The government grant that funds the majority of the Chattanooga’s bike share equipment and operations is expected to run out in September. Over the next two months, the system, which is owned by the City of Chattanooga and operated by Alta Bicycle Share, must fund itself in order to remain in operation.
The program’s thirty stations and three hundred bikes were initially funded through a $2.075 million grant via CMAQ. And, according to The Tennessean, records show that the program has generated $113,951 through sponsorship and membership fees since its launch in the summer of 2012. This money is not enough to cover annual operating costs.
Philip Pugliese, the program’s project director, believes that closing the program is not a likely option. Pugliese, who has been at the center of Chattanooga’s transformation from one of the country’s dirtiest cities to one of its most progressive, says the program is looking into several options to help make the program self-sufficient. Some of those include expanding its marketing, examining other opportunities for government funding, and changing its membership fee structure.
As a form of public transit that promotes public health and reduces air pollution, it is feasible that the city would take some additional financial stake in the operations–however, for now, that remains undecided.
With the benefit of hindsight, Chattanooga may have been better served with a more cost-effective product given the finite budget and the city’s small population of prospective users. PBSC, which supplied the equipment, consistently ranks as the most expensive bike share equipment available. In large markets like Boston, Washington, D.C., and recently New York and Chicago, the equipment has done well aside from a handful of software issues. But in a smaller market like Chattanooga, which receives much lower ridership numbers per bike, the equipment may have been not worth the hefty price tag.