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Bikeshare President & COO, Benjamin Trevino

May 09, 2016

Pedal Power: Changing the Way Honolulu Commutes

Photos by Bikeshare Hawai‘i

Across dense urban communities around the world, from Paris to New York and beyond, commuters are embracing bike sharing as a new method of daily transportation.

By taking vehicles off the road and creating a culture where exercise is seamlessly interwoven into our everyday lives, we're revolutionizing not only the ways we commute, but the way we live. In the not-too-distant future, Honolulu will be the latest city to embrace the power of the pedal. In the interview below, Benjamin Trevino, president and COO of Bikeshare Hawaii, explains why Honolulu is the perfect model for Bikeshare, how both the state, city, and private sector supported the initiative, and how he sees his venture rolling out.

With all of changes currently occurring in Honolulu, coupled with our traffic congestion issues, it seems like Bikeshare would make a lot of sense for this city.

That's right. I think there are a lot of reasons why Honolulu is a perfect place for Bikeshare. We have a dense urban center where a lot happens in about a five-mile radius between Waikiki and Chinatown. Studies have shown that most of our daily commutes in this area are within just three miles. We also have great weather here! As a sustainable form of transformation with health and community benefits, we think Bikeshare really makes a lot of sense for Honolulu. It's really surprising that it hasn't happened yet, to be honest. It's a great place to be outside and we're looking forward to introducing it to the community. At the end of the day, we all know how it feels to sit in traffic and as the city continues to develop and we bring in more tourists, we think our model can really help our quality of life.

So how does the model actually work?

Essentially, Bikeshare is a network of publicly accessible bikes. There are docking stations that house the bikes and kiosks where you can rent the bikes located throughout the city. You can both pick up and drop off a bike at any one of the stations in the network, making it easy to commute and run errands, or if you like, go for a recreational ride.

How many stations are you expecting to roll out?

We have 150 stations between Waikiki and Chinatown with 1,400 bikes total. So there's a station about every 900 feet, which makes it easy to get to within a block or so wherever you want to go in the city.

How much does it cost to rent a bike?

We're still in the planning phase, but we'll have three types of pricing: One is a pay-as-you-go model where you're only charged a few dollars for taking out a bike, based on the time you have the bike. The other option is a bulk purchase, where you would buy a certain number of minutes or hours that would never expire, so it's always right there when you need it. There will also be a monthly pass option as well. The idea is that it should be extremely affordable, with most of us spending just a few dollars or less to get where we need to be. For people who use it frequently, most won't be paying more than $20 a month to incorporate Bikeshare into their daily lives.

How far along is this program?

We don't have a firm launch date as of yet, but I can tell you that we're getting close. We hope to have an announcement on the start up date in a few months. Currently, we'd like to do some kind of demo and trial in the lead up. The World Conservation Congress, which brings in world leaders and sustainability advocated together, is coming to Honolulu in early September and we would love to have something to show by then.

This is a model that's been successfully used across the world, correct?

Yes, for sure. There have been some pretty significant success stories right here in the United States. New York City, which launched their program a few years ago, City Bike, gets 10 million rides a year and the system is set to double. DC has a very successful system, too. They have a great mix of recreational users who use the bikes to visit monuments and museums, but there's also commuters as well. Those are two of the big domestic success stories. Minneapolis has a great success story as well. And they're only open during the warm-weather months. A lot of great ideas have come out of the Minneapolis model. Their art and creative scene has really embraced the concept.

What about theft? Is that going to be a big issue?

There are three parts in our strategy to prevent theft. The way the bikes lock into the docking station makes it almost impossible to take them. The next line of defense is that the parts these bikes use can't be stripped down and sold. They're unique to these specific bikes, so you can't turn them into parts. Third, when anyone checks out a bike, there's always some kind of ID, like a credit card, on file. Because you're being charged by the time you're using it, you won't want to keep it for too long.

Has the government been supportive?

Both the city and state have been very helpful. The Department of Transportation from the city has been behind us for some time and so has the State's Department of Health, along with a lot of other departments, to help us receive grant funding to get this going. It's been great. But the private sector, including the Ward Village Foundation, has also been hugely supportive to seeing this through. It's an exciting time to live in Honolulu, that's for sure. There's a lot of change in the air and we're thrilled to have the help and support of the entire community.

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