Members of the Texas A&M community have a new option for getting around campus with the launch of a partnership with dockless bike share company ofo.
Ron Steedly, alternative transportation manager with Texas A&M Transportation Services, said the program, which launched with 500 yellow bikes Tuesday morning, is expected to expand to 4,000 bikes ready for use on campus by fall.
Steedly said he believes the new service will provide students, faculty and staff with greater "mobility freedom" as they travel around the campus each day.
"With bike share, you're allowing yourself to choose bicycling as a method to get from A to B at any given time without the responsibility of using your own bike, having to take care of it or remember where you [left] it," he said. "It's strictly a one-trip commitment."
Use of the service requires the ofo app, which allows users to locate available bikes, pay for the service and lock and unlock bikes. Pricing is separated into three options: The bikes can be reserved for 50 cents per hour, $9.95 per month or $34.95 per semester.
Austin Marshburn, head of universities for ofo, said he believed the quick and positive response the bikes received Tuesday morning was a strong indication of the quiet demand there was on campus for such a service.
He said the convenience of being able to use an available bike and leave it in any open bike rack on campus is one of the main benefits for users.
"This is a sustainable option, and there are certain people who will always do the sustainable thing, but to me it's really all about convenience," Marshburn said. "You can do it because it's the best thing for you at that moment."
Steedly said in determining the number of bikes they would request from the company, his department evaluated the number of bikes regularly left on the campus overnight, coming in at just under 6,000. He added that an additional study found that no more than 2,000 bikes were traveling around the campus at any given time.
Given the information, Steedly said the department assessed that there is "a ton of money spent on stuff that's not being used" -- an issue he said would only continue to get worse as the university grows if left unaddressed.
"Eventually, we're going to run out of bike parking, so if I could get a 4- or 5-to-1 ratio for on-campus mobility using bikes here, the campus is going to look a lot better, and it's going to be super convenient for everybody," he said. "My goal, based on all of that data we collected, was to start with 500 to get the word out and grow to 4,000 in the fall to replace the on-campus storage of bikes."
Steedly said he hopes once more members of the campus community learn about the service, more people who do not currently ride bikes on campus will take advantage of their availability, opening up new options for transportation.
The bikes will be free to ride during a special promotion through March 13. To learn more, visit transport.tamu.edu/alternative.