Academic theories are often criticized because of their disconnect from professional practice; what applies in the classroom may not apply in the field. However, had former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villariagosa opened to page eighteen of James L. Creighton’s deeply academic The Public Participation Handbook, Los Angeles bike share might be a lot more than an elusive mythical creature.
Creighton’s theory compares two types of decisions: Unilateral and Public Participation. Unilateral decisions result in a quicker decision being made, but implementation time can take significantly longer because of legal issues, controversy, or other delays. Conversely, a decision made with public participation increases the amount of time it takes to make a decision, however, that time and much more is made up in the implementation process. Thus, including more voices at the table results in a more efficient and timely process compared to unilateral decisions.
In the case of LA, Villaraigosa selected Bike Nation as the city’s bike share program operator and equipment supplier in April of 2012. Stations were supposed to be on the ground in early 2013. Then that date got pushed to spring 2013. Then Bike Nation refused to release a timeline on implementation. And now it looks like Villaraigosa’s unilateral decision of selecting Bike Nation has been nixed altogether in favor of a more public process. Only two weeks ago, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) announced plans to release a request for proposals (RFP) for equipment and operations in early 2014.
As Los Angeles was attempting to finagle a deal with Bike Nation, several US cities left Los Angeles in their human-powered tire marks and launched bike share programs–New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Aspen, Houston, and many others included. Phoenix and Tampa, which each released their RFPs in the spring of this year, are set to have programs by the beginning of 2014. And LA finds itself back at square one.
After Metro releases the bike share RFP, we can assume that the vendor selection process, additional public hearings, site planning, sponsorship procurement (if necessary) and program development will take another 12 to 18 months based on other big city implementation timelines. So, Los Angeles, we can expect a program to hit the ground at some point in 2015–barring any major setbacks.
If only Villaraigosa had flipped to page eighteen.