On July 10 the Sonoma County Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted to move forward with a Sonoma County bike share program and, in conjunction with the Transportation Authority of Marin, submit a $1.17 million capital grant application with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. While the exact locations in Cotati and Rohnert Park have yet to be determined, three proposed sites include the Cotati SMART train station, Sonoma State University and Sonoma Mountain Village. This would be part of a wider bike share program covering Sonoma and Marin counties along the SMART line. Partners include SMART and the cities of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma, Novato, San Rafael and Larkspur.
Bike share programs are already used in many metropolitan areas, including San Francisco and various cities in the East and South Bay, and are a natural progression to easing transportation burdens within the county’s growing population and getting more cars off the road.
“It’s a timely issue,” says Mayor Jake Mackenzie, of Rohnert Park. “Bike share programs have expanded dramatically in the Bay Area. This is a first shot in Sonoma and Marin counties to get our bikes on the road.”
Once implemented, the bike share program will provide users on-demand access to a network of publicly rentable bicycles, designed for short, one-way trips. For example, a Sonoma State University student could obtain a bike at a kiosk near the campus using an automated check-out process, ride the mile and a half to the Cotati train station, deposit the bike at the kiosk there and hop on the train to Marin.
“The concept is to have connectivity all along the commuter line along the SMART train,” Mackenzie said.
The hope is to have bike share kiosks at SMART train stations and surrounding key destinations. Most likely, users would either pay a membership fee with free short rides, or pay a per-minute or hour rental, using a smart phone app. They can then use that app to find available bikes nearby if they are not near a kiosk.
Policy makers believe the program would appeal to residents and commuters, as well as visitors, tourists and students. Rohnert Park and Cotati are suitable candidates for this project, given the infrastructure already in place with off-street bike paths and on-street bike lanes that connect to various activity centers throughout the cities.
The Sonoma County Transportation Authority believes they should receive notification of grant approval by the end of September. If approved, the grant would cover capital and initial implementation costs, with a 200-bicycle system deployed over a three-year period and a GPS technology system that would allow riders to easily track down a rentable bike. Future operating costs will most likely be covered by sponsorships and rental income.
“SCTA has made a commitment to cover most of the first three years of operating revenue and Sonoma Mountain Village has agreed to be an early sponsor,” says Mary Grace Pawson, Director of Development Services for the City of Rohnert Park. “Long term, the partners hope the program will attract additional sponsors.”
While so far there is not a contingency plan in place should the grant not be approved, Pawson believes they would continue to seek out other funding opportunities, either through public or private agencies.
“The bike share program also fits in with our climate action plans to reduce the amount of cars on the road,” says Mackenzie. “It’s part of our overall vision of transportation.”