Should you buy a Biketown membership right now? Here’s the calculation

Should you buy a Biketown membership right now? Here’s the calculation

hello biketown is here

There are a few scenarios to consider.
(Image: BIKETOWNpdx.com)

Now that we finally know the prices to use Portland’s new public bike sharing system, it’s time to start making a decision: What do you want to commit to?

Even broken out into $12 monthly payments, $144 a year is a pretty big commitment, though far cheaper than, say, an annual TriMet pass ($1,100). And unlike TriMet or most U.S. bike sharing systems, month-to-month passes apparently won’t be an option with Biketown. You can pay $12 for 24 hours or $12 each month for a year; nothing in between. Or you can put up $2.50 for a single ride any time you need one.

So what’s the best option for you? Here’s a short BikePortland guide to the $12-per-month decision.

If you can make it part of your commute, probably get a membership. Maybe you live in Northwest and commute to Washington County via MAX at Goose Hollow. Maybe you attend OHSU and hate waiting for the streetcar transfer from downtown. Maybe you work the early or late shift and can only take TriMet in one direction because of its schedules. Maybe you both live and work within the service area. Congratulations — 55 cents for 90 minutes per day is a great deal for you. Might even be cheaper than maintaining your own bike. And the tires stay pumped.

Leaving your car at a friend’s place after your second IPA will never be an annoying decision again.

If you both live and drink within the service area, maybe get a membership. Biking while drunk (or seriously high) is a dumb idea. Buzzed biking? That’s your call. If you live anywhere within or near the bike-share service area, even far from a station, the $2 fee for dropping a Biketown away from a station is going to be a lot cheaper than a cab. Leaving your car at a friend’s place after your second IPA will never be an annoying decision again.

If you live in the service area and often host guests who don’t have bikes, maybe get a membership. My least favorite thing about out-of-town visitors is that they force me to leave my bike at home and switch to car and TriMet. If I lived in the service area, I’d jump at the chance to loan them my Biketown card (note: this isn’t technically allowed) and get them on a freakin’ bicycle, the way Portland ought to be experienced.







If you frequently ride TriMet through the central city in early morning or late evening, probably get a membership. For years, I took my bike with me on every trip even though I had a TriMet pass, because I always wanted the option to stay out until after buses stopped running regularly and I needed to bike to avoid a half-hour wait at the end of the night. This was annoying. Biketown is the cure for this situation.

One thing you should think about is whether Biketown might make it worthwhile for you to become more of a transit rider than you are today.

If you’ll average about one trip per week all year, get a membership. This is the purest financial formula: $2.50 x 5 = $12.50, and $12.50 is more than $12. Remember that the $2.50 per ride option isn’t a round trip — but also remember that the whole joy of bike sharing is that, unlike a private bike, it doesn’t have to be a round-trip vehicle. You can hop in the car with your spouse, skip the uphill with bus, Lyft or car2go, or any other improvisation you can think of.

As we’ve written before, and as you can see in the scenarios above, bike sharing is much more for people who mostly ride transit than for people who mostly bike. But one thing you should think about is whether Biketown might make it worthwhile for you to become more of a transit rider than you are today.

For those of us who already own and ride private bikes, Biketown’s basic promise is to free us from having to think about our personal bicycles while we’re out and about. That’s not quite as exciting as freeing yourself from your car, but it’s a pretty great feeling. Think about it.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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