Mexico City “Eco-Bici” Inspires Alternate Transportation

It’s called "Eco-bici", as in “economical bicycle.”

It’s a cheap way to get from point A to B but nope, you can’t find it in Los Angeles, at least not yet.

Some 2,000 miles to the south, in a city similar in square miles, but three times the population of LA, the eco-bici is thriving in Mexico City.

Barbara Santillan, a Mexico City resident, says she is grateful for the time she saves on her commute and out of traffic.

“Yeah, I mean the bicycle you make like 20 into 10 minutes," she says. "And I use it every day."

Bikes can be rented via a mobile app for 400 Mexican pesos a year or a mere $30 dollars for unlimited use.

Stations located throughout the city, especially in the financial and business districts of Mexico are growing in popularity especially when compared against other forms of transportation. A subway ride costs 5 pesos (38 cents) but riders say the bike is still a bargain and it’s better for the environment.

"You don't have a parking problem with it, plus, you don't pollute," said Violeta Hernandez, a Mexico City resident.

While the program is still growing in Mexico, some citizens say Los Angeles could learn from Mexico’s program.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is traveling in Mexico this week, says the program could work in Los Angeles.

LA County’s Bike Coalition’s Planning and Policy Director Eric Bruins agrees with the Mayor but says the program would require help from the city’s transportation department.

“In LA County, there are 88 cities each with different rules about placing stations in the public right of way and about advertising," he said. "We see a strong role for our county's transportation agency, Metro, in creating a framework that will work for a majority of our cities."

The plans for a bike-sharing program in LA would focus on a single system that would cover multiple parts of the region, starting in downtown LA, Santa Monica and Pasadena.


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LA City Councilman Mike Bonin says the program solves a major public transportation issue for the city.

“It is an important way we can complement our regional transportation system and improve traffic by getting people out of their cars," he said in a statement. "A bike share program will help get people who want to take the train or bus to and from stations, solving the 'first-and-last mile' issue that has been a major challenge for public transportation in Los Angeles.”

Bonin cautions that multiple bike share memberships could be cumbersome and confusing, thus a regional membership would offer the best solution.

Other objections to a bike share program in Los Angeles stem from the anticipated high cost of membership.

Lower income people also often don’t have the credit card needed to purchase a membership, even if they had the financial means.

Tony Dang, the deputy director of California Walks, says there are other models the city of Los Angeles can look to for insipration.

"New York's system was completely financed as a public-private partnership with CitiBank committing to being the primary sponsor through a $41 million, 5-year contract," he said. "CitiBank funded the purchase of bikes, bike stations, and installation costs."

In exchange, he added, Citibank MasterCard was an additional sponsor at $6.5 million in exchange for operating the payment processing for the system.

These sponsorships covered the rollout costs, and operations costs are funded through bike share memberships, he said.

Dang also points to Boston where the bike share system worked with the public health department to subsidize membership for low income individuals.

Metro, the lead agency which covers many of the municipalities in Los Angeles County, is working with cities and other organizations throughout Los Angeles to create a phased bike sharing program. Metro staff is developing a business model and recommendations for financial commitments to support the program.

A program update to the board is scheduled for April.

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