History and Current Status
In 2008, the City of Minneapolis partnered and supported Nice Ride Minnesota’s (NRMN) development as the first non-profit business plan for modern public bike sharing in North America. The key goals included establishing and piloting public bike sharing as a convenient and reliable form of transportation, increasing bicycle mode share, and increasing cultural acceptance of active transportation. The business plan included a combination of public and title-sponsor funding for the capital costs and used a combination of station-sponsorship and sales revenue to cover operating costs. The City has facilitated approximately $3 million in federal funding and contributed $360,000 in city funds. In addition, NRMN engaged Blue Cross Blue Shield as the bike share title sponsor who has contributed significantly to the bike share program. The 2008 Business Plan was successful. NRMN has achieved these goals, expanded using funds from multiple public sources, and become a model for over 50 similar nonprofits in other cities.
Based on NRMN’s original 2008 business plan, the City applied for FHWA’s Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program federal funding to begin this new pilot for bike sharing. In April 2010, the City of Minneapolis entered into separate grant funded agreements with Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and NRMN that resulted in federal Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program and local funding sources to be used to start a docked, or physical station-based bike share program.
The current City and NRMN Agreement C-27786 includes ten articles that address:
- Definitions and descriptions of the Bike Share Program,
- City support for the Program,
- Responsibilities and obligations of NRMN; that includes a business plan
- Responsibilities and obligations of the City,
- Provisions and requirements of the federal grant,
- Defaults and Remedies,
- General Conditions and Miscellaneous; that includes NRMN’s ability to subcontract with City approval, and
- Term and Termination; that includes the ten year term.
Agreement C-27786 between the City and NRMN was further amended twice for subsequent grant funding, geographic area and disbursement procedures. NRMN was started in 2010 and the Agreement term ends on August 1, 2021.
NRMN has grown the system from 65 stations and 700 bikes to 200 stations and 1,850 bikes. NRMN has worked with many partners in our region, including the Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service, MnDOT, Metro Transit, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, University of Minnesota, and the City of Saint Paul. The NRMN program in the Twin Cities was eventually expanded beyond Minneapolis, and now includes Saint Paul. Currently, NRMN has begun its docked station deployment for 2018.
Change in bike share industry from docked to dockless
NRMN has been a leader in the bike share industry, recognized new changes were forthcoming, and began local stakeholder discussions in early 2017. Like other technology related businesses, the bike-sharing industry is experiencing a period of rapid change. The industry is rapidly shifting away from docked, or physical station-based model, to a “dockless” bike sharing. Over $3 billion in private capital has funded and deployed over 20 million “dockless” bikes worldwide in the last 18 months at rental rates substantially lower than station-based systems. While this change has benefits that can result in better bicycle transportation and access, this change is also not without its challenges. Some of the challenges with this rapid change have been multiple vendors introducing 10,000 plus dockless bicycles in a few months, public safety issues regarding bicycles improperly parked and lying on their sides, poor bicycle quality, impacts to pedestrian flows, and implications for people with disabilities. These challenges run counter to the City’s obligation to promote public health, safety and welfare, moreover, they impact the City’s goals for active transportation. The City desires to effectively capture the benefits of a sustainable dockless bike share system while addressing these challenges directly.
NRMN Proposal for the Bike Share System with a continued pilot focus
The NRM Board of Directors has adopted the following conclusions and corresponding actions:
- The current business model NRMN has relied on since 2008 is outdated and no longer sustainable and a new updated business model is needed.
- NRMN should seize the opportunity to reach many more people with many more bikes more conveniently and at lower prices by pursuing a dockless strategy.
- Current problems with service/equipment quality level and right-of-way obstruction are solvable with collaboration between cities and entrepreneurs.
- A new and updated NRMN bike share business plan is being finalized. Identified key strategies for the next five years are:
- Contract for transparency and innovation
- Using virtual station technology to create orderly, designated dockless bike parking areas
- Assuring availability of bikes throughout the service area
- Equitable service
- Robust data sharing
- Continue to prioritize quality and reliability over rapid growth
- Continue to collaborate with public sector partners seeking active transportation solutions
- NRMN has issued Request for Proposals that would help them transition from docked to dockless stations and has selected a preferred vendor. The current contract allows for subcontracting subject to City approval.
The NRMN proposal for the updated bike share system including docked and dockless elements is summarized below:
- Operation of the existing docked bikes and stations in 2018 at per-trip prices substantially lower than now offered.
