What You Need to Know About Bike Share

Bike share is an extension of the municipal/regional transit system, filling in the “last mile” of transit service not covered by rail or bus, and consequently is an important component of municipal/regional services that can be improved, made more efficient and supported through this regional initiative.

A bike share system consists of a network of stations placed throughout a municipality, from which a bike can be taken and returned to any other station. The availability of a bike sharing system is a relatively inexpensive and quick implementation extension to the existing public transit offerings in the communities that are core regional government services available to the public. It provides an option for urban transportation that will open up downtown's to a new form of exploration that is non-polluting, active, healthy, and engaging. For the last two years, Holyoke, Amherst, South Hadley, Springfield, and Northampton have been collaborating in partnership with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, to advance efforts that will bring bike sharing to the region. After completing numerous studies, drafting a system that works for the city, town, and the region, and securing federal funds to help with the purchase of the equipment capital, the goal currently is to implement a pilot scale program by Spring of 2018.

Many bike share programs have been able to cover all or a portion of their operating costs by utilizing a combination of sponsorship, advertising, and user revenue fees which the municipalities look to leverage to sustain the annual operating costs of the program. Federal funds have been recently secured to purchase the necessary capital equipment, including bikes and bike stations, for all participating communities of the ValleyBike Share system.

Photos: ValleyBike Steering Committee tests different bikeshare vendor models:



Project objectives are to extend the regions public transit system by supporting both the bus and rail public transportation infrastructure, services that are critical local and regional government services. This innovative public transportation alternative seeks to achieve the following goals and objectives:

  • To use bicycles to enhance and extend the range of the transit and rail services;
  • To solve the “last-mile problem” by expanding the distance people can easily travel in order to get to the nearest destination;
  • To promote healthy, active living and support recreational use of bikes;
  • To build demand for bicycle infrastructure, including bike lanes and  bike parking;
  • To provide visitors and local residents with an effective means of moving around the region, that is equitable and inclusive of elderly, lower income and other traditionally underserved populations;
  • To promote economic development including jobs and schools;
  • To promote green transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • To create a bike share system that is financially sustainable;
  • To create a bike share system that functions regionally;
  • To make use of local opportunities to support bike sharing, such the prevalence of large health care institutions, the number of higher-learning campuses and large student population, and supportive local businesses;
  • Create more livable communities, and reduce the need for new areas to be developed for additional parking in our urban core and commercial areas.


There are several major existing assets in the greater region that influences the use of a bike share system in which helps solve the "last-mile problem" by expanding the distance people can easily travel in order to get to their nearest destination. These assets include:

  • Rail Service: Passenger rail service in the Pioneer Valley is currently being upgraded. In early 2015, Amtrak’s Vermonter line was rerouted to serve the Pioneer Valley and now includes stops at newly-constructed stations in downtown Holyoke and Northampton. Additionally, Springfield’s Union Station is currently in the process of a $75 million renovation. When completed in early 2017, the station will be a multi-modal transportation hub for the city and the regions bus and rail service, which will greatly increase its use.

Moreover, the Pioneer Valley’s Our Next Future Plan (2014) identified locations in the Pioneer Valley that are best suited for transit-oriented development (TOD). Transit-oriented development is generally mixed-use, dense, and walkable, in order to maximize the use of transit. The map in Appendix A shows all locations that were examined in the Pioneer Valley for potential TOD, shown in pink. After assessing the potential of these 30 sites based on their current walkability, density, and public transit availability, they were ranked and prioritized. Of the top ten locations in this prioritized list, most are located in Amherst and Holyoke as well as the other partners of this venture which includes Springfield, and Northampton. (See Appendix A - Locations Best Suited for Transit Orientated Development in Amherst, Springfield, Holyoke, and Northampton). As for South Hadley, the town sits directly in between Holyoke and Amherst which will link these communities for riders who look to utilize the system for travel cross-jurisdictionally.

