Our view: Bike-share program worth public dollars
A Boston-based company seeks an allocation from the city of Grand Forks to start a bike-share system in the city. A similar request will be made of the City Council in East Grand Forks – probably in the next few weeks.
Overall, the company – called Zagster – seeks $32,000 from Grand Forks in the next three years. The Grand Forks council gave preliminary approval to the initial “sponsorship” for the $12,000 in start-up costs this year.
Overall, Zagster figures the entire project will cost between $110,000 and $135,000 annually. The company will find the rest of the necessary dollars on its own, likely through other sponsorships.
Is it worth it for the city to make this investment?
As so much work continues to go into downtown Grand Forks, we believe it is.
Here’s how it would work: Those who want to use one of the bikes will need to download a cellphone app and use a credit card to pay for the bike rental. Users then will be charged a rate – $1 per 15 minutes. Users will have the option of buying passes; for instance, a $10 pass might cover a month of unlimited 30-minute trips and $60 might cover a year’s worth of trips. Zagster proposes a discounted rate for students.
There would be 12 to 15 bike stations in both East Grand Forks and Grand Forks, holding a total of about 70 bikes.
The whole thing could be up and running by July.
It’s not a new proposal. The Grand Forks City Council, for instance, has discussed various bike-share ideas and policies, but nothing has come of it. Now, council members are saying the city should leave the idea to a private enterprise.
That’s the best way forward.
Bike-sharing is worth exploring because downtown will, conceivably, be a busier place in the coming years as development continues and apartments spring up. Meanwhile, the city constantly must be on the lookout for ideas to better connect downtown to the UND campus.
A bike-sharing program is a great way to do that.
Yet if the city took on all expenses, it would be costly and come with risk, since there could be theft or damage to bikes and docking stations. Too, the city would be responsible for holding accountable those who misuse the equipment. That would come with myriad headaches.
Yes, it’s best to leave this to a private enterprise that is willing to assume those risks and responsibilities. And the price is not prohibitive.
Grand Forks City Council President Dana Sande said he sees the program as economic development. That’s true. Yet also is a simple and easy quality-of-life enhancement that adds a bit of luster to downtown.
It also will better connect the university and the city’s main business district.
We hope the Grand Forks City Council votes to officially approve the sponsorship, and we encourage East Grand Forks to do the same.