The city and the company that will run the soon-to-be launched bike-share program won’t yet release many details of Jersey City’s bike-share program, from the precise location of stations to – most importantly – the sponsor that will give the program it’s name and dollars when it rolls out in September.
But one element that has been cemented will make Jersey City’s program unique compared to many other bike shares around the country. Instead of starting in one concentrated neighborhood, Jersey City’s program will launch city wide, with docking stations in all six wards.
New York’s Citibike program, for example, began below 59th Street and in a slice of Brooklyn and is still concentrated in that area. In Boston, it launched solely downtown. Jersey City’s bike share, which will be run by the New York City-based company Motivate, expects to launch with 35 stations for a total of 350 bikes scattered throughout the city.
Mayor Steven Fulop, who hopes to have “several thousand” members sign up for bike share, says plans for bike station locations will naturally include downtown and Journal Square but will also encompass sites near New Jersey City University, the West Side Avenue light rail, Berry Lane Park (in Bergen-Lafayette), Washington Park (at the northern end of the city), and Mana Contempory (west of Journal Square).
“Those hubs are all places we felt were important for a wide array of reasons, and we think each one has a great likelihood of success,” says Fulop, who focused on making the city more bike friendly after taking office. The planning for the citywide bike lanes began under Mayor Healy, and now there are 28 miles installed. Since Fulop took office, 75 bike racks have been installed, mostly downtown, and another 25 more are planned.
If Jersey City’s program were to start only on the waterfront or around Grove Street “then it sends the message that bike share is only for those areas,” says Motivate’s Justin Ginsburgh, vice president of business development. Motivate designs, deploys, and runs bike-share programs in cities including Seattle, Washington DC, and New York.
Those parts of Jersey City that many people don’t think about when it comes to a bike-share program, such as Greenville or the Heights, are precisely the ones that need the program the most, adds Chris Englese, co-founder of the advocacy group, Bike JC.
“Bike share at its best is not just about leisurely riding,” says Englese, whose group runs the Jersey City Ward Tour for about 2,000 cyclists every year. “It’s about using it for getting to and from public transportation, to work, to shopping.”
Downtown’s Grove Street Bicycles has a bike-rental element as part of the business, which offers sales, service, and bike riding lessons. But owner Rodney Morweiser doesn’t see it as competition.
“It’s all about getting more people on bikes,” he says. “I have a fleet of about 10-15 bikes that I’ve been renting for seven years, and I think the people who are our customers will continue to rent from us. If anything, Jersey City’s bike-share program might drive interest in cycling in general and drive more people to purchase bikes of their own.”
When crafting Jersey City’s bike-share program, one lesson learned from other cities was to locate stations on sidewalks near main thoroughfares or in central locations instead of on side streets. In New York, stations might have been put on side streets to lessen the sting of lost parking, but that calculus doesn’t apply to Jersey City, where parking predominates on side streets. For Jersey City, locating the stations on main sidewalks will result in fewer lost parking spots while simultaneously allowing for more visibility. “We estimate that when it rolls out we’ll lose about 10 to 20 parking spots overall,” says Ginsburgh.
“Jersey City will benefit from the fact that its program will feature Motivate’s latest technology in both the bikes and the stations,” Ginsburgh explained. Citibike’s docking stations had widespread technological glitches in its early days, making it difficult to unlock or return bikes, leading to widespread dissatisfaction.
Motivate and Fulop are coy about who will be the key sponsor of the bike share program, saying only that an announcement will be made later this summer. According to Ginsburgh they are still working out details for smaller sponsorships. One option may be for local companies to have their names on certain stations.
To finance Jersey City’s bike-share program, no public funds will be expended. The city will reap revenue based on Motivate’s gross revenue and on the sponsorship dollars committed. Motivate will pay Jersey City 5 percent of any ridership revenue over $1.5 million, while 10 percent of the sponsorship funds raised by the city and Motivate will go to capital equipment, discounted programs, and other programs to promote ridership.
Previously, the plan had been for Jersey City to connect its bike share program with those in Hoboken and Weehawken. But in the Fall of 2014, the city shifted course because those programs hit roadblocks and under that plan Jersey City’s bike-share memberships could not connect to Citibike. Motivate and the city say the connectivity with Citibike is key to selling the program.
Jersey City’s program will be seamless with Citibike and feature the same pricing structure: Pay an annual membership of $149 for unlimited 45-minute rides with Citibike on one side of the Hudson River and Jersey City’s bike program on the other. “The actual bike won’t go over the river, but your membership does,” says Ginsburgh. Shorter-term rides will be available too. Pay just $9.95 for a 30-minute ride in either locale (good for twenty-four hours). In both cities, riders can also pay extra to ride for longer stints.
Recognizing that these prices might be out reach of some residents, Jersey City and Motivate are planning a program for low-income Jersey City residents to get a reduced rate. In New York, residents of public housing can get an annual membership for $60 (an $89 savings); those who meet certain income requirements in Boston can get them for a mere $5.
“We really want to target neighborhoods with less access to transportation or amenities like grocery stores,” says Ginsburgh. “The idea is that bike share makes those things more accessible.”
Photo by Jennifer V. Hughes: Justin Ginsburgh, VP of Motivate, the company that will run the city’s bike share program, discusses site locations.