Updated: Sep 8
In early April, Shared Mobility Inc. opened the doors of our BikeShare network at the University at Buffalo with 25 bicycles available to students, faculty, and staff. Over the summer, the fleet will grow to a 75-bike system to be tested in a variety of urban settings, with ambitions for a larger-scale system in 2014. Starting this week, Shared Mobility Inc. opened membership up to all Buffalo CarShare members and employees of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Additional locations beyond the University at Buffalo will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
The main highlight of the technology developed by NYC-based Social Bicycles is that locking, tracking, and communications functions are all embedded within the frame of the bicycle. This so-called "smart bike" technology comes at a fraction of the costs and size of more bulky kiosk-based systems.
While Buffalo might not be the first city that comes to mind for startup culture, we can claim several "firsts":
First joint Car and Bicycle sharing system in the US
First urban deployment of a kiosk-less GPS-based bikeshare system
First major BikeShare deployment in a "Rust Belt" city
Creighton Randall, Executive Director of Buffalo CarShare explains the approach being taken "we are slowly scaling up this system and sending feedback to the Social Bicycles team. There are always some risks and challenges with innovation, but we're comfortable learning and adopting new technologies and processes to bring a new bikeshare system to Buffalo. And we're lucky that we have partners like the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and University at Buffalo that value innovation and are willing to be the first to pilot this technology with us." UB is one of only a few universities in the nation with a high-tech bikeshare system, and the only one featuring smart-bike technology. "We also have a loyal membership base that is up to the task as well," continued Randall.
Another ambition of the Buffalo BikeShare system is to serve a diverse population of members. The non-profit leads the car-sharing industry in service to low-income residents and people of color, and much attention has been paid to public bikeshare systems' struggles with the issue of equity. For this and other reasons, Buffalo makes for a "perfect real-world laboratory" says Social Bicycles CEO Ryan Rzepecki "you have a city ripe for innovation and experimentation, a group of committed individuals with ready access to a network of users, and the right partners on board to provide seed funding". The 75-bike pilot project is made possible by a unique partnership between two New York State agencies, NYSERDA and NYSDOT, who have been funding similar research and development projects for several years. The agencies are providing $142,855 towards the project, and also provided funding for the launch of the CarShare program in 2009, which continues to grow on its own and now features 15 vehicles and 600 members.
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