NYC DOT Seeking 10,000-Bike System From Bike-Share Providers

New York City’s plans to implement a public bicycle system should accelerate rapidly with the official release today of a document asking potential providers to submit bids to operate the program. The request for proposals that bidders will be responding to has been posted in the city register, giving a sense of the scale of the bike-share system the city wants and how officials see it operating. They are thinking big.

The RFP indicates that the city is looking to start with a year-round system of 10,000 bicycles at about 600 stations in an area “south of 60th Street in Manhattan” that would “span more than one borough.” The scale would make it the most ambitious program in North America and comparable in density to world-class systems. The major reason given for launching at that scale is that bike-share planners expect such a system to turn a profit and be a net revenue generator for the city.

From the RFP:

NYCDOT and the Department of City Planning Preliminary analyses, conducted by NYCDOT and New York City Department of City Planning, indicate that a financially self-sustaining System would cover the CBD (south of 60th Street in Manhattan) and surrounding neighborhoods. NYCDOT estimates that a System of this size would require approximately 10,000 bicycles spread over approximately 600 stations.  NYCDOT is particularly interested in Systems that span more than one borough and make the best use of the City’s burgeoning bicycle network.

I will be posting more information from the RFP as I read through it. (You can download the whole thing here.) Bids are due February 16, 2011. Keep in mind that there is room for a lot of variation, and many things can happen between now and a projected launch date in the spring of 2012.

More details from the RFP:

  • Payment and memberships — The city wants a range of memberships: at least daily, weekly, and yearly. Members would be entitled to unlimited trips under 30 minutes, with a fee assessed for longer trips. Credit cards and student smart cards would be able to double as membership cards.
  • Station placement — The city wants solar-powered stations but seems to leave room for exceptions in sunlight-starved parts of the city. “Typical stations,” the RFP says, must not be hardwired to the electrical grid or require any excavation or street work. Stations would be located “every few blocks, allowing for easy pick-up and drop-off,” according the DOT press release. (Note: the press release includes this quote from Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steele: “A bike sharing program would provide New Yorkers with another transportation option while reducing traffic.  We are excited to see what creative ideas are submitted by the private sector through this RFP process.”)
  • Bicycles — The city is looking for bikes that incorporate GPS tracking and are equipped with bells and automatic lights. Tires would be at least 26 inches and the bikes will have at least three speeds.

The RFP includes a detailed timeline of implementation milestones for the winning bidder. The contractor’s initial placement plan for all stations, for instance, has to be submitted five months before the system launches. The winning bidder will also, together with DOT, “develop all materials needed for public meetings, forums, and events and present those materials when requested by NYCDOT.” Should be an interesting 16 months.