July 11, 2013

Wheels turn toward starting bike-shares


Officials in Portland and South Portland are slowly moving toward starting bike-share programs that use little or no taxpayer money.

Bike-share programs provide communal bicycles for short periods of time, sometimes for a fee and sometimes free. Advocates say they cut down on vehicle emissions and traffic, and encourage physical activity.

Although they are pursuing programs separately, both draw inspiration from Boston's Hubway system, launched in 2011 and operated by Alta Bicycle Share.

Like Hubway, they will operate from multiple stations eight or nine months a year.

Portland used a roughly $25,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a feasibility study.

A draft report is expected in two weeks, said Jeff Levine, director of planning and urban development for Portland.

Levine said the Portland market has the advantages of a downtown with high residential population and employee density, as well as cruise ship passengers during warmer months.

On the other hand, a high percentage of people drive to work, he said.

The next step would be to get $20,000 to $30,000, possibly from grants and corporate sponsors, for an analysis of how to pay for the program Levine said.

A bike-share program in Portland would probably take several more years of planning, said Levine.

South Portland, on the other hand, could roll out a program as soon as next spring, according to Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings.

Jennings said the city is keeping all the options open to pay for a program, including advertisements on the stations, corporate partners and usage fees.


Karen Antonacci can be contacted at 791-6377 or at kantonacci@pressherald.com


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