The Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council, on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, continued to build on the city’s growing transportation system by moving forward with another cutting-edge trend in mobility – a Community Bike Share Program.

In general, a bike sharing program is defined as an innovative transportation program, ideal for short distance point-to-point trips providing users the ability to pick up a bicycle at any self-serve bike-station and return it to any other bike station located within the system’s service area.

With their full support, the mayor and city council members authorized the city manager to enter into an Interlocal Cooperation Contract between the city and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley that will allow UTRGV to manage the Community Bike Share Program. 

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is scheduled to pay for half of the two-year contract, which will not exceed $68,400 beginning January 3, 2017 and ending on January 2, 2019.

Under the actions taken by the mayor and city council, the Edinburg EDC was scheduled to make the first annual payment of $34,200 to the city no later than January 4, 2017 pursuant to the UTRGV and city Interlocal Cooperation Agreement. 

The city agreed to make the second annual payment of $34,200 to UTRGV no later than January 4, 2018 pursuant to the UTRGV and city Interlocal Cooperation Agreement. 

“Among our many assets, Edinburg already features Interstate Highway 69, the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, and a planned transit facility between City Hall and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the mayor, city council, and Edinburg EDC and its board of directors, in conjunction with our legislative teams in Austin and Washington, D.C., continue to seek state and federal funds for these and other important infrastructure to serve our community, improve the quality of life, promote economic growth, and create more jobs,” said EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr.

As a result of the mayor/city council action, Edinburg will provide bike share docking stations – whose locations will be determined in the near future –and bicycles for four (4) primary sites as agreed by both city engineer and UTRGV, said Assistant City Manager Sonia Marroquín.

The Community Bike Share Program will allow individuals to pay a certain amount for a single use or a yearly membership fee to rent a bike for a period of time and return the bike to a docking station, she added.

“The City of Edinburg and UTRGV have been working on a Community Bike Share Program that will serve both the university community and the residents and visitors of Edinburg”, Marroquín noted. “A bike share system can provide improved, safer bicycle and pedestrian commuting and recreational opportunities. This program will have a positive impact on community wellness by encouraging exercise and replacing some automobile trips with bicycle trips.”

In addition, the Edinburg EDC will provide the funding amount to satisfy all other obligations of the city under the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement between the city and UTRGV, including but not limited to, all expenses made by the city for the site preparation requirements for the docking stations and bicycles located within the city. 

The Edinburg EDC and the city are authorized to enter into this agreement pursuant to the Inter-local Cooperation Act, Texas Govt. Code 791.001 et seq., which authorizes local governments to contract with each other to perform governmental functions and services under the terms of the Act, according to the contract with UTRGV approved by the mayor and city council.

Other details of the contract include the following provisions:

Advisory Committee 

A Bike Share Advisory Committee will be formed within 30 days of implementing the Community Bike Share Program. Membership will consist of one representative from each local entity participating in the program, including city and university. Frequency of meetings will be as often as necessary to implement and coordinate the bike share program, transmit information, and report on activities. At a minimum, meetings will occur quarterly to review program performance. 

Marketing 

The city, Edinburg EDC,  and UTRGV will mutually agree in writing to the project name, logo, color, schedule and/or any other branding specifications for use with the project and on bicycles. Such brand will include the city and university and/or logos. The program will be aggressively promoted by city, Edinburg EDC, and UTRGV through the following channels at the minimum: social media, websites, major public events, and public access television. Parties agree to implement as many elements of the contractor’s marketing plan as they determine to be financially feasible in order to promote the program. 

Pricing 

The city, Edinburg EDC, and UTRGV agree to a uniform pricing structure that will be consistent with bike share pricing programs across the region. Price adjustments must be mutually agreed upon and will be subject to prior written approval by both parties. Supporting documentation must be presented with a recommendation of support from the Advisory Committee. 

Gross Revenue 

“Gross Revenue” shall mean all income revenues and shall include membership and usage fees. Membership fees are those fees paid by users to the city/UTRGV bike share system. Usage fees are those fees attributable to bicycles rented in trips initiated from stations in the city or on the campus of the University. 

COMMUNITY BIKE SHARE PROGRAM INFLUENCED BY CLASS ASSIGNMENT FOR FOUR STUDENTS AT UTRGV

What started as a class assignment for four environmental science students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has turned into a new bike sharing program on UTRGV campuses and in three Valley communities. 

The service – BikeShare Rio Grande Valley – makes available to students, faculty, staff and the public 85 cruiser bikes found at stations on the Brownsville, Edinburg and Harlingen campuses, as well as at various locations in Brownsville and Harlingen that have partnered with the university to offer this service.

The bike share service is being managed by Zagster, Inc., a national company that manages bike share services at numerous other locations, including The University of Texas-Dallas, Yale and Ohio State. The contract with Zagster, which supplies the stations and bikes as well as maintenance and technical assistance, is for two years.

“The kernel of this idea began in a class taught by Dr. Elizabeth Heise regarding shared and alternative transportation models. The students put together a research paper which was then presented to Auxiliary Services. We saw its potential right away and were pleased at how it anticipated our goal of creating a multimodal transportation network at our university,” said Rodney Gómez, UTRGV Director of Parking and Transportation Services, explained in a September 2, 2016 story by Gail Fagan,Senior Writer and Public Affairs Representative at UTRGV. 

The students – Myrna Leal, Herlinda Peña, Alex García and Miranda Krafka – submitted the shared transportation proposal as part of the Conservation of Natural Resources course they took in spring 2015, which was taught by Heise, Associate professor of Environmental Sciences at UTRGV.

“One of the things I tell my students is, part of what we are doing is not just a homework assignment; there are real, tangible outcomes,” Heise said. “I teach them how they can play a role in impacting the university and their community.”

Leal, a senior from Brownsville, said her group proposed the shared biking program to help students be more active and to reduce emissions.

“Maybe more students will hop on a bike instead of using their car to go just a mile away,” Leal said.

The team researched the companies and the costs, and created and conducted surveys via social media, all of which went into their proposal. They also presented their findings to university administrators with a recommendation to select Zagster as the shared bike service UTRGV should use.   

Leal said it was exciting to know that something the students worked on is going to be felt throughout both campuses and across the Valley.

“This is what a real college experience is supposed to be like,” she said.

The bright white bikes, which feature a basket and safety features like lights, reflectors and a bell, can be found via the free Zagster Mobile App – available for iPhone and Android – or online at www.zagster.com/rgvbikeshare.

Each bike at the designated Zagster bike stations can be accessed from a smart lock via the mobile phone app, which provides a code to unlock the bike. When the bike is returned to the bike station, the rental ends. 

THE BENEFITS

In addition to Edinburg, other current partnering cities of Brownsville and Harlingen are contributing financially to the success of the UTRGV project. Users can pay an annual membership fee of $35 that allows trips under one hour to be free; a user would pay $2 per hour over the first hour and up to $10 per ride. Monthly and hourly memberships are also available.

Gómez said using Zagster as an inexpensive and convenient travel option will provide numerous benefits, including improved traffic flow and less congestion on campus.

“We see this as part of a slew of services for students, faculty and staff that will improve travel – not only by providing another option to navigate within the campuses, but also to access nearby campus locations,” Gomez said. “It also strongly promotes healthy living and sustainable communities. In the future, we want to add more options, like shared ride services, van pools and car share.”

Gómez praised the student team’s foresight and talent.

“Our students at UTRGV have dreams and visions that, if implemented, will continue to improve UTRGV and our Valley in many ways,” he said. “I see it as a responsibility to continuously engage them and help bring their ideas to reality.”

 

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Gail Fagan contributed to this story. For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc