Los Angeles County Metro has launched a new discount program to encourage employers to offer bike-share passes to their employees. The short-term bike rental system, intended to bridge small gaps between destinations or transit stops, has lagged behind similar big city systems in ridership numbers.
Metro's Bike Share for Business program will allow companies to buy discounted monthly memberships for employees to use the bikes, which are currently available in downtown L.A. and will expand to Pasadena this summer.
There are various payment options, with the membership cost paid either completely by the employer or shared by participating employees. The rate for the membership is discounted by 40 percent under the program.
Participating employees can then check out a bike for free for short trips, or pay $1.75 for trips longer than 30 minutes. Metro says the program is similar to transit subsidies already offered by many companies and should help reduce congestion and parking demand around busy employment centers, like downtown.
But the program could also provide a needed boost for bike-share ridership. The 800 bikes in L.A.’s system are used an average of once per day, according to Metro. That pales compared to the country's most successful system in New York City, which gets more than eight rides per bike per day.
L.A. Metro’s goal is to double its ridership rate by the end of the pilot period next year. That would bring it in line with what Washington D.C.’s bike-share system sees in the dead of winter.
L.A. is a much different urban environment than those cities, with a greater reliance on cars and streets designed for those vehicles, not bikes.
While downtown L.A. is among the more bikeable neighborhoods in the city, according to Redfin's Bike Score, it currently has only one half-mile-long protected bike lane. Research shows protected bike lanes can attract more than double the number of cyclists and are especially important in attracting more casual, inexperienced riders, such as those targeted by bike-share.
L.A. Metro's bike-share system is also at a cost disadvantage compared to transit options. The walk-up fare for the bikes (without monthly or annual membership, such as that offered in the business program) is double the price of a standard Metro ticket and seven times more expensive than the local commuter DASH bus, which runs short routes through downtown.