- Introduction of a dockless bike pilot by adding:
- 1,500 in 2018
- 1,500 additional bikes in 2019
- 1,500 additional bikes in 2020 if usage targets are met
- 1,500 additional bikes in 2021 if usage targets are met
- A dockless bike pilot that will experiment, test, and evaluate the results of collaboration with right of way owners, focusing on eliminating challenges with low-quality bikes and bikes improperly parked (impeding sidewalks, delivery zones, etc) currently seen in other cities.
- After establishment of a sustainable dockless system, a phased replacement of the existing grant-funded bikes and docked stations.
- Commitment to implement an updated business plan that addresses four components of Service/Station/Fleet, Equity, Data, and Asset Transition.
- Commitment to service levels intended to assure dockless bike sharing will be implemented with attention to quality and reliability at levels similar to successful dock-based systems, including adequate staffing levels.
- The Plan maximizes the beneficial reuse of existing assets to their fullest extent. One idea is the conversion of existing kiosk stations to electric-bike charging stations and other station-based services.
- All of NRM’s Twin Cities employees (except its Executive Director) will be offered living wage employment by their third party subcontractor.
- No additional public cost than the current docked bike share system.
Actions and Agreements
To ensure bike share continues to be meaningful in our community, we must learn, address, and thrive on the benefits and the challenges of a new dockless bike sharing model. As such, City and NRMN staffs have engaged in numerous meetings and conversations to chart a path forward for a Minneapolis bike share program. A dockless bike share pilot will inform decisions for future actions by the City. As such and with input from the City Attorney’s Office, Public Works has determined a two pronged approach to enable the pilot:
- Update Ordinances -- New ordinances have been developed to regulate all forms of bike sharing, and a separate City action is pending, 2018-00314 - Regulation of bicycle sharing ordinance.
- Contract amendment – The City’s existing agreement with NRMN must be amended to allow NRMN to implement a dockless bike sharing pilot. The key terms included in the contract amendment follow below.
Additional terms have been identified and drafted as Amendment #3 to Grant Funded Agreement (C-27786) between the City and NRMN. The primary Agreement changes are:
- Incorporates a License Agreement allowing NRMN to operate dockless bike sharing pilot program on city controlled right of way.
- Keeps ultimate discretion and control of right of way with the City.
- Provides definitions for Bike Share System, Dockless Bike Sharing and Dockless Facilities.
- Provides that NRMN will continue to manage and provide the sole bicycle share system within the City, including both docked and dockless operations.
- Makes NRMN the City’s sole licensee to pilot and operate a Bike Share System for the remainder of the term to August 1, 2021.
- Allows NRMN to subcontract its dockless bicycle sharing operations to a third party, while still maintaining ultimate responsibility for compliance with all license agreement terms.
- Allows NRMN to eventually phase out its current docked bicycle sharing operations in a manner that is consistent with City objectives and public purposes..
- Requires NRMN to submit an updated business plan, including four key components: Service/Station/Fleet, Equity, Data and Asset Transition; all of which are subject to approval by the Public Works Director.
- Requires NRMN to pay $5 per dockless bicycle annually to offset City administrative costs.
- Allows the Public Works Director to lower and/or waive any on-street parking space cost or fee for dockless bike share stations.
- Reserves the City’s right to limit or reduce the number of bicycles allowed in the system, if needed, based on bicycle parking behavior.
- Requires dockless bicycles to be self-locking, and parked within defined virtual stations when not in use.
- Defines virtual stations as GPS geo-fenced areas designated on an app and/or website identifying locations. The permitted virtual stations will be field identified by some combination of signage, striping, or other traffic control devices.
- Grants the City the authority to cite or impound NRMN bicycles based on improper parking.
- Requires NRMN to maintain responsibility for:
- submitting and obtaining all proper permits and approvals by City staff
- all costs of permitting, notices
- all cost of deploying and maintaining virtual stations
- informing adjacent property owners of virtual station installation
- all bicycle relocation and maintenance activities, including handling requests for relocation or unsafe bicycles, and providing prompt service.
- all costs associated with enforcement and impoundment of bikes covered by the agreement
- providing anonymized data to the City on a quarterly basis or as requested, including but not limited to, ride, demographic and survey data
- providing the City with real time data access consistent with past practices under the Grant Agreement
- adherence and compliance with all federal grants and their provisions.
16. City-standard general terms and conditions for professional services will apply, and all previous Agreement provisions are reconfirmed.
No fiscal impact is anticipated. Approximate $15,000 annual revenue will offset a similar City expense for bike share program costs.