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DublinBikes expansion could be funded by more on-street advertising

— Calls for bicycle share to be funded as public transport
— Council also seeking central government funding

Dublin City Council are to look at the option of more on-street advertising to fund an expansion of the city’s public bicycle share system, the city transport committee were told this morning. The council says it is also looking into “central government funding, alteration of the pricing structure, and increasing the subscription base.”

Planning and traffic sections of the council are to investigate further sites for advertising to fund DublinBikes. The work on identifying suitable sites will be carried out this summer, but will be subject to approval by councillors at local area committees and a part 8 public consultation process.

The sponsorship arrangement will also be up for renewal this year and it is possible that it could fund a higher percentage of running costs.

Both councillors and other members of the transport committee suggested that the system should be subsidised in the same way public transport is from national funding, but council officials said that the National Transport Authority are only willing to fund capital and not on-going costs of the system. 

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Of the morning commuter trips crossing the Dublin canals into the city centre, 38% of journeys are less than 5km in length, which a council report on DublinBikes says is a “a distance that can be easily cycled by most people in 20 minutes” and adds “A further quarter of all inbound trips are between 5km and 10km”. It seems that there is an on-going unwillingness at national level to fund DublinBikes like public transport, although this is in the context of years of reducing public transport funding due to the economic downturn. 

DublinBikes was originally funded from a mix of advertising and user subscriptions. The subscription and usage funding from users was originally returned to the council for its use. This changed with the last expansion of the scheme — which includes the user funding going directly into the system, sponsorship from Coke Cola, and a cost to the council. 

“The scheme costs €1.92m a year to operate. This is a recurring charge to Dublin City Council each year the scheme is in operation. This charge is not met in full by annual membership or sponsorship. Any expansion would increase this annual charge. The Planning and Property Development Department are investigating options whereby future development phases of the scheme can be financed,” said said Michael Rossiter, an executive planner at the forward planning section of the city council in a report to the transport committee.

While the €1.92 cost is mentioned in the report as “a recurring charge” to the council, the council only directly pays a small portion of this.

At the time the contracts were signed for the expansion, the sponsorship was estimated to covers only around €300,000 of the estimated €1.92m yearly cost to the system. Users of the system were to fund the bulk of the costs with an estimated €1.4 million, leaving around just under €200,000 to be taken from the council’s central budget. This does not include expansion construction and other capital costs, part funded by the NTA.

The cost of the original part of the DublinBikes system is separate to this and is funded by JCDecaux Ireland under a 15 year deal of street advertising space in return for advertising and a tourist way finding system. The DublinBikes section of this was estimated in 2009 to cost just over €33.4 million or €2.2 million per year including the original capital costs — making advertising the largest source of funding for the overall scheme.

In his report the committee, Rossiter added: “All potential funding sources to facilitate further expansion are being explored including central government funding, alteration of the pricing structure, increasing the subscription base and generating additional revenue through advertising. A structured implementation plan will be developed for further expansion phases when funding is identified.”

“There is no definite timeframe in place for the delivery of further phases beyond the current scheme at present. Further planned expansion phases are dependent on the identification of sustainable long term funding for both the capital and annual operational costs over the lifetime of the scheme,” said Rossiter.

Related to the expansion, Councillor Ray McHugh (Sinn Féin) had a motion at the transport committee “To support the Coca-Cola Zero dublinbikes scheme being extended to include Griffith College South Circular Road.” Officials said that this area was in the planned phase 3 of expansion, as set out in the city’s five year plan for the system. 

The expansion of DublinBikes is now far behind the council’s five year plan, outlined in a report titled ‘Dublin Bikes Strategic Planning Framework 2011-2016’. That plan stated: “Over the next 5 years it is expected that the dublinbikes scheme will begin to be extended into the 14 strategic locations as identified, which individually and in combination will be able to support the immediate growth of the dubllinbikes network.” Although, there was a caveat — it always depended on securing funding.

Details of DublinBikes, including overviews, contracts and costs can be found at IrishCycle.com/dublinbikes/

Map from the Dublin Bikes Strategic Planning Framework 2011-2016:  

A screenshot of a section of the DublinBikes expansion contact which can be found in full at IrishCycle.com/dublinbikes/

  

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4 comments

  1. Who gets the 17.5% management fee for groundworks? Why are the user fees not clearly published? Is it because the whole thing is a bottle of smoke and a cash cow for the advertising company who started it?

    Was the original contract ever published?

    Reply
  2. The original contract can be found here: http://irishcycle.com/dublinbikes/ under the heading “Section 4 December 2015 Freedom of Information release”

    The main bit is named “1. 23 Nov 06 (original contract)” but that should not be read as a standalone document as “2. Revised Schedule 2007” was issued before launch in 2009. Further insight can be gained by viewing the “3. Revised Schedule Feb 2010” which is related to the mini-expansion and “4. dublinbikes Expansion Contract 15-5-13” which relates to the 2a and 2b expansion.

    We have only partly looked at the contents of the FOI request — the main aim of such was to make the contracts, data and reports public. We know others are already looking at the content of the FOI.

    Reply
  3. A shortfall of €191k sounds very modest. Is it a significant challenge to bridge that gap? There are a number of easy options which could fund this, for example:
    – modest increase in subscription fees
    – increased visitor subscription
    – additional advertising
    – allocation of funding from street parking income in Dublin bikes footprint

    For capital funding, the council should look at sponsorship by significant employers to get a bike station on their doorstep, eg in Eastpoint or Ballsbridge. Long term funding is essential and in the public interest. At some point, the scheme will become a net contributor to the city. I would hope in the future, the majority of citizens will be subscribers, and use the Dublin Bikes for short trips across town, or between suburbs.

    Reply

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