June 8, 2013

Green transit alternative: Cycle of sharing expands

Bike-shares may be expensive, but the results in Boston since 2011 have been encouraging enough for Portland to mull such a program.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

Alex Moran of Boston’s Allston area is among the many Bostonians to take advantage of Boston’s two-year-old Bike Share that offers low-cost bicycle rentals 24/7 from outdoor docks all around the city. Portland has obtained federal money to explore the feasibility of such a program.

Photos by Deirdre Fleming/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Eileen Morrison of Boston learns the nearest Boston Bike Share hub to her home from Nicole Freedman, Boston Bike’s director, during rush hour.

Boston is also launching helmet dispensers, compliments of a new company called HelmetHub, started by two graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It will be the first city in the United States to offer that program.

Meanwhile, Portland was one of five communities this year to receive assistance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to look into installing a bike-share program.

After Portland receives its EPA assessment this month, it will start into phase two, which involves more analysis of the cost in bringing a bike-share program to the city. A final answer on whether Maine will share in the bike-share craze is expected by early 2014.

If it's a go, a fundraising effort would likely follow, said Jeff Levine, Portland's planning and urban development director, who helped institute the bike-share program in Boston.

But a bike-share program is like a state park; it requires not only the infrastructure, but the staff and funding to run it.

"The main thing that might get in the way is money. Federal subsidies are much less available today. We have to figure out the financing," Levine said.

Right now, Levine said the chances of Maine getting one is "50-50."

It cost Boston roughly $3 million to launch its Hubway system, and it costs as much as $20,000 per month for each station for upkeep and bike maintenance, Freedman said.

A former Olympic cyclist, Freedman said the cost has been worth it.

"It creates a substantial green transit system for Bostonites. All social backgrounds and ethnicities use it; and there is a subculture of tourists who take one-day trips. It's awesome. It's fun. I think Maine would do well with it," Freedman said.

TO LEARN MORE about Boston's Bike Share, go to www.thehubway.com

Those interested in helping to launch or finance a Portland bike-share program can call Jeff Levine at 874-8720.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:



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