  • Bus Service: The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority provides bus service to 24 municipalities in western Massachusetts, including Amherst, Holyoke, and South Hadley as well as Springfield, and Northampton who are participating in the regional bike sharing system. The system’s 46 scheduled bus routes  mostly radiate from four service hubs, or “pulse” points: the Springfield Bus Terminal (to be relocated to Union Station in 2017), the Holyoke Transportation Center, downtown Northampton, and the UMass Amherst / downtown Amherst corridor as well as several routes that serve the Five College area (Northampton, Hadley, South Hadley, and Amherst).

PVTA's annual ridership is just over 11 million and the system has approximately 15,000 to 20,000 regular riders. The Springfield Bus Terminal has approximately 7,500 PVTA customers traveling on approximately 550 buses each weekday. Surveys conducted by the PVTA have found that riders primarily use the system for commuting to work and school. Most residents have low incomes and are dependent on the bus for transportation, with almost 75 percent of riders make less than $20,000 per year, 60 percent of riders not owning a car, and 80 percent indicating they have no other way to make their trip other than using PVTA. A bike sharing system will greatly benefit these riders as it will provide a convenient alternative for trips that are too far to walk but not far enough to justify waiting for a bus.

  • Colleges and Universities: Marketing to young and urban populations is relatively easy and inexpensive, since they often respond strongly to social media and word-of-mouth outreach.  Bike share can connect students to nearby downtowns and other popular destinations such as shopping and entertainment districts. 

There are 13 public and private colleges and universities located within the region, and 10 of these are located in Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, South Hadley, and Springfield. Together, these educational institutions employ over 13,000 people and have a student enrollment population of more than a 100,000 within two distinct geographic clusters. In the northern half of the region, the well-known Five College area is home to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Smith College in downtown Northampton, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Hampshire College, and Amherst College. These five institutions together graduate approximately 6,000 to 7,000 students a year and employ approximately 8,382 people. The University of Massachusetts in Amherst employs approximately 4,800 people, making it the largest educational institution in the region and the third largest single employer within the Pioneer Valley. In the southern half of the region, the Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield encompass the remaining eight colleges within the Pioneer Valley region. These eight colleges - American International College, Bay Path College, Elms College, Holyoke Community College, Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College, Western New England College, and Westfield State University - employs approximately 3,922 people and graduate nearly 7,000 students a year. Together, the 13 colleges and universities afford residents of the Pioneer Valley region a multitude of educational opportunities and provide employers with an annual pool of skilled talent. This broad higher education sector provides the region with a strong employment base and a superior foundation from which to launch many of the region’s economic development initiatives. The students and employers of these institutes are likely users of a bike sharing system.

  • Employment at Hospitals: Employing even more workers than the region’s colleges and universities are the Pioneer Valley’s 12 hospitals, which employ a total of 12,461 workers. The majority of the hospitals are located within Holyoke, Springfield, and Northampton.  Baystate Medical Center in Springfield is the region’s largest hospital and employer with 4,737 full-time employees on its payroll. Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton is the second largest with over 1,600 employees. In addition, Holyoke Hospital and Mercy Medical Center in Springfield also boast substantial employment for the region and their host communities, with over 1,400 and 900 employees respectively. Overall, the health care industry is growing in the region and provides a source of well-paying jobs with good benefits which is a potential market for a bike share program.


Major benefits a bike share system achieves within a community and the greater region will include:

  • Bike share systems create "green" jobs for managing and operating the system;
  • It is an affordable transportation alternative for low-income families. For most families, transportation costs are the second highest cost, after housing, as a percentage of household expenditure. The cost to access a bike share program can be as low as the annual membership fee of $70 - $100, which is subsidized for low-income users in some cities. Bike sharing may reduce the need for a second vehicle in some households;
  • Bike share systems can help businesses to attract additional customers, and to provide their employees with an inexpensive option for commuting to work or making short trips during the day. Businesses can also benefit from sponsoring or advertising at bike share stations;
  • Bike share systems can be an attractive, high-profile addition to a city that draws tourists and visitors;
  • The bike share system will be publicly owned therefore it is recognized as a local government service connecting the public to their last-mile destination;
  • Bike sharing has a positive impact to the environment. 25% percent of bike share trips replace vehicle trips, thus reducing carbon emissions. It also reduces dependence on the private automobile, with commensurate benefits in air quality;
  • A bike share system also provides greater health benefits. Bicycling is an accessible low-impact form of physical activity, with well-recognized health benefits to reduce obesity, heart diseases and other sedentary lifestyle diseases. With rising numbers of people affected by these health issues, bike sharing can benefit overall community health.

