Honolulu’s bikeshare program is costing the city hundreds of thousands in lost revenue

Updated: Dec. 6, 2020 at 6:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - When the city launched its popular bikeshare program more than three years ago, City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi asked the city for documents showing how the non-profit was awarded $1 million in grant money for its start up.

“There was no RFP. I kept asking for it for about two years. And they kept saying ‘we’ll get it to you, we’ll get it to you.’ And the Department never did send me an RFP,” she said.

Under a request for proposal, or RFP, Bikeshare Hawaii would have had to compete with other potential operators. But a new audit said the city exempted the company from the process.

In the report, Honolulu’s Acting City Auditor Troy Shimasaki said a lack of transparency and accountability in the city’s bikeshare program is costing the city $460,000 a year in lost revenue while the nonprofit Biki is generating more than $2.7 million in annual sales.

Most of the lost revenue -- about $300,000 -- is due to the displacement of more than 40 parking meters to make way for the biki bikes, the audit said.

“It’s not just parking spaces they’re taking away but they’re using city property, the sidewalks. Other businesses have to pay property tax or pay something. Biki doesn’t pay anything,” Kobayashi said.

But the city said the auditor overstated the loss of parking revenue. It said the revenues from the displaced parking meters generate 4 to 20 times less money than the auditor’s estimates.

It added that the program has been successful.

“The Biki pilot has demonstrated that this method of green transportation has been embraced by both residents and visitors,” said Jon Nouchi, acting director of the city Department of Transportation Services.

Meanwhile, Bikeshare Hawaii said that as a non-profit, its relationship with the city is a partnership -- not a transactional one.

“Rental payment of public street space is still an emerging issue nationwide and not all mobility providers pay a fee to use street space,” said Todd Boulanger, executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii.

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