A new mobility program in the community has “great potential,” according to the Town of Normal Mayor. Bike Share 309, operated by Zagster, launched on Monday. Zagster provides bike share services to small and medium sized populations across the nation.
“It’s another addition to our palette of mobility in our community in how people can move around the community,” said Town Mayor Chris Koos. “These programs have worked very well in cities all over the United States and we’re confident it’s going to work well here.”
The bike sharing program is starting with nine stations, 45 bicycles, and two adult tricycles. Racks are located near and on the Illinois State University campus, Uptown Normal, Connie Link Amphitheatre on the Constitution Trail, at Advocate BroMenn – a corporate sponsor, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Downtown Bloomington.
“We did a lot of looking around within the last couple of years to figure out how we could bring a bike share program to our community,” said Town of Normal Planner Mercy Davision. “Frankly, the big ones you see in large cities are well beyond what we could afford, partly because the technology is so high end and built into the docking stations. Zagster has come up with a system that’s very affordable for us.”
The Town is contracting with Zagster for the “turn-key system.” Bike Share 309 is costing the Town $87,000. The costs are being offset with $10,000 from sponsor Advocate Bromenn and as much as $15,000 in revenue. Users pay $3 per hour or get unlimited one-hour rides for a $40 dollar annual membership. Trips are booked using a smart phone app or with text messaging. Zagster Customer Service Manager Karl Alexander expects more than 100 annual members in the first year and more than 1000 trips.
“Bike sharing isn’t just for the big cities,” said Karl Alexander. “We want to strive to make biking a transit option that people consider each and every time they leave their house, especially in the half-mile to two-mile radius. It’s also great for preventative health and wellness. It’s a great option for recreation especially with the Constitution Trail.”
The bike share program could help with air quality or traffic congestion, but Davison said neither are a huge problem in Bloomington-Normal. The town, she said, is excited about presenting people with more transportation options.
“We know people are choosing to get themselves around in different ways,” said Davison.
The Town funded system will include stations on the ISU and IWU campuses, as well as in Downtown Bloomington near the Route 66 Vistor Center. Davison said the town was moving quickly to get the system up and running and did not ask the City of Bloomington to participate financially.
“We do want the system to be successful though, so we knew that we needed a couple of stations that wouldn’t necessarily be in Normal. And so the two places we’re putting them are institutions we partner with anyway: Illinois Wesleyan and the Route 66 Visitor Center,” said Davison.
As the system becomes successful, according to Davison, more stations might be wanted or needed in Bloomington. Davison also said she hopes to bring stations to lower income and minority neighborhoods.
“The reality is that we could only start so big with so many stations. The nine stations we have are fairly linear in that the parallel the trail and main street. And it’s really sort of in the core of the community where we think it will be the most successful the most quickly,” said Davison. “The hope is once we see how it works, get people on board, people understand it, then we can look at the economics of expanding the program.”
Davison said the town worked with Zagster to help determine the size of the Bloomington-Normal system. It was a balancing act between how much the Town could afford and making the sure the Town didn’t invest too little, limiting the success of the system because it would have been too small, according to Davison.
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