By Anna Lothson
They're light blue, trendy and give anyone the access to a bike without the burden of purchasing one. Divvy Bikes seem to be all the rage in Chicago.
Depending on the results of a recent grant application, Oak Park could be next on the list of places home to the bike sharing stations. The village board approved last month for staff to apply with Chicago and Evanston as a joint applicant for a national grant that was recently approved by Congress.
The act, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) provides for a grant initiative called Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) that supports non-motorized transportation. According to a Village of Oak Park report, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is using a competitive process for select projects to fund under this program.
The partnerships among the two villages and the city involve submitting a TAP grant application to fund 80 percent of the capital costs associated with expanding the City of Chicago bike sharing program known as Divvy Bikes, a regional bike sharing network.
Oak Park's local match for the grant would be $161,177 (20 percent of the costs) and would bring 12 Divvy stations to Oak Park. But according to a report, bike sharing systems are "recovering 50-120 percent of operating costs through user fees and advertising." On average, it is expected that Oak Park would recoup between 70-80 percent of the costs. The annual operating costs projected for the 12 stations are around $230,400 with estimated revenue projected at $168,800. This leaves annual operating expenses around $61,600.
According to Oak Park's report, Chicago is pleased with the program and expects to continue expanding its reach across the city. Grant decisions should be announced in January 2014, but prior to accepting any grant, village staff said it will bring a bike sharing plan and any potential contract and/or intergovernmental agreement to the village board for approval.
Divvy Bikes, for those who haven't witnessed the blue and black wheels spinning through the city, is a new system that allows users to pay either $7 for 24-hour passes (30-minute rides) or $75 for an annual membership. The daily pass may be purchased with a station kiosk with a credit or debit card. Bikes can be returned to any station in the system, which has been reported as one of the major draws.
The $7 farecard rate is for customers using the bikes for trips 30 minutes or less. This means that users can pay that $7 and use it for a 24-hour period, however, they must drop it off at a station every 30 minutes to avoid additional fees. Trips longer than 30 minutes incur overtime fees. After the initial 30 minutes, it's an additional $2 for the second half hour, $4 for the third, and $8 for every half hour after that.
Check out the Sept. 4 issue of Wednesday Journal to learn more about Oak Park's possible involvement in the Divvy program.