Bike-share system rolls into Peninsula | July 19, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 19, 2013

Bike-share system rolls into Peninsula

Palo Alto train commuters can hop a bike for the last mile

by Daniel DeBolt

Memberships went on sale Monday, July 15, for the bike-sharing system debuting in Palo Alto and the Peninsula next month. Officials are promising local users won't see the glitches that recently triggered a slew of complaints in New York.

The 700-bike system extends from key train stations on the Peninsula — San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose. It will be run by the Alta Bike Share, the same company responsible for New York's new system. That system made headlines when complaints poured in about the number of automated bike stalls that wouldn't release bikes or take them back, frustrating commuters and tourists and giving the system the nickname "Glitchy bike."

"Alta has assured us that they've done a software patch so that doesn't happen here," said Damian Breen of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, one of a half-dozen government agencies cooperating on the project. He added that Alta had managed to repair all of the faulty stations in New York.

What may disappoint users is finding empty racks. Officials admit there may not be enough bikes to meet demand and are quick to remind people that this is a "pilot" project. A second phase is in the works to add another 300 bikes.

"When you consider what we were funded to do with this grant we received, we were very successful," Breen said of the system, whose planning stretches back to 2009. "What we're launching is a pilot. This system could be a building block for a larger and Bay Area-wide system. The directors from our board and a lot of our leaders in the Bay Area would like to see this system become larger."

Palo Alto will receive 100 rental bikes, with the majority located at the downtown train station and on the Stanford University campus.

Breen said corporate sponsorship of the system may help fund the system's expansion, as was done in New York, where the bikes have the name of a well-known bank painted on them.

Aiko Cuenco of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority said bike sharing could be considered "an extension of the transit system," providing a connection from train stations, for example, to wherever someone is going in the "last mile" of their journey.

"We price it in such a way that people don't keep the bike any longer than is needed," Cuenco said. "It's not a rental system; it's an extension of the transit system."

The system encourages short rides by not charging for rides of 30 minutes or less. Hour-long rides are $4, and every half-hour after that costs $7. Those looking to ride for longer periods can get around the time limit by riding to another station and switching to another bike.

The system works for anyone with a credit card and at least $9, which is the cost of a 24-hour membership. There's also a $22 three-day membership and an $88 annual membership.

The system will be up and running next month, though an exact date has yet to be announced.

The pilot program is funded through local and regional grants in combination with a $4.3 million grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Climate Initiatives Grant program.

More information is available at

Staff Writer Daniel DeBolt writes for the Weekly's sister paper, the Mountain View Voice.


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2013 at 5:54 pm

We were going to sign up but then I looked at the map of rental stations and the nearest one is more than 2 miles from our home. There are only 3 stations in Palo Alto and all are on University Ave, a few blocks from each other. Whose bright idea is that? Why aren't other parts of town included in this system, like California Ave or Midtown? The whole point of a bike-share system is to encourage people to make one-way bike rides, but putting all the stations next to each other really makes that impossible.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

This service is for short term bike rentals near the tran station, not really for city wide use. Keep it for more than an hour and you pay an extra $11!!!! I would read the story, parent, it explains how it works.

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I did read the story and I know how the New York City and Paris bike share systems work. You're supposed to pick up a bike near home and ride it to work or to the train station or vice versa. You're not supposed to ride it around the block and return to the same point. Putting all the stations on the same street is a huge fail.

If there were some stations in midtown and some downtown, then people could ride them one-way between the two points. Riding from midtown to downtown (less than 3 miles) will take about 15 minutes at a very casual pace via the Bryant Street bicycle boulevard. That's a perfect use for bike share.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2013 at 7:20 pm

As the article states:
The 700-bike system extends from key train stations on the Peninsula -- San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose. "
You can't compare Paris and NYC, which has public transportation covering the whole city 24 hours a day, with palo alto. Also NYCs program only goes up to 60th street in manhattan and only certain areas of Brooklyn are covered-- so basically most of the city is not covered.
I think this program is aimed at people that came by train and have business downtown-- it is not really designed for everyday use of the general public.

Posted by Rational, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2013 at 11:18 pm

I agree with Not an Issue. For one way to work it needs to be a densely populated, densely serviced area with other public transits. In a suburban downtown (Palo Alto) makes more sense to extend the reach of the person that arrives on Caltrain to a larger area.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2013 at 4:19 am

I understand that this will help with the "last mile" problem for people who get off the train heading to work. Unfortunately, it does not help with the "first mile" problem of helping people get from home to the train or getting home at the end of the day.

Posted by Umm, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm

"Unfortunately, it does not help with the "first mile" problem of helping people get from home to the train or getting home at the end of the day."

Isn't the solution for that problem using your own bike and locking it up at the station?

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I'm not exactly sure what this is supposed to accomplish. We're not densely populated, most people already have bikes, and it's easy to take bikes on Caltrain. There is no way this will have any impact on vehicle use.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2013 at 3:03 pm

You can, in principle, take bikes on Caltrain and I have done it frequently. However, capacity is limited and those traveling the peak hours and the main direction may find themselves "bumped" by the conductors if the bike cars are full. This apparently happens frequently enough that those on a schedule would prefer not to try to take a bike on the train. Biking from home and leaving your bike at the station is OK if you don't mind having your bike stolen a couple of times a year. There are a few lockers at some stations that are more secure than the racks, but they are not managed very well and are hard to get. That is another issue, but related. Eliminating a few car parking spaces and installing secure bike lockers that can be used without a waiting list of many months would be a welcome change. For those commuting from SF, they can probably get a bus or trolley to Caltrain so the bike storage issue is less important.

Posted by Redwood City, a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Re. lack of coverage in Palo Alto neighborhoods, I thought the same thing about Redwood City's locations. The downtown locations are OK in themselves, but they are clustered within a quarter mile of each other...the two farthest apart are about a 10-15 minute walk, i.e. why would someone check-out a bike if it is quicker to walk?
The locations need to be spread out into the neighborhoods in areas that will get a lot of back-and-forth use. Actually, for suburbs, Redwood City and Palo are pretty dense

Posted by Commuta, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

This simply gives the illusion that public transportation is improving in the Bay Area, but really it is not. We have the worst, most inefficient and expensive public transportation. Take the train and pay $5, and then rent a bike and pay $3 or $7 if your trip takes longer. Paying up to $12 for a trip (and it could be more!) really sucks and it is no wonder nobody wants to stop using their cars. Caltrain, Bart and all the transportation authorities need to get a clue and really try to improve and lower the costs of transportation to the public. As long as public transportation continues to be this inefficient and expensive our Bay Area will continue with its horrible (and getting worse) traffic jams.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2013 at 9:31 am

Here we go again, Palo Alto's favorite past time - whining, complaining or just being negative.

I wish this company success and good luck in their new venture.

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

fyi - the station map is wrong. There will be more stations in Palo Alto than just University Ave. I saw 2 bike share stations installed near California Ave today. One was near the Caltrain station and the other was several blocks south near the AOL building and Frys on Park Blvd. I'm hoping that Midtown gets a station in the next iteration.

Posted by I think, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2013 at 8:43 am

I think this is a solution in search of a problem. I can't see a situation where having access to this helps anyone

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2013 at 9:27 am

The problem is sky high gas prices, a shortage of parking lots in our city's business areas, streets clogged with car traffic, and smoggy summer air. You haven't noticed????

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