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City Sweetens Membership to Santa Monica's Bike Share Program

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

August 7, 2015 -- A week before test-running its $10 million bike sharing system, Santa Monica is enticing residents to buy $99 Breeze founding memberships with free rides, gift packets and other perks.

When the system is fully launched in early November, riders will be able to pick up a Breeze bike at any of 75 kiosks around the City --  and a few in Venice -- and drop it off at another kiosk anywhere in the City, for a base rate fee of $1 per every 10 minutes, or $6 per hour.

Before then, however, the first 100 Breeze founding members will get a chance to participate in the system's test run next Thursday, said Elizabeth Bar-El, a senior planner with the City's Strategic and Transportation Planning Division.

Founding members also get 60 free minutes a day of bike sharing for a full year, starting on the launch date, an invitation to the City's “exclusive” launch party for the system, a founding member gift packet, a founding membership card, “and bragging rights amongst your friends,” Bar-El said.

Officials will test out seven of the bike share's 75 stations, or “hubs” – one hub will be installed at each of the three planned Expo Light Rail stations in Santa Monica – for a six-week period, with the full 500-bike transit system coming on board for public use in November, she said.

“It will be fun,” said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown.

“In these dog days of summer, we all long for a Breeze, and this week Santa Monica has one for you,” McKeown said. “Santa Monica’s new bike share system will make it easy to hop a bike for a quick one-way trip on the spur of the moment, and then grab another bike whenever you’re ready.

“Breeze will be a big part of our overall sustainability strategy,” the mayor added. “It will be fun, and we expect it will be a popular success with Santa Monicans and visitors alike.”

Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share will be the first major bike share program to operate in Los Angeles County, giving residents and visitors “a new, affordable and fun way to Breeze around town and connect to transit,” said Bar-El.

Designed to work in tandem with Phase II of the Los Angeles County Metro Transit Authority's Expo Light Rail Line connecting Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles -- and scheduled to open early next year -- Breeze riders will be able to hop off the train and hop on a bike from a hub and peddle to their destinations, officials have said.

More than two years in the making, Breeze's launch culminates a complicated process “of acquiring funding, studying equipment alternatives, and learning from other cities about bike share best practices,” said Bar-El.

The program also grew considerably since its conception.

When the City's first bike-share program was proposed in early 2012, planners envisioned 250 bikes at 25 hubs.  That year the program got a boost from a $2.6 million Metropolitan Transit Authority grant, and it has received funding from various other sources since, City officials said.

Originally, the program was supposed to be mostly self-supporting, with much of the costs made up through the sale of ads on bikes and bike hubs.

But that potential revenue source was reduced in February, when Council members voted that ads be allowed only on the bicycles’ front baskets and along the triangular frames next to the back wheels.

To help offset more than 80 percent of the system's maintenance and other operating costs, Council members voted in June to add the user fees, which will raise about $650,000 a year. (“Santa Monica OKs New Bike Share Fee,” June 26, 2015)

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