In November 2014 Mayor Mike Rawlings braved a breath-catching chill and the self-defeating inadequacy of the notion that two isolated docking stations could constitute a functioning system and enthusiastically kicked off a bike-sharing program at Fair Park. Rawlings gleefully hopped on one of the $8,000 bikes (the city paid $125,000 for 16 bicycles plus docking stations) and pedaled off toward the Esplanade, predicting when he stopped that bike-share would be a fabulous and well-used amenity at Fair Park.
So has Fair Park bike-share been a success? It was hard to know at first given that Friends of Fair Park, the nonprofit the Dallas City Council is having run the program, wouldn't release data in response to an open records request; Attorney General Ken Paxton's office affirmed its refusal two weeks ago in opinion that ignored FOFP's long and incestuous relationship with City Hall. No matter. We obtained bike-checkout data late last week through other means.
At first glance, the usage looks OK. Between January 1 and July 1, 250 bikes were checked out, an average of about 1.4 per day. A far cry from what one would expect from a fully realized bike-share system with stations located at strategic points throughout the city, but not terrible for two kiosks on the fringe of a usually depopulated Art Deco no-man's-land.
Dig down a bit further and the numbers look bleaker. Eighty rides were regular maintenance rides by a city employee. Another 53 rides were for two or fewer minutes, suggesting the user briefly pulled the bike from the rack before having second thoughts. That leaves 117 actual riders. The number is whittled down further still when you look at who actually paid for their ride as, judging from the data, rides of 30 minutes or fewer are free, a bargain that 44 of the remaining riders took advantage of. (The plan as presented in November was to charge $2.50 for the first half hour through December 31; on January 1, that charge would double to $5.) Which leaves 73 paying customers. Most of those rode for an hour or less and paid $2.50. For reasons not explained on the spreadsheet, one guy checked out two bikes for 12,630 minutes (about nine days) for a total charge of $190. All told, nine-day biker guy included, Fair Park bike share grossed a whopping $795 between January 1 and July 1, which is infinitely more than nothing but almost infinitely less than the $125,000 the bike-share system cost. Of course, Dallas had a really wet spring.
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Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.