Continuing, Comprehensive, and Cooperative Planning Process

Average Annual Daily Traffic

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

Average Daily Traffic

American Farmland Trust

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

American Heritage Rivers Initiative

American International College

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Approval Not Required

American Planning Association

Aquifer Protection District

Air Quality Index

Air Quality Index

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (of 2009)

Automatic Traffic Recorder

Average Vehicle Ridership

Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee

Business Improvement District

Bicycle Level of Service

Best Management Practice

Bridge Management System

Board of Appeals (or Adjustment)

Board of Health

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990

Commercial Area Revitalization District

Community Action Statement

Central Business District

Cape Cod Commission

Cooperating Colleges of Greater Springfield

Community Development

Community Development Action Grant

Community Development Block Grant

Centers for Disease Control

Community Development Corporation

Community Development Fund

Community Development Plan

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation

Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation

Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

Community Enterprise Economic Development

Citizen Housing and Planning Association

Community Housing Development Organizations

Capital Improvement Inventory System

Capital Improvements Plan (or Program)

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

Congestion Management Process

Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission

Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area

Compressed Natural Gas

Carbon Monoxide

Council of Governments

Commonwealth Procurement Access and Solicitation System

Community Preservation Act

Citizen Planner Training Collaborative

Capitol Region Council of Governments

Community Service Block Grant

Combined Sewer Overflow

Department of Conservation and Recreation

Department of Environmental Protection

Division of Employment and Training

Department of Housing and Community Development

Direct Local Technical Assistance

Department of Energy Resources

Department of Revenue

Department of Transportation

Department of Public Works

Developments of Regional Impact

Executive Order

Production of affordable housing across a broad range of incomes 

Economic Assistance Coordinating Council

Economic Development Administration

Economic Development Council

Economic Development District

Economic Development Data and Information System

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation

Environmental Impact Report

Environmental Impact Statement

Environmental Justice

Environmental Notification Form

Economic Opportunity Area

Executive Office of Administration and Finance

Executive Office of Economic Affairs

Executive Office of Elder Affairs

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development

Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Site Assessment

Economic Target Area

Federal Aid

Functional Classification (of roadways)

Federal Housing Administration

Federal Highway Administration - An agency of the United States Department of Transportation that provides financial and technical support to each state for constructing, improving, and preserving America’s highway system.

Federal Highway Administration

Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Federal Transit Administration

Greenhouse Gas

Geographic Information System - A system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the earth.

Geographic Information System

Global Positioning System

Housing Appeal Committee


Holyoke Community College

Housing Development Support Program

Housing Innovation Fund

Home Modification for Individuals with Disabilities Loan

Highway Overlay District

Historic Overlay District

Homeownership Opportunities Program

High Occupancy Vehicle

Housing Preservation Grant

Housing Production Plan

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Invitation for Bid

Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Job Access and Reverse Commute

Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway

Jacob's Ladder Trail

Joint Transportation Committee

Local Board(s) of Health

Limited English Proficiency

Local Housing Authority

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

Level of Service

Local Option Transportation Tax

Local Pavement Management System

Light Rail Vehicle

Local Technical Assistance

Massachusetts General Laws

Hazardous waste cleanup regulations

Uniform procurement law for local governments


Planning/comprehensive permits

Smart growth zoning and housing production

Smart growth school cost reimbursement

Subdivision control

Expedited permitting

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Massachusetts Association of Regional Planning Agencies

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Massachusetts Geographic Information System

Minority Business Enterprises

Massachusetts Development Finance Agency 

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act

Massachusetts Geographic Information Council

Massachusetts Historical Commission 

Massachusetts Housing Partnership

Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency

Municipal Incentive Grant

Massachusetts Municipal Association

Memorandum of Agreement

Massachusetts Office of Business Development

Massachusetts Office on Disability

Memorandum of Understanding

Metropolitan Planning Organization

