To the Editor:
The City of Alexandria intends to expand the Bikeshare program at the expense of libraries and parks that benefit all residents. It is expected that 960,000 people will visit Alexandria’s libraries in 2014; this is 53 times the number of Bikeshare members in the region. Yet, the city is cutting libraries by $93,000 and giving Bikeshare $120,000.
Last year Alexandria Bikeshare was fully covered by federal grants, but operating costs were discontinued last April. The city’s response now is to rely on $70,000 from real estate taxes and a $50,000 developer payment. The Bikeshare budget is still short $66,000. Every other city uses dedicated sponsors to cover operating costs, but not Alexandria. Using real estate taxes to support a private company and a program with projected growing yearly losses is unconscionable. Using a half million tax dollars to update the 2008 Bike Plan, when federal funds are available for bike planning is poor judgment.
Alexandria doesn’t seem to have control of this program. City staffs’ claim that Alexandria’s “ridership and revenues” have exceeded Arlington’s, which has six times as many stations and bikes, lacks credibility. Others experience something similar: from Arlington – “… the magnitude of the potential shortfalls in operating revenues associated with the planned expansion has led to … securing additional sources of operating revenue.” A University Maryland official stated: “Alta Bicycle Share, the company that manages the Capital Bikeshare programs, has proposed additional launch expenses of $60,000 to $100,000 that were not part of the initial contract.”
Bikeshare is not a city-owned service like DASH buses and the Trolley. They are owned and operated by a private company. This is why Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, where 7,000 bikes are due in May, required that no taxpayer money fund Bikeshare … he wants no financial liability for the city.
Alexandria can create a bicycle culture using the many FHWA grants now available for planning and building bike infrastructure. Alexandrian’s real estate tax dollars should be used for residents and their children, for libraries, parks, and our depleted Open Space fund.