St. Charles aldermen support countywide bike-share program, but logistical questions remain
A countywide bike-share concept has received positive feedback in St. Charles, but aldermen say they want more information about the intended use and business model before committing to the program.
The bike-share system would serve as a form of on-demand, pay-as-you-use public transportation aimed at boosting tourism and recreation in the area, said Chris Adesso, assistant public works director.
Spearheaded by the Kane Kendall Council of Mayors and the Kane County Division of Transportation, the initiative would help create an "alternate regional transportation system," he said, with bike stations installed in towns primarily along the Fox River Trail.
St. Charles was among several governmental entities, including the park district and other municipalities, to sign a memorandum of understanding this summer expressing interest in the program. The county then issued a request for proposals from potential bike-share vendors this fall and received a response from one company, Koloni.
The division of transportation is now giving communities until Jan. 20 to formally announce their participation, Adesso said, with plans to launch at least 12 bike stations by late next summer.
As a concept, the program was well received Monday by the St. Charles government services committee. The city now plans to bring in Koloni leaders and county planners to fill in some of the gaps regarding tourism estimates, a financial structure and other logistical details.
Each station is expected to cost $7,000 to $10,000, plus annual operating expenses, Adesso said. Kane County also plans to contribute about $30,000, dispersed among participating communities, to help with the initial capital investment.
St. Charles officials have begun seeking input from stakeholders, such as the Downtown Business Alliance, to determine possible bike station locations. The bikes also could serve as a marketing tool to generate revenue for the city, Adesso said.
The Kane County program would be similar to the Divvy ride-share program in Chicago, where users can unlock bikes from unmanned docks using credit cards or smartphone apps.
One difference, Alderman Rita Payleitner pointed out, is that Chicago's program is intended for commuting purposes, rather than leisure, based on its funding model. Though Kane County has not worked out a pricing format with its vendor yet, Adesso said, planners have indicated recreational use will be one of their program's key initiatives.
The success of the program also could depend on which towns agree to be involved, Alderman Ed Bessner said. One purpose of the bike-share system is to provide easier access to other transit stops, such as the Elgin and Geneva train stations. But that objective only works if those communities are on board, he said.
"In order for us to make informed decisions, we'll need to know who else is participating," Adesso said. "(Planners) has asked us to have these sort of meetings so we can get a feel for that."