Santa Monica’s grab-and-go public bicycle service racked up nearly 300,000 trips in its first 12 months

By Phoenix Tso

Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share offers 500 bikes in 85 locations

On Nov. 12, 2015, the city of Santa Monica launched the first public bike share program in Los Angeles County.

One year later, Breeze Bike Share had plenty to celebrate: Nearly 300,000 total trips in its first 12 months.

It’s also been a trendsetter, with similar public bike share programs launching in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Downtown Los Angeles.

Breeze Bike Share coordinator Kyle Kozar said he didn’t know what to expect from the program’s first year. General goals had included reducing single-occupancy vehicle travel, traffic congestion and carbon emissions in Santa Monica, as well as “providing that first/last mile connection” to and from the new Expo Line light rail stations.

As it turns out, the network of 500 GPS-equipped grab-and-go bicycles across 85 stations has been much broader than that. Breeze Bike Share counted some 44,000 one-time or recurring subscriptions — among them about 2,400 monthly or annual subscriptions.

So who uses Breeze Bike Share? About 18% of Breeze’s initial subscribers are Santa Monica residents, while 36% live elsewhere in L.A. County and 46% have addresses outside the area.

But Santa Monica locals accounted for a far greater share of total rides taken — almost half, said Kozar, with L.A. County residents and out-of-towners roughly splitting the difference. A good amount of these rides cover long distances, with Kozar describing people taking the Breeze bikes up the Pacific Coast Highway into Malibu or down to Manhattan Beach.

Financial numbers have also been strong. In its first year, Breeze Bike Share operated in the black — in part due to title sponsorship from the Santa Monica-based television streaming service Hulu, and in part due to revenue generated from system users, Kozar said.

Breeze Bike Share measures use by calculating a daily utilization rate, which is the number of rides per bike per day. Since there are 500 bicycles in the network, 500 rides (one ride per bike per day) is considered 100% utilization.

During the slower winter months, Breeze gets on average 600 to 1,200 trips per day. During spring and summer, the number of daily trips goes up to between 1,000 and 2,000 (as much as 400% utilization).

At busier times, finding an available bicycle can be a challenge for Breeze users — especially on those 2,000 ride days.

“When it gets that busy, that’s when we start thinking we probably need to add more bikes, because the demand is exceeding the capacity of the system,” Kozar said. “As we move forward, we’ll be thinking about how to balance the seasonality with the number of bikes that are out in the street.”

But the need to expand is “not a bad problem to have,” said Cynthia Rose, director of the two-wheel transportation advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke. She praised Breeze Bike Share as a major plus toward a healthier, more sustainable city.

The next step?  Connectivity. Both Rose and Kozar tout plans to integrate Breeze Bike Share with the Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and upcoming UCLA bike share programs so that riders can seamlessly use any of these programs on the Westside.