by Worldchanging LA local blogger, Foster Kerrison:
Over the past couple of months in Pasadena, a cool new alternative transportation initiative called MyGo Pasadena has been getting off the ground. MyGo provides cash incentives for commuters to use electric bikes, rather than cars, to get to Gold Line stations. Some of you may have seen the first batch of program participants on the Metro Gold Line, showing off their trendy new electric bikes. The folks from Weststart-Calstart, a non-profit that is implementing the program, have been popping up at all the local bike events, and were a popular addition to last week’s Pasadena Earth Day celebration.
Curious to learn more about where MyGo came from, and where it is going, I met up with Whitney Pitkanen, the program manager. Here is what I learned.
What is MyGo Pasadena?
MyGo Pasadena provides commuters who take the Metro Gold Line from one of 3 stations in Pasadena an instant $500 rebate towards an electric bike, as well as a monthly cash reward based on the amount they use the bike to connect to transit – all towards the goal of demonstrating the value of these electric vehicles as new transportation options to connect to Metro Gold Line transit stations in lieu of the single occupancy automobile.
MyGo Pasadena is the first program in the country to provide incentives for connecting bikes to transit.
What is Weststart-Calstart?
Calstart is a non-profit organization that basically connects manufacturers of new, environmentally friendly transportation technologies with a market. For a lot of innovative transportation technologies, demand must be created to allow them to enter the market. For example, in the case of MyGo Pasadena the program is creating a US market for e-bikes manufactured by Giant. The company is selling a million of these bikes in China every year, but has not been able to sell them in the US. By providing incentives for end-users to buy the bikes and use them in ways that are environmentally sensitive (connecting to transit), MyGo Pasadena is creating demand, and a way for these bikes to enter the market.
Tell me about these bikes!
Electric bikes were actually first introduced to the United States in 1909, but like most forms of alternative transportation, they lost out to the automobile. The e-bikes that we provide a rebate towards are the Giant Suede-E and the Tres Terra Europa. They can be described as "human electric hybrids" because they provide "pedal activated power assist" meaning that add electric power as you pedal the bike, so you can go faster. [note: I learned how effective this "power assist" is when I saw Whitney cruise up a hill past a bunch of hardcore riders during a Pasadena bike ride last month!]
They bikes are legally considered bicycles, not mopeds. They take about 3-8 hours to recharge, depending on the model and the level of use.
The City of Pasadena, along with Pasadena Water and Power initially sought funding for the program. Funding is also being provided by the Federal Transit Administration and Los Angeles Metro. Pasadena’s Mayor, Bill Bogaard, is a major supporter of environmental initiatives – and is also an avid cyclist. The City has recently developed a Green Plan (PDF), and Calstart is hoping to partner with the city to deliver programs such as MyGo that support the transportation element of the plan.
How has the program been so far?
Feedback has been remarkably good. The first participant was a judge who commutes every day to downtown LA – and he loves it! There have been 85 enrollees since the program was launched in March, and there are currently 20 active members – meaning those who regularly take their bikes to the train.
The program participated in the “sustainable transportation village” portion of the Pasadena Earth Day Celebration, and we had a lot of interest from the community.
What are the major challenges?
Bike parking at Metro stations is limited, and MyGo is working with Metro to add bike lockers to the stations participating in the program. Participants can bring the bikes on board the trains, as long as they comply with Metro regulations, but then have to bring the bikes to their workplace when they arrive in Union Station.
What about more or better bike lanes in Pasadena?
While Pasadena received the “most bike friendly city” award for Los Angeles County in 2004, we have heard feedback that some of the streets are better than others. For instance, sometimes cars park over the bike lane. We are considering adding a blog to our MyGo website, so that we can share some of what our users are experiencing. This type of feedback may be useful for the City to consider as it continues to add bike lanes.
Any plans to expand the program?
We are currently looking to replicate the program in Burbank and Santa Barbara. We would also like to get the program expanded to cities in the South Bay (Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach) to utilize their new bike trail.
We are also meeting with the employee transportation coordinators of companies in downtown LA, in conjunction with ridelinks, and plan to encourage them to promote our program among their employees.
What are some other initiatives you predict or would like to see?
There are a lot of transit-linked mobility initiatives going on through the First Mile group here at Calstart, and we hope to continue to partner with local cities to provide more ways to encourage transit use.
So, there you have it. The first program to encourage e-bikes on transit in the country, and we have it right here in LA county! If you commute from Pasadena, and see yourself as a WorldChanger, this is like free money! Go to MyGo Pasadena to sign up, and get on your bike!
sounds like a backscratch deal for the 2 bike shops.
Why can't you buy an e-bike from any source you choose?
The 2 e-bikes pictured from the dealers are overpriced for the range and speed delivered.
Selecting local, reputable, enthusiastic bike dealers and robust, reliable bike brands was an essential part of preparing the program. As a result, all MyGo members have a local brick-and-mortar source where they can test ride and purchase their bike, get routine maintenance/repair, and personalized customer service (as opposed to, say, buying a questionable, un-tested vehicle online or from a huge outlet like Target).
"Finding a place to buy an electric bike can be a challenge. Shoppers have few places to kick the tires and to take test spins, while online retailers can charge $200 or more for assembly and delivery charges."
Recent NY Times "Your Money" article for more: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/business/yourmoney/06bikes.html?ex=1336104000&en=862ae8c5ab0b0355&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss