Summit Bike Share firm tells Summit County Council how it plans to improve amid sharp ridership decline
Amid a massive dropoff in ridership in the Summit Bike Share from previous years, the CEO of the company overseeing the e-bike program told the Summit County Council about organizational, staffing and technological changes he hopes will right the ship.
As of Friday, Summit Bike Share’s website stated there have been about 13,200 rides in 2019. Last year, that number was just over 39,000, according to a project manager.
Bewegen is the Montreal-based company that oversees the program, with New Jersey-based Corps Logistics providing on-the-ground support like hiring mechanics, maintaining the fleet and moving bikes around as necessary.
Bewegen’s CEO, Mario Carrier, told the elected officials Wednesday the firm would be taking more direct control over day-to-day operations, had installed a new program manager and had taken several steps to improve the user experience, like loaning the program a dozen bikes — worth about $45,000 — and redesigning the website and app.
Perhaps most importantly, the firm has also hired three new mechanics, Carrier reported, who will work through the winter to make sure the fleet is ready to go next spring.
That’s in contrast to last winter, when the contractor struggled to hire and retain mechanics and the fleet was allowed to sit in disrepair, Summit County regional planning director Caroline Rodriguez said in September.
Those new mechanics are under contract with Corps Logistics, and that firm also hired a new program manager who is based in Summit County. She will oversee only Summit Bike Share and work out of its warehouse on Rasmussen Road, Rodriguez said. The previous program manager oversaw multiple programs and was based in Denver.
“It’s very important to be ready from Day 1,” Carrier said. “The intention of the operation is to be ready 100% by May 1.”
But this year, that wasn’t possible, as winter lasted longer and the bikes weren’t ready to go.
In May, about 60 of 130 bikes were on the road, despite assurances to the county that the situation was in better shape, Rodriguez said in September.
On Wednesday, County Council Chair Roger Armstrong asked for regular reports on the program’s progress and expressed confidence in Rodriguez and the program.
“I will tell you I am concerned we did not hear about lack of availability until the very end of the season,” he said. “We can’t be surprised if something is failing, if something is not working, we have to figure out how to get something fixed.”
There are roughly 138 bikes on the road now, Rodriguez said, with a large influx after an order of parts came in last month. The e-bikes are tricky to repair and require specialized parts, Rodridguez has said.
The new Bewegen program manager, Marie-Helene Houle, said the firm has overhauled its maintenance system by establishing work orders and tickets, tracking common repairs and ordering parts that are more likely to break.
Houle also touted planned overhauls to the bike share’s app and website, which she said would be brought to 2019 standards. The app will feature directions and stats like calories burned and simplify the registration and unlocking process, she said.
Rodriguez said the program is still working through difficulties with connectivity, when the system might not know where a bike is docked. She added the high demand for the bikes means some of them may not be released if the batteries are below 20% charge.
Houle said Summit Bike Share is Bewegen’s most used system in the United States.
“The average (number of) rides is four rides per bike per day. In (the) bike share world, when it gets to two, it’s amazing,” she said. “This year, it’s closer to one. Our goal is to get back to where it was and make sure ridership goes up.”
The program now owns 178 bikes and more than doubled the number of its stations this year. Once a Jeremy Ranch station is in place next year, there will be 20 scattered across the Snyderville Basin and Park City.
The most common routes are between Kimball Junction and Canyons Village, Rodriguez said, a 3.5-mile trip with about 500 feet of elevation change. Newpark is the most popular drop-off and pick-up spot, with second and third being docks near transit locations: the Fresh Market bus stop on Park Avenue and the Old Town transit center. Riders have logged nearly 50,000 miles this year, according to the website.
The program has cost about $1.5 million so far, Rodriguez said, with a federal grant picking up about half that total and the county and Park City splitting the rest. Much of that has come from transportation tax revenue, she added, and the program has private sponsors.
Bewegen retains all of the revenue from the program and in turn pays to maintain and operate it.
Rodriguez said she expects the program to start to be disassembled for the winter the first week of November. Most stations will be removed from Park City to make room for snow storage, she said, but many in the Basin will remain and simply have the bikes removed.
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