From the epidemic of Bird scooters to the ever-controversial Uber, San Francisco has been besieged in recent years by companies seeking profit through new ways of addressing traffic issues.
USF may see a new way for its community to travel around campus.
A new Ford GoBike station is being proposed for installation on Parker Avenue, adjacent to Negoesco Stadium, across from Fromm Hall and St. Ignatius Church. It is an extension of the Bay Area Bike Share pilot project.
This project is a partnership between the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the company Motivate, acquired by Lyft in 2018. It intends to establish a widely-accessible bike share system across the city, which was sponsored by Ford in 2017, called Ford GoBikes.
The proposed station near Negoesco would hold 27 electric and non-electric rental bicycles and would replace three parking spots on the road.
According to Laura Stonehill, an assistant engineer with SFMTA, the proposed station entered the public approval process around a month ago after going through SFMTA for internal review, which included an environmental impact evaluation. After a public hearing on the proposal on Feb. 1, citizen comments will be considered by a city traffic engineer at SFMTA.
By 5 p.m. on Feb. 8, the final decision will be made on whether the station will be built.
This proposal comes after the December 2018 installation of a Ford GoBike station on Turk Street and Masonic Avenue, in front of USF’s 281 Masonic building. According to public data compiled by Ford GoBike, in its first month, this station saw 102 trips started and 89 trips ended there, according to public data compiled by Ford GoBike. The data does not identify whether or not riders were students.
Richard Hsu, director of the Office of Sustainability at USF, said the University has been working with Motivate and SFMTA to bring the Bay Area Bike Share pilot project close to campus since 2015.
“Ford GoBikes are an alternative to single-occupancy vehicles that would increase mobility options and reduce local traffic congestion, parking demand, and air pollution (including greenhouse gas emissions),” Hsu said in an email. With regards to the location, he said “Motivate and SFMTA prefer to have the bike share stations located near transit stops to increase visibility and ease of access.”
USF Public Safety is neutral on the proposed new station, according to Staci Hoell, the department’s operations manager. She did, however, note the loss of parking. “While we are supportive of more options for alternative transportation, this proposed location on the west side of Parker Ave. will take away parking spaces,” Hoell said in an email.
A single 30 minute ride costs $3 with the app, the Ford GoBike website states. An access pass, advertised for visitors, is $10 for unlimited trips in a 24 hour period. A monthly membership with unlimited rides under 45 minutes costs $15 per month.
“Bike shares are most effective when they are accessible and affordable to as many member[s] of our campus community as possible, so equity remains a big concern,” Hsu said in an email. “We will continue to communicate with Ford GoBike to negotiate better pricing for our students and staff.”
In Aug. 2017, SFGate compared the Ford GoBike share program to 13 similar bike rentals in American cities. They found that pricing in the Bay Area and San Francisco was neither the least nor the most expensive in comparison.
“I think three dollars for a single ride less than 30 [minutes] is good,” senior environmental studies major Derek Nelson said. “I think the time limit is difficult because things take a long time on a bike and also the Ford GoBikes are a little weird because they have to be re-docked, which may be out of the way.”
Nelson has his own bike, but supports the station because he does not see a problem with the location and likes the idea of access to electric bikes.
However, he has some reservations. “I feel like USF kids don’t bike because we have easy bus access,” Nelson said in an email.
Freshman Kevin Lynch had similar concerns. “As someone who lives on campus, the bike station is farther away from where I live than my classes are,” he said in a text message. “I have a Muni pass which works great for getting around and is free. Whenever I want a more direct route or am lazy, Uber/Lyft is a great option and is incredibly affordable when split among friends.”
Stonehill is managing the permitting process for the station and said she’s received at least 17 emails in support of the proposed station. She’s also received three in opposition — one resident living near USF and two homeowners who do not live in the neighborhood.
Two residents who live near USF spoke in opposition to the station at the Feb. 1 public hearing.
Michelle Cooke lives on Fulton Street, across from St. Ignatius Church. “We compete [for parking] with visitors to One Shrader Medical Center, The Carmelite Chapel, St. Ignatius Church, and USF, Golden Gate Park, St. Mary’s Hospital, USF Law School, Negoesco [Stadium], the Koret [Health and Recreation] Center and students from USF student housing,” she said at the hearing.
According to Cooke’s comments, she relies on the parking spots next to Negoesco Stadium because they “are usually the ones that are open after USF[‘s] night classes and sports end.”
Another concerned nearby resident asked that the decision to place Ford GoBike stations be “data-driven.” She quoted San Francisco Examiner article from the morning of Feb. 1 that found a significant decrease in bike ridership in the city since 2015.
Stonehill had a different perspective on the issue. SFMTA measures bike riderships using counters installed in the pavement around the city. Ford GoBikes also counts the number of trips made, and Stonehill the Ford GoBikes saw a peak of 7,000 bicycle trips in a day last week. “That’s equivalent to the daily average [ridership] on something like the 21 Hayes [bus route] or the 19 Polk [bus route].” Additionally, the same mobility trends showed that between 2005 and 2015, bike ridership in the city had increased by 140 percent.
The city currently has 151 GoBike stations, mostly centered east of Van Ness Avenue around Market Street, the Marina District and the Mission District. “The goal is to be in more of the city. We’re still mid-expansion,” Stonehill said. “The city has a contract with Motivate, now Lyft, to have 320 stations, and the exact placement [of all of these] is still up in the air. The date is [also] still up in the air.”