The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) – Austin’s transit authority – will upgrade the entirety of its bike rental program (MetroBike) to an electric-powered fleet over the next five years.
CapMetro signed a $20.6 million contract with Canada-based PBSC Urban Solutions Inc. to overhaul the program’s bikes, docks, stations and software platform. E-bikes and upgraded stations will start to populate the landscape as early as this summer, local officials said.
CapMetro founded the MetroBike system in 2013, installing 11 stations supporting 100 bikes to improve downtown mobility. The program eventually expanded, totaling 81 stations and 800 bicycles by 2023. E-bikes comprise 43% of the current fleet, with traditional bicycles accounting for the rest.
The project calls for MetroBike’s fleet to be 100% electric, with other additions including an upgraded phone app, a streamlined customer check-in process and user-friendly reporting options for data collection. PBSC will also provide technology to prevent bicycle theft and tampering. A mix of CapMetro, state and city funding will support the project.
“This is a key piece of the puzzle we need to start building one of the country’s best bikeshare systems,” said CapMetro President and CEO Dottie Watkins. “This investment in our bike share program will bring better flexibility and access for riders to connect to the larger web of mobility in Austin transit network.”
The mobility program has shown signs of growing popularity, with Austinites logging 28,000 monthly trips in April 2023 – a jump from 5,000 to 12,000 monthly riders during the pandemic. The service is especially vital during the city’s high-profile events, transit officials said, reaching 34,000 in 2021 during the Austin City Limits Festival and 37,000 during South by Southwest in 2022.
CapMetro will invest $3.5 million this summer to replace the existing system. In addition, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the city Austin will deliver a combined $14 million to expand the system over the next six years. To support transitioning to the all-electric fleet, TxDOT awarded Austin a $11.3 million Transportation Alternative Set-Aside (TASA) grant.
TxDOT delivers TASA funds to support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects across the state. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) fund the grant program. The jolt to Austin’s transportation infrastructure is part of a broader $345 million Texas plan to support 83 bicycle and transportation projects statewide.
Under the terms of the agreement, CapMetro will manage the system while the city of Austin will own the bikes and associated software.
Photo courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin