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Oak Park’s fledgling bicycle-rental program through Divvy Bike Share, which could cost the village approximately $200,000 in 2017, could be on shaky ground if the program does not attract more riders.

The Oak Park village board discussed the program, which launched in Oak Park in 2016, at a board meeting Monday, Nov. 28 at village hall. 

According to a memo from village staff, the operating expense for the program in 2017 through September was $239,900, while revenue from riders was $89,200, for a net operating cost of $150,700 over nine months.

Trustee Dan Moroney said the program is estimated to provide 12,000 individual bicycle rides for the year. He noted that the program is expected to cost approximately $208,000 in 2017, which means the village is paying a little over $17 every time someone gets on a Divvy bike.

Moroney said he does not believe that the tourist base in Oak Park is large enough to support the program and added, “If someone’s proficient on a bike and they travel by bike, in most cases they’re just going to use the bike they already have.”

Trustee Andrea Button, who voted for bringing Divvy to Oak Park under a previous board, argued that the program has only been in place for about a year and a half and needs more time to grow.

“I’d like to give it a chance,” she said.

The village staff memo notes that “the program is slowly trending in the right direction and our experience is not unusual in the early years of such programs,” but Trustee Deno Andrews argued that the renewal rate for the program – meaning those who renewed their accounts from the previous year – is 67 percent.

“It’s trending downward, not upward,” he said. 

Andrews said the village should set a goal of 1,100 subscribers to the program or “I say kill it.” The program had 428 members as of October. 

“I’m not willing to let this go and hope it gets better,” he said. 

Trustees agreed, without a formal vote, to revisit the issue next year to see if efforts to renegotiate the village’s contract with Divvy and efforts to promote the program are successful.

Trustees also took no formal action on a variety of proposals that would increase the costs of downtown parking, but they did direct staff to hold on a number of potential revenue generating measures to help shore up Oak Park’s Parking Fund, which is used to maintain village-owned garages and metered parking.

Several proposals were floated in the last few weeks, including: reducing free parking from 90 minutes to 60 minutes in both the Holley Court and Lake and Forest garages; eliminate all free parking at village-owned garages; charge for parking on Sundays; charge a flat fee of $1 per hour at all village parking meters; and begin charging at all meters from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Trustees did direct village staff to eliminate Oak Park’s valet parking program downtown in 2018 and increase all meters to $1 per hour.

Members of the business community testified that increasing fees on downtown parking would hurt their businesses, which already are struggling due to the high level of construction and a forthcoming streetscaping project.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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