Summit County’s e-bike program continues to grow
Warming weather and melting snow have become synonymous with one increasingly popular sight in Summit County: people cruising along some of the most popular trails on electric bikes.
Summit County officials are preparing for the electric bike program to enter its third season of operation. The bikes will be available beginning May 3.
More than 10 new docking stations and 60 bikes are being added to the fleet this summer. There will be 20 stations and approximately 190 bikes in service throughout the Snyderville Basin and Park City. Construction of the stations will begin in May and is expected to be complete sometime around July 4.
Bewegen Technologies, Inc., a Canadian bike-share operator, and Corps Logistics, a New Jersey-based company, will continue to monitor the system through a contract with the county.
Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County’s regional transportation planning director, said the county has been waiting for the additional stations and bikes since around the program’s inception. She said the bikes and stations are being funded through a grant awarded by the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The TIGER program supports projects that encourage residents to abandon their cars, such as bike-sharing programs.
The bike-share program has been popular among residents and tourists since it was first introduced in 2017 as an alternative form of transportation, intended to get people out of their vehicles and reduce traffic congestion. Users rent electric bicycles and return them to station kiosks throughout the county.
Rodriguez said the program soared in popularity its first year and ridership nearly doubled last year. She expects the same level of interest now that more stations are being added.
“I think people who maybe used it once or twice last year will use it more this year because they will be available in more locations,” she said.
Some of the new kiosks will be located in areas that are not currently served by a fixed transit route, such as at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence in Quinn’s Junction and near the Summit County Justice Center in Silver Summit. Other locations will include the new Ecker Hill remote parking lot, Snyderville Basin Recreation District Fieldhouse, Willow Creek Park, City Park and Deer Valley Resort.
Additional kinks are being worked out with the software system that is used for the electric bike program. It will be upgraded before the bikes are rolled out for the season, Rodriguez said. She said the upgrades are the result of the contractor localizing the operations. Additional operations and maintenance staff will also debut this summer.
“It’s not that they weren’t responsive before,” she said. “But, now they will be able to respond more quickly and on the fly. Users will see that in the revamped app.”
Rodriguez said the pass will also be simplified. Users will still be charged $2 for the first 45 minutes, with the option of purchasing an annual pass for $90 still available. But, instead of being charged a flat fee of an additional $2 per 30 minutes of use, users will be charged 15 cents a minute over the allotted time.
The changes to the software and passes were based on feedback and data the county received after the program’s first two seasons in operation. Rodriguez said officials have learned a significant amount about users habits since 2017, as well as what it takes to run the program on the county’s end. She added, “It’s a lot more staff time than we anticipated.”
“We still have a very distinct operating environment,” she said. “Residents and visitors demand a high level of service and in order to serve them appropriately it took a lot of staff time to make sure we are keeping people safe and the bikes are in working order.”
Rodriguez admitted officials were a little overwhelmed when the bikes were first rolled out because of the unexpected popularity of the program. But, she said adjustments have been made at the county level and with the contractor to ensure a high level of service is being provided.
Officials say the system will continue to grow as long as ridership stays steady. Rodriguez said areas where more growth is anticipated, like at the Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort, will be prime locations for more stations. Canyons Village at Park City Mountain resort is only 25 percent built out.
But, not everyone is in favor of the transportation option. Residents in areas like Newpark have complained the bikes are not safe on pedestrian trails and are often misused by riders younger than the allowed age of 18. Rodriguez said the county will continue to monitor the system and ramp up restrictions to prevent riders from misusing the bikes.
“It always is a balancing act,” she said. “What we can do is be proactive in planning our facilities so they can accommodate electric bikes, walkers and other people using the trails. We do the best we can with what we have on the ground and the proposed facilities going in. We can’t flat out ignore emerging technology. The best we can do is try address it.”
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