A Different Kind of Bike Share Story: Closing Down

We've posted stories here about many bike share programs opening up, or being proposed, throughout the U.S. (as well as internationally). Sadly, not all programs succeed or continue, particularly when they are pilots, as is the case in Hoboken, N.J..

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 3, 2013, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

SoBi Bike Share

Sam Churchill / flickr

With the six-month trial period almost completed, "Hoboken's inaugural bicycle-sharing program is taking a break", writes Kathryn Brenzel. "The pilot, which launched in June, ends Nov. 15, and it's future remains murky", she writes. Brenzel notes in an email that "(t)he program was announced mid- May and launched June 1. City officials factored in the program's announcement into the trial, which they've pegged as a 6-month stint".

It is a very small program - only 25 bikes that "saw just over 3,000 rides in the last six months, said Justin Wiley, Social Bicycles' director of business development", whose company provided the GPS-equipped bikes. The program goes by the name SoBi, and judging by their website, they appear eager to expand to other locations. The program was also described in WNYC's New Tech City on August 13:

Social Bicycles — a startup based in Manhattan — is partnering with Hoboken on a 25-bike pilot program this summer and fall. Unlike Citibikes, Social Bikes are 'smart': All of the communications technology is housed on-board in a solar-powered box above the back wheel. 

The program was also described in much greater detail by Planetizen blogger Ian Sachs here on May 16.

The main reason for the pilot's ending appears to be be lack of funds to sustain it, drawing attention to the critical need for bike share programs to balance their books with user fees, private donations, foundation grants, and public subsidies.

The next step for the city, said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, is to secure sponsors and explore program options for implementing a city-wide system.

Based on analysis of the data, Wiley stated, "It's pretty obvious that people in Hoboken want bike share." 

The highest traffic during the week occurred during prime commuting hours, while the weekends showed heavy activity along the waterfront.

User costs for SoBi were listed by Charles Hack of The Jersey Journal on June 3.

Program membership is $15 per month or $75 for the full season through November 15, 2013. Membership includes one free hour of pedaling per day. Additional hours will cost $10 per hour.

While the Hoboken's program may be ending, the county in which it is located, Hudson, home to 12 municipalities, is exploring operating its own program as a grant has been secured for a feasibility study.

Hudson County is currently mulling whether to introduce its own program. The county's planning division launched a feasibility study Oct. 18, through a $95,000 grant from Together North Jersey, an initiative formed through the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, a federal planning organization [regional MPO].

Thursday, October 31, 2013 in NJ.com

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