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THE STORY OF “BIKE SHARE”

by NDSU Student Government | May 20, 2016

In the 2011-2012 academic year, the concept of Bike Share was explored by Student Government in collaboration with a member of the Fargo City Commission.

  • This year was dedicated to researching the vendor options, potential integration at NDSU and in the City of Fargo, budget/cost, and student feedback from multiple methods.
  • A reserve request to start the program failed in Senate due to the need for additional information.

 

In the 2012-2013 academic year, Student Government took this information and developed more detailed program logistics and implementation programming.

  • Members of Student Government that were involved in the previous year and the current year continued with work on this program, and members that finished their terms also remained involved in the program development.
  • Initial explorations involving our weather, budgeting/costs, and the needs of the students were investigated in further detail.
  • A reserve request was discussed at length in the budgeting meeting in which resulted in a passing vote. This was for the amount of $88,000 to be put toward capital costs in startup that needed to be spent by the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2013).
  • At this same budgeting meeting, there was legislation to reallocate additional reserve funds. The final bill that was passed which allocated $65,000 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year to be used toward the operations of the Bike Share program once it was started. This money was paid out to Campus Recreation and Intramurals and was placed in their budget under a line item specific to only the formation of a Bike Share program. This money was transferred in August 2013 (the beginning of the new fiscal year).
  • The planning team consisting of student government past and present that had been working on this project continued through the summer and found that the logistical details for startup required more time than was available given the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013 and reserve request money had to be spent by this date. This $88,000 was not spent, and was then rolled back into the reserve account (which is where it came from).
  • Additional challenges with this date occurred as a result of a change by the primary sponsor at that time, a large regional company. This company made an internal decision to postpone sponsorship as they had some other priorities at that time. They did not exclude the opportunity to sponsor in the future as they expressed value in the program and saw opportunity in future partnership.

 

In the 2013-2014 academic year was one in which the program budget had to be reevaluated and recalculated.

  • Given the withdrawal of the primary sponsor as well as the start of a new fiscal year, this became a process that took the fall semester.
  • The planning team solicited and secured multiple smaller sponsors in lieu of a primary sponsor. Such parties included: Dakota Medical Foundation, Xcel Energy, Sanford Health, Kilbourne Group, Swanson Health, Forum Communications, and Susan Mathison. There were additional station sponsors as well.
  • The planning team also prepared a Powerpoint presentation for the Student Senate as well as other members of Student Government. A series of four open forums were planned and each Student Senator received a call, email, and texts in order to inform them of the meetings. All senators attended meetings as well as had opportunity to contact and converse with the planning team in order to make an informed decision about the program and change in funding.
  • At the budgeting meeting, extensive discussion about the unspent $65,000 allocation that was for Bike Share operational expenses in the 2013-2014 year. This was decided to be used for capital costs instead of operational costs in light of the sponsorship challenges.
  • Also at the budgeting meeting, the budget for 2014-2015 fiscal year was approved. Within this, there is a line item for $65,000 for operational expenses for the Bike Share program.
  • At the close of this meeting, the target for startup of the program was understood to be fall 2014. The supplier was determined to be B-Cycle and a local biking non-profit (Great Rides Fargo Inc.) was aiding in the intended summer planning for the program. They solicited two members from Student Government to act as representatives of NDSU students in continued formation of the program over summer 2014. One position is to be held by the Executive Commissioner of Finance (Preston Gilderhus for the 2014-2015 year) and the other was to be determined by the Student Senate (Chris McEwen for the 2014-2015 year).
  • No further decisions on the Bike Share program were made in this academic year.

 

In the 2014-2015 academic year, a bulk of the planning logistics commenced in the summer of 2014. Nine in-person meetings as well as numerous conference calls and extensive email communication took place.

  • One provision that NDSU required of B-Cycle was the integration of the Bison card for use of the system. The intention is that all valid students can fill out a liability waiver, much like what is used at the NDSU Wellness Center. At this point the student would be immediately approved to be able to swipe their Bison card for access to checking out a bike for a determined time period. This is called multi-frequency, radio frequency identification or MF-RFID with real-time API approval.
  • This technology requirement of MF-RFID was ahead of B-cycle’s current technological capabilities and required extensive research and development in order to get the Bison card to work in addition to the ability of credit cards to work for community members.
  • This dual reading process took additional time and research to get to an implementation date and was in the testing phase in Madison, WI by the end of August 2014.
  • Following testing, B-cycle needed ample time to assimilate data for proactive adjustments prior to launch in Fargo.
  • It should be noted that this system is the FIRST OF THIS KIND in which student cards are integrated which allows for bypass of credit card use by students of a sponsoring school. NDSU is innovating the industry by collaborating with Bcycle on this custom development.
  • The second provision that NDSU required of B-cycle was the custom color of the bikes to be Bison green. This custom order required a lead time of six months of which commenced in April resulting in an arrival target of October in Fargo, ND.
  • In light of the technological research and development stretching into the fall as well as the custom bikes arriving in October, the Board of Directors had to make the decision to ensure that all of these components are in place as intended for a full launch. This resulted in the unanimous vote of the Board to delay launch to Spring 2015. This delay of launch would allow for the following:
  • Completion of the MF-RFID development and testing as well as adjustments for launch
  • The fall semester to have B-cycle send a bike, kiosk, and dock to NDSU for Student Government to use to educate and engage students on the use of the system
  • Save in operational expenses since a portion of this year’s expenses will not be needed due to a delayed launch. This money is currently in the discussion/pro-rating process as determined by Student Government and NDSU Administration (Finance and General Counsel).

 

If you have additional questions, please contact the following in Student Government:

Executive Commissioner of Finance, Preston Gilderhus

Vice-Chair of Senate, Chris McEwen

Executive Commissioner of Public Relations, Amy L. Nash

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