At the center of the big-city bike share boom is one company: Alta Bicycle Share. Over the last few years, Alta has had its sights on the United States’ big guns and, for the most part, has let other bike share operators grapple for control of smaller markets. In the last two years, the company has won bids to operate programs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle among others. And, as it hardly has time to catch its breath after last week’s launch in New York, it has to move resources over to Chicago where it will launch its Divvy program on June 14th. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, a little over a month later, Alta is expected to launch a program in San Francisco.
Chicago’s program, Divvy, continues the city’s trend to become more bike-friendly under the leadership of Chicago DOT commissioner Gabe Klein who formerly helped launched Capital Bikeshare in DC. Funded primarily through federal grants, the program is expected to launch with 75 stations and around 750 bikes and grow to 300 stations and 3,000 bikes by August. From there, it is expected to add about 100 more stations over the next year, bringing the total to 400 stations. Founding Divvy memberships can be purchased now by going to their website and the program’s planned station locations can be viewed here.
In August, San Francisco’s first bike share bikes are expected to hit the streets. The city, widely known for its hilly terrain but extensive bike infrastructure and culture, is expecting to have a comparable launch to Chicago with 75 stations and 750 bikes. The program, owned by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), is expected to spread into other nearby municipalities and cover a very wide area once it is fully built out. And say what you want about the preliminary “celeste” color choice for San Francisco’s soon-to-be bike share bikes, but the large number of tourists and the relatively safe cycling conditions will likely spell good fortune for the program.
But with all these programs and limited resources, can Alta successfully launch programs in all these cities? The answer will depend primarily on three things. First, will they be able to hire quality, ambitious, and smart staff who are capable of learning a lot very quickly? Second, will they get the kinks out of their new software that seem to be creating some issues in New York? And, lastly, with Canadian-based PBSC’s international arm up for sale, will the change in ownership affect Alta’s primary equipment supply chain or–worse–its contracts?
Much remains to be determined with Alta Bicycle Share’s launch and operations of its upcoming programs, especially in light of current allegations that the company may have underpaid some of its employees. Despite its recent turmoil, however, Alta has proven to be able to attract high-quality talent and effectively implement large-scale bike share programs in the past, and that fact can only bode well for its current and future endeavors.