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Santa Monica Bike Share Program Draws Riders, Still in Red
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

Note: A previous version of this article stated that Breeze had 1,300 regular subscribers. It has 1,900.

July 29, 2016 – After a little more than eight months in business, Santa Monica’s $10 million bike-share program is drawing riders but is still an estimated $54,000 a month in the red.

That is what City officials said in an overview Tuesday of "Breeze," the City bike-share program fully launched in Santa Monica (and four stations in Venice) in November.

The first of its kind in Southern California, Breeze’s bright-green “smart” bikes have attracted almost 30,000 renters since the official debut last fall. They journeyed a total of 382,506 miles to date, said Kyle Kozar, the program’s coordinator.

“People love it,” Kozar told the City Council. “They ride a lot.”

Most of Santa Monica’s Breeze riders pay as they go, although almost 1,900 have regular subscription plans, he said.

Downtown Santa Monica, which is notorious for car-clogged streets during peak hours, is responsible for about 40 percent of total Breeze trips. It is also home to 16 of the program’s hubs, he said.

Tracking of the system’s 500 bicycles shows they are used citywide, although unanticipated demand has resulted in plans for five new stations in the Pico District and five more in Venice, Kozar said.

Almost half of the riders come from outside the region, with another 34 percent from elsewhere in Los Angeles County. The remainder are Santa Monica residents and they tend to ride much more than other renters.

City riders average 11 miles per rental, compared to the 3.2-mile per trip averaged overall, he said.

Although there are fewer City riders than those from outside the city, “they ride more than anyone,” he said.

Still, the program isn’t yet breaking even financially, Kozar said. Being financially “self-sustaining” is the eventual goal, although no anticipated date for that was discussed at the presentation.

Breeze’s huge start-up costs were largely funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Metro and Caltrans, plus an $675,000 sponsorship for five years from Hulu, the Santa Monica-based internet entertainment service.

But Kozar said the program’s $1.3 million operating costs, minus outside funding, leave it with a shortfall of about $54,000 monthly.

Council Member Sue Himmelrich, who said her family members use Breeze frequently, asked if the City had specific methods for overcoming the monthly deficit.

No detailed fiscal plans for the future were discussed, though.

“We will need subsidies,” Kozar said.

It also remained unclear whether the City could rely on the same government funds to help in the future.

Breeze marks the first phase of a regional bike share effort being developed in coordination with Metro and multiple jurisdictions, including significant participation by the Westside Cities Council of Governments.

Its early use was much more limited, and included a test period before the real roll out. Last December, 2,218 people had rented bikes, making 8,760 and logging 17,887 miles, officials reported then.

For Santa Monica, Breeze is a major component in a long-term goal to curb congestion and cut greenhouse gas emissions by luring car-centric drivers into using buses, car shares or Breeze -- especially to connect to and from the new Expo Light Rail Line.

Under a new rate restructuring, the pay-as-you-go price for a Breeze bike increases by a dollar to $7 an hour on August 1. The hike matches rates planned for bike share systems being established in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, UCLA and Long Beach, officials said ("Santa Monica Bike Share Program to Offer Restructured Rates," July 12, 2016).

Two annual plans at $119 for 30 minutes and $149 for 60 minutes will turn into a $99-a-year plan for 90 minutes of daily ride time. Two monthly plans are becoming a $25-per-month plan that offers 90 minutes of daily ride time.

The student plan will offer 90 minutes of daily ride time for $7 a month paid monthly, instead of twice a year.


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