Gov. Quinn denies $3 million grant to expand Divvy

By Thomas A. Corfman May 14, 2014

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business

Divvy Docking Station

Divvy Docking Station

The Quinn administration has denied an application by the city of Chicago for a $3 million grant for Divvy, puncturing a hole in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to expand the bicycle-sharing program.

Chicago was shut out last month when the Illinois Department of Transportation announced nearly $53 million in grants under the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program. The Emanuel administration had planned to use the money to buy 75 docking stations, extending the reach of the program into Oak Park and Evanston.

The denial came as Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Quinn were jabbing at each other over a much larger issue: a bill backed by the mayor overhauling the finances of two city pension funds that would require a $750 million hike in Chicago property taxes over five years. The bill, which passed the Illinois General Assembly on April 8, is awaiting approval by Mr. Quinn, who has objected to the tax hike at a time when he has made lowering property taxes a key part of his re-election campaign.

The joint application by Chicago and the two suburbs was part of a competitive field of 232 applications requesting over $260 million, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said. The department on April 12 selected 71 proposals for the program, which is funded by the federal government.

“We are enthusiastically behind the idea of bike sharing,” the spokesman said, noting that Chicago has won transportation enhancement grants in the past. “It’s just a matter of finding a funding fit.”

The largest grants were about $2.2 million each to Evanston, for a bicycle path along Chicago Avenue, and west suburban Winfield, to build a portion of what is called the West Regional Trail. The Emanuel administration is working with the two suburbs to find other sources of funding, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation said in an email.

BLUE CROSS

The blow of losing the grant was eased on May 1, when city officials announced a five-year, $12.5 million sponsorship agreement with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois.

“Our partnership with Blue Cross helps us to expand the bike share system, improve and maintain bike lanes, and encourage cycling in all neighborhoods across Chicago,” Mayor Emanuel said, according to a statement.

The $3 million IDOT grant would have been about 11 percent of the $27.4 million in public funding the Emanuel administration had planned to use to get Divvy rolling.

The bulk of Divvy’s startup costs are to be funded by three federal grants, totaling $24.4 million, which require matching city funds of $6.1 million, according to information obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Chicago officials say their local contribution is $175,000 more than federal records show.

The Emanuel administration last year obtained obtained funding to increase the number of bike stations to from 300, to 475, which is considered key to converting Divvy from a tourist attraction to a day-to-day program that city residents use for routine trips instead of automobiles. The state grant would have added another 75 stations.

Note: The number of Divvy stations has been corrected.


TakeAways

As with CitiBike in NYC the business model has proven to have been vastly oversold. The Cycling Community is not really large enough to support a system like this without a great deal of tourist and non-cyclist support. The latter is going to be increasingly difficult to get if cyclists do not learn better how to tolerate their presence on BikeShare bikes.

The irony is that despite the rants of John Kass about Divvy users and the pushback this caused, the worst offenders are the Cycling Community itself in places like the ChainLink Forum.