would feel comfortable getting in between those places on a bicycle.”

Eventually, she said, the system could be expanded with another 270 bikes at 30 stations in places like the Clayton, Shaw, Lafayette Square, Soulard, Old North St. Louis, JeffVanderLou and West End neighborhoods. A third phase would expand the bike share system along MetroLink red and blue lines and into other areas in the region.

Simons said it makes sense to establish a system in phases and to cluster bike stations in targeted neighborhoods first, rather than rolling out a system over a spread-out area. Riders in high-demand areas, she said, need to be able to rent and return bikes easily, so closer stations gives them more options.

"Those are kind of hot spots, so the more stations you can get in one area, the better, rather than just plopping them down on a grid," she said.

But Simons said a major challenge to a bike share system in St. Louis would be the cost. The study projects that launching and operating the first two phases of the system for five years would cost $12.4- to $14.7-million.

The study estimates the bike share system would cost $7 for a day pass or $15 for a three-day pass, or $25 per monthly membership and $75 per annual membership. There would also be additional fees for using the bicycles for more than 30 minutes at a time.

The study also noted that, while a St. Louis bike share would likely see higher demand than similar systems in Columbus, Ohio, and Kansas City, it wouldn't be as popular as those in Boston, D.C. or Chicago.

"The likelihood is the membership revenue and revenue from usage and overtime fees would not cover the full cost of it, so there is a lot of fundraising that would still need to be done for both capital and operations," she said, noting could come from federal grants, sponsorships and local funding.

For its recommendations, the feasibility study considered input from 1,500 people, including those involved in: a citizen and business advisory committee, a technical advisory committee, and focus groups at local housing developments. St. Louis Bike Share also has a website where people could suggest bike station locations and take two surveys.

One survey found 60 percent of some 1,200 respondents said they were likely to use a bike share system.

"There is a huge interest in bike share in St. Louis," Simons said. "A lot of our residents have traveled to other cities and used it there, or they used to live in another city...and moved to St. Louis and want to continue to use bike share."

But to take a bike share system from study to reality, Simons said a new nonprofit will likely need to be formed to act as owners. That nonprofit would need to do a lot of fundraising, get bids on contracts to provide equipment and operations, and promote the bike share system. Only then, Simons said, would it be ready to launch - a process she said could take at least two years.

In the meantime, the study's partner agencies will be asking residents at Thursday's open house about the recommendations. Other queries will include: whether a bike share system in St. Louis should be three seasons or year-round, if stations should have helmet vending machines, and what a potential bike share system should be named.

Follow Stephanie Lecci on Twitter: @stephlecci.