City Council votes to start smaller bike share program than originally planned

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council on Tuesday voted to start a smaller bike share program with bike stations between the University of Texas at El Paso and Downtown.

Each station would have about a dozen bikes, said Marty Howell, a City Development official. He said the city will look for third party vendors to set up the bike stations and the project could be completed by early next year 

Bike share would allow people to rent bikes for a small, still undetermined fee. If a person does not return the bike, their credit card will charged for the cost of the bike.

The $400,000 program is a back up plan in case the Texas department of Transportation continues to refuse to release $1.6 million in federal funds the bigger bike share program is eligible for.  "This is a good plan. The bigger bike share is a great plan," said Howell.

Local leaders in the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) have voted twice to use the federal money in the original bike share program, which would consist of about 20 bike stations spread throughout the entire city. The plan was meant to improve connectivity.

Last month, the Texas Department Department of Transportation District Engineer Bob Bielek, who is also an MPO member, changed his vote of support for the bike share and said TxDot will refuse to release the federal money.  Bielek said the bike share does not meet the state's standards for improving air quality. Bielek said the program will only decrease congestion by less than one percent.

The Federal Highway Administration has said the bike share meets its criteria for the federal money, which consists Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds but the federal dollars flow through TxDot.

Bielek has said a better use of the money would be the City's pilot program to fund the salaries of more Customs and Border Protection to decrease wait times at the international ports of entry. It's questionable if the federal highway administration will allow the money - meant for transportation - to be used on salaries.

Council on Tuesday also deleted an agenda item to write the MPO a letter of support to use the funds for the pilot program.

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