CAT shuttered Bikeshare program effective Dec. 31 due to market changes

Chatham Area Transit officials have decided to dismantle its bikeshare program effective December 31, 2018 citing market changes, low participation, and lack of funding. The Board of Directors approved the decision at its October board meeting.

CAT’s management team made the recommendation to the Board and noted the current bike equipment is outdated and there is not a dedicated funding stream to operate or expand the program.

The program launched in January 2014 with two stations and 16 bikes. It was the first publicly-operated bikeshare program in the state of Georgia. The program was a partnership between CAT and the City of Savannah: all revenues collected from the Ellis Square station are recovered by the City of Savannah and all revenues collected from the Intermodal Transit Center station are recovered by CAT.

The two stations were intended to be part of a larger bikeshare network throughout the city. The City of Savannah’s Parking Matters Study completed in 2016 recommended the city take over operations of the program, anticipating that CAT did not have enough dedicated resources to operate a more expansive bikeshare program.

In September 2017, the CAT Board of Directors voted to approve an MOU with the city for the transfer of bikeshare operations. However, plans for bikeshare expansion hinged on CAT’s ability to secure new capital funding.  CAT staff initially secured bikeshare expansion funding through the Metropolitan Planning Organization, but after years of working with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) staff to gain access to the funds it was later determined that CAT could not actually purchase bikes with the FTA funds due to federal regulations. Thus, any capital expansion would require alternative funding methods.

“Unfortunately, with limited resources and our major focus on assisting more people in Chatham County with their mobility needs with our buses and CAT Mobility vans, we were just not able to expand the bikeshare program as we had hoped or keep up with the technology advances in this special niche market,” CEO Curtis Koleber said.

“As a matter of fact, there are only a handful of public transit agencies in the country who actually manage bikeshare programs.  Usually, these programs are managed by private entities, non-profits, or other companies,” Koleber said.

The bikeshare industry has evolved significantly with many entities across the country offering dock-less stations and equipment.  Private bikeshare operators have replaced publicly-owned programs and the private companies are often providing better services at less or no-cost to communities. The City of Savannah has been approached by some private bikeshare operators and city officials have indicated they plan to let them enter the local market once city regulations have been refined.

Without funding for expansion or dedicated funding to operate the program, and with private companies entering the market soon, the decision was made to dismantle the CAT bikeshare program.

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