El Paso City Council votes for city to be part of bicycle sharing program

POSTED: 05:30 PM MDT Jul 09, 2013    UPDATED: 09:18 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

El Paso City Council on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement that paves the way for a bike share program.

The council unanimously voted to commit $100,000, a small percentage of the $2 million project. About $1.8 million come from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO, and UTEP is committing $24,000.

The MPO's moneys are federal funds meant for congestion management and air quality.

"It takes 5% investment from the city and it never requires further investment from the city, which I think is really important, it self funds itself so it will continue to grow and replace the bikes and everything on its own so I think it's a great program," said Mayor Oscar Leeser.

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, a political subdivision of the state with trans-jurisdictional powers, will be operating the bike share program.

The cost to rent or specific locations haven't been determined yet but the kiosks would be across the city and in downtown and UTEP.

Other cities charge about $5 a day, said Matt McElroy, the city's Economic Development Director.

The city wants the locations to work with Sun Metro stations so people can take the bikes on the bus and make it easier to go places the buses don't reach. "So as people are taking the bus, it actually extends that last mile and get around in shorter trips," said Eloisa Portillo-Morales, The City's Sustainability Program Engineer.

According to the city, out of 441 people surveyed in Downtown El Paso, 87% said they would likely use the program if it were in place.

The bikes will tracked with a GPS system and will require a credit card to rent. If the bike goes missing, the user's credit card will be charged for the cost of the bike, which can vary from $1,000 to $2,000, said McElroy.

"They're heavy duty bikes with heavy duty breaks - thorn resistant tires, automatic transmission so that the bike rider gets very easy experience and they're not struggling to pedal wherever they're going," said McElroy.

Because the city is not operating the system, it will not be liable for accidents or the bikes.  It's the RMA's responsibility to ensure the bikes in case of theft or an accident, said City Manager Joyce Wilson.

The RMA has the option of contracting the work for the kiosks and bikes to private companies.

For City Rep. Michiel Noe, a GPS system would not be enough to protect the bikes from trans-border theft. "The GPS is still a problem because you can see where it is in Juarez but you can't go over there and get it."

According to McElroy, the project is expected to be complete by the end of next year.