RED BANK — For a small community like this, bicycles offer a good way to get around.
At a recent meeting of the governing body, Nora Shepard of the transportation association Meadowlink approached the B seeking the government body’s support for a plan to establish a pilot program in the borough that would allow residents and visitors to share bikes in the community.
“It seems like a natural fit,” she said at the February meeting.
Meadowlink is a not-for-profit transportation management association, one of eight in the state, which works to provide transportation services, such as shuttles, car- and vanpools, and other shared services, Shepard explained. She is a regional manager for the organization.
Meadowlink selected Red Bank because, as an urbanized and cultural hub for the region, it has significant pedestrian traffic. And, she noted, there is community interest. Local officials and area residents have been working on a program to make the community more pedestrian-friendly and have encouraged kids to walk and ride bikes to area schools.
“Red Bank is trying to go forward with a more transit oriented housing,” Shepard explained recently.
Borough officials have supported various development projects aimed at creating a transit friendly environment, especially those intended for the area around the NJ Transit commuter rail station, at the western end of Monmouth Street. One idea proposed would be a car-sharing program at that location.
And, Shepard said, the proposed bike sharing would likely work in much the same way, with customers paying to use a bike via a credit or smart-card and then returning it to that or another bike-sharing location in town.
Meadowlink has applied for a grant administered by the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and NJ Transit. If awarded the three-year grant, Meadowlink would establish the pilot program, Shepard said. The grant, however, would be a 75-25 percent split and Meadowlink would have to look for other funding sources for the remaining 25 percent.
“The intent is,” she said, “within that three-year period of time you can get the program off the ground and figure out a way to make it financially sustainable.”
“These kind of systems are all around Europe,” and have been established in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere around the country, Shepard said. And Meadowlink is in the process of establishing one for Rutgers University, on its New Brunswick campus, she added.
Her organization hasn’t formulated a complete plan for Red Bank, but Shepard said it would likely be modeled on the one in Washington.
That program is a point-to-point sharing project, where a customer picks up a bike at one of the 123 locations in D.C. and Arlington County, Virginia, said Josh Moskowitz, program director for the bike share program run by the Washington Department of Transportation.
The program has, “been able to fulfill a lot of the goals that we originally set out to accomplish,” for the D.C. area, such as reducing traffic congestion and “adding an environmentally friendly and healthy transportation option,” Moskowitz said.
Customers use their credit or debit cards, which are tied to annual or 24-hour memberships, with customers charged a user fee, if they have the bikes for longer than 30 minutes. Moskowitz said 99 percent of trips are less than 30 minutes, sparing the customers the user fees.
Annual memberships are $75 and $7 for a 24-hour one.
Washington DOT has been operating the program since Sept. 20, 2010 and now has approximately 18,000 annual members. In the last year there was about 105,000 24-hour members. “Those were mainly tourists and visitors,” he said.
The system has 1,120 bikes and “Day in and day out we have more than 1,000 bikes on the street,” he said, describing them as sturdy three-speed models with easily adjusted seats, bells and front and rear lights, intended for urban use.
“It really is a transit system,” with the average distance about 1.17 miles, and the peak use time from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. “So, a lot of people use it as a way to commute to and from work,” Moskowitz said.
D.C.’s system is the largest in the nation and Miami Beach, Boston, San Antonio, Texas, and Denver have all begun their own version of it, he explained.
“You really want to place them in an areas where you have a good mix of commercial and residential density,” Moskowitz advised.
“We thought Red Bank was a logical choice,” Shepard said. And if it works here, “We think this is a model that a lot of shore towns could use.”
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