The initial phase of a program that hopes to get more people on two wheels and out of their cars is being fast-tracked for completion by the summer of 2015.
Phase I of Bikeshare Hawaii will be focused on Oahu's urban core, from Chinatown to Waikiki as well as the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program will feature 1,700 bicycles and 180 stations.
"When the Hawaii Bicycling League first heard that Miami Beach was a very successful program, then we began to think that even without as much infrastructure as we want in the long-term, that Bikeshare can work," Chad Taniguchi, HBL executive director, testified before members of the City Council's Transportation Committee Thursday.
The concept behind Bikeshare is simple – customers pay for a pass and use bikes from station to station.
"It's so fun," Kaimuki resident Asia Yeary told council members. "I mean, it is really fun; it's a great experience!" Yeary said she has tried Bikeshare in Denver, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
A pilot project in Kailua that began in May 2011 has proven successful despite its limited scope of only two stations.
Shem Lawlor, a planner with the city's Department of Planning and Permitting who's helping to organize the program, laid out the start-up costs for the program: $550,000 in administrative costs, $11.9 million in capital and $3.2 million in annual operation and maintenance.
However, Bikeshare is not expected to peddle the city more into the red as the administration chases a $156 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. Officials say the program is expected to pay for itself and then some.
"Based on our consultant's estimate, it looks like the system would probably bring in about 130 percent to 190 percent of the revenue needed to pay for the operating and maintenance costs," said Lawlor. "That's very preliminary; I think that'll change as the vendor is brought on board."
The city and state are using a nonprofit model to guide the project to fruition, and have already created a 501(c)(3) corporation called Bikeshare Hawaii. Anticipated profits from the program can be used to pay back the city for its upfront investment and, eventually, expansion to other parts of the island.
"There's a synergy to it," said city Transportation Services Director Mike Formby. "Once it gets going, it takes off."
Bikeshare stations will be set up along sidewalks, government-controlled parcels or private property. Project coordinators say there's very little chance a large number of bikes would ever be stolen.
"They have built-in GPS... and every rental of a bike is backed up by a membership and a credit card," said Lawlor. "So, members really can't steal the bikes without being charged the value of the bike."
The Outdoor Circle has concerns about any signage that may accompany corporate sponsorships, but that issue has yet to be decided.