Grid Bikes Shorten the Last Mile

Innovative program is making downtown Phoenix travel more fun, healthier and convenient

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Grid Bikes

When it comes to public transportation, many cities grapple with the problem of “the last mile,” the distance between a mass transit station and riders' final destinations. Cities like Emeryville, Calif., have instituted commuter trolleys to get people from commuter train stops to work. But thanks to Grid Bike Share, in Phoenix, you can find a conveniently located bicycle and unlock it with your smartphone, then whiz off to the office while making yourself, and the planet, a little healthier.

Forget Traffic and Parking

“Often times, there is a gap between the individual destination and a mode of public transportation, and if their walking distance is more than half a mile, people will find another alternative,” says John Romero, COO of Grid Bike Share. “We integrate bike sharing with public transportation, so people have an easy five-minute walk. This cuts down on traffic and parking, which is expensive and difficult in the middle of a city.”

In Phoenix, Grid Bike Share put 200 state-of-the-art bicycles on the streets in late 2014, and has been rapidly expanding that number to reach 400 to 500 bikes by early 2015. The company plans to expand into Tempe and Mesa in 2015, and will be in Santa Monica, Calif., and possibly Atlanta in the near future.

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Smart Bikes

In Phoenix, bikes can be picked up or dropped off at more than 30 (eventually 50) stations around the city, or even locked and left at a non-Grid-Bike location. The bikes themselves, developed by Social Bicycles, are equipped with a GPS solar panel and a built-in lock. Using a computer or a smartphone app, riders can reserve a bike, lock and unlock it, and even put it on hold for stops along their journey.

The technology lets riders check the distance they traveled and the calories burned. The system lets them report any trouble, and allows the company to keep track of a bike’s location at all times.

Costs to rent vary from a $5 hourly rate to economical monthly ($30), student annual ($59) and annual ($79) yearly subscriptions, which give riders 60 minutes of rental time per day. Already more than 1,000 members are in Grid Bike Share’s Phoenix system, and Romero says the company’s target is 10 riders per bike.

Brian Cassidy, president of CCBG Architects, welcomed the opportunity to host a bike station in front of his offices in the city’s Warehouse District.

“I think it’s a great program, and we wanted to help it succeed in Phoenix,” says Cassidy, who has used Grid Bikes many times and finds them especially convenient for short trips downtown. ”We’re big advocates for redeveloping downtown Phoenix and making it more livable and walkable, and this is a big step.” 

A city initiative, the program’s revenue streams come from user fees, sponsorships that can include hosting a bike hub, naming rights and more, and advertising, which can be placed at hubs and on the bikes themselves.

“We have had to clarify to some people that this is not publicly funded,” Romero says. “But everyone participating in the system loves it. It’s one of those elements of public transportation, an amenity, that puts the city into the category of a mature metropolis. It makes us a destination.” 

It’s one of those elements of public transportation, an amenity, that puts the city into the category of a mature metropolis. It makes us a destination.”

John Romero

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996. She enjoys travel, food, jazz, Titans football, he... more

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Wed, 02/28/2018 - 21:29