Monday, August 18, 2008
Sneak Peek at Montreal
I recently returned from visiting the good folks at Stationnement de Montréal in Quebec, Canada. They are the city's public-private partnership agency that is tasked with ensuring "the optimal management of paid on-street and off-street public parking to promote the development of economic activity." They are the city's parking agency, plain and simple. Not happy with the advertising model of bike-sharing which has become the norm, they stepped up to the task of developing their own bike-sharing technology with their own funds - $15M of them.
Unlike other kiosk systems, Montreal's system is designed with a platform which will be uninstalled for the cold season, considering that January averages 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 degrees Celcius). Call me a whimp, but that's well below my line where I'm not riding. Rather than the expense of hooking each station up with power, Montreal's system will be powered by the sun - two small solar panels will electrify each station. Key fobs will be used in place of smartcards to make rummaging around in one's wallet or purse easier as the fob simply can be added to one's keychain. The bikes are step-thru models specially designed for the program and appear streamlined and durable. As Stationnement de Montreal says on the Website, their bike-sharing system "was inspired by other systems already in place in cities around the world, taking the best elements from each and avoiding errors that have been made along the way."
As I've blogged about before, they are allowing the public to come up with the program's name through their "Find my name!" Website. This is a good way to create buzz about the soon-to-launch program, generate civic pride, and it sure beats paying an ad agency thousands of dollars to do the same thing. Voting ends in three weeks and the grand prize is a lifetime membership with the program. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Montreal is planning to have a soft launch in September with 40 bikes at four stations before closing the program for their harsh winter. During their cold season when only the truly die-hard are biking, Stationnement de Montreal will tweak the system and get it ready for the big launch in Spring 2009 with 2,400 bikes at 300 stations. This will surely make it the largest bike-sharing program in North America at that time. Much research and design has gone into this system and I believe it will do very well.
Bike-sharing will do well in Montreal as it's a great city for biking, likely one of the best in North America. Rather than the uni-directional cycle tracks, or physically separated bike lanes, that are more common in bike-friendly cities and towns, Montreal has bi-directional cycle tracks. It's a wider track made for two-way bike traffic. The cycle tracks downtown have a concrete divider separating them from motor vehicle traffic and the residential neighborhoods have a parking lane separating cyclists from motor vehicle traffic. The physical separation makes all the difference in encouraging cycling. It's more than a coincidence that most of the bike-friendly jurisdictions are those which have cycle tracks.
image credits: MetroBike and Stationnement de Montreal