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LA moves ahead with different bike share system than Santa Monica

Los Angeles is moving forward with a bike share program that operates differently than programs planned for Santa Monica and Long Beach, despite potential headaches for people who may want to bike from one place to the other in the tapestry of jurisdictions that make up the county.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board voted 8-3 Thursday to approve an $11 million contract with Bicycle Transit Systems, Inc. to operate the county's bike share system.

The pilot program will bring about 1,000 bikes to 65 stations in downtown L.A. next year.

Bike share systems allow users to check out a bike for short-term use and return it to any station. It's not just mean to appeal to tourists - it's seen as an important tool to bridge the first/last mile gap between people's homes or workplaces and transit centers.

Santa Monica was the first city in Los Angles county to start a bike share program. It hired bike share vendor CycleHop last year and will begin rolling out 500 bicycles in the coming months.

Long Beach also went with CycleHop, whose bikes use a different docking system than the company Metro chose.

That's raising concerns because it limits the interoperability of the system.

"One of the key aspects of a successful bike share system is that it be a seamless experience for the customer," said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a former Santa Monica City Councilman who last week penned a letter to the Metro board urging them not to approve a contract with Bicycle Transit Systems for that reason.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who sits on the Metro board, said they picked Bicycle Transit Systems based on its superior track record of rolling out large bike share programs on time.

Laura Cornejo, who works on active transportation issues for Metro said the agency plans to mitigate interoperability concerns by installing both types of docking stations in border areas so users can return L.A.'s bikes in Santa Monica.

They're also working with Santa Monica to have a unified payment system and fare structure for all systems.

"It minimizes confusion for users if they can pay the same amount no matter where they are," said Cornejo.

Tamika Butler, head of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition told board members Thursday she was excited to see Metro making bike share a priority, despite concerns over compatibility. She said the program is a step in the right direction toward addressing equity issues around mobility in Southern California.

"I'm so thankful for the commitment Metro has to making it an extension of transit."