The Wall Street Journal is reporting about the upcoming NYC bike-share program. The startup cost is $47.5 million, which will pay for 10,000 bikes at 600 stations around the city. Pretty impressive! Even more impressive - the taxpayers aren't on the hook! It's being sponsored by Citibank and MasterCard. (The bikes are rolling advertisements - they are called citibikes.)
Not only does the program have a sponsor; Mayor Bloomberg is predicting it might actually pay for itself and generate a profit! Can you imagine?!? (Use of the bikes does NOT come cheap; the Boise Weekly says the bikes will cost $14/hour, or $131 for six hours. OUCH! You could probably buy a decent bike for less than $131, if you looked on the Craigslist.) I guess they don't want po' folk ridin' their fancy Citibikes! (You can use a bike for a half-hour for free, once you're registered.)
Boise is wanting to introduce a similar bike-sharing program; I wrote about it on the Boise Guardian website. It provoked a lively debate, mostly about who foots the bill and who will benefit. Unlike NYC's plan, Boise's will be sponsored by the taxpayers (via a federal grant). And it's less ambitious - 140 bikes, stationed around downtown and extending out to BSU and the North End.
I'm a little skeptical. I'm not sure we have the population base to make it viable. And as a fiscal conservative, I'm ALWAYS skeptical about spending our grandkids' money for more government. (But as Gary Richardson points out in a couple of his comments, we hardly bat an eye when the government spends millions to widen or extend pavement, and that money comes out of the same pockets.)
I wish the City of Boise could find some benevolent sponsors who would pony up for the startup costs. If they can somehow keep the bikes from falling victim to vandals or thieves, it could conceivably pay for its own operating costs, once the check has been written to set it up.