The recent appearance of a private bike-sharing stand in the Dallas Arts District leads us to wonder just how far off public bike sharing might be for the city of Dallas at large. According to Kourtny Garrett, executive vice president of Downtown Dallas Inc., that day is a lot closer than you may think.
Garrett says that Downtown Dallas Inc., the nonprofit group that works to improve downtown on a number of levels, has recently been working with the City of Dallas and various neighborhood organizations to develop an integrative bike-sharing system.
"We have been doing a tremendous amount of research on systems in other cities and talking to operators and trying to figure out how to get the job done," Garrett says. "Our goal is a system that would enable a user to, say, pick up a bike in Deep Ellum and drop it off in the West End. That entails finding one operator with compatible stations and the whole host of operational issues."
"If we were to get the funding that we need today ... you're looking at a 12-month timeline," says Kourtny Garrett of Downtown Dallas Inc.
Even though Garrett acknowledges that those issues are far from insignificant, she wants the public to know that solving them is one of the most important things they're working on currently.
"There's a huge economic component, and that's really where we are right now — working through the profit and loss, working through a balance of the number of stations and number of bikes, and then working with the city on a public-private partnership that would entail sponsorships and grants," Garrett says.
Still, even though public bike sharing is near the top of downtown Dallas' agenda, don't expect to see stands popping up next month.
"If we were to get the funding that we need today, in order to order all of the bikes and all the stations and have them installed in all the different locations, you're looking at a 12-month timeline," Garrett says.
And that's only if the group had secured the necessary funding, something it has yet to do.
"There's a plan in place — I wish I could give you a timeline, but I can't right now because it all hinges on the funding — but there are a lot of components in the works because bike share is obviously something that's very important to bring to Dallas and that we want to make happen with all of our partners," Garrett says.
But when they do find sponsorships and other funding for the project, Garrett sees few other roadblocks toward its implementation.
"The city conceptually is on board," Garrett says. "There are some things from an ordinance perspective that are already in place. But it's really finding the dollars."
While phase one of the project would focus on downtown and the surrounding area, Garrett envisions a time when it will become sustainable enough to go citywide.
"An important component of this is that you have all stations in a dense enough geography that it's usable," she says. "You don't want to have a whole bunch of very disparate stations throughout the city that aren't very usable."
Garrett knows some segments of the city are clamoring for bike sharing, but she's making sure they do their due diligence and not leaping before they look.
"What we don't want to do is come out with a system that isn't financially viable," Garrett says. "And we want to make sure that the system also is very cost-effective for the user. We want something that's accessible, that doesn't preclude anyone from being able to afford to pull a bike out.
"I do think it's important for the public to know that there are very serious conversations and very serious planning going on surrounding bike share, and that it will happen sooner rather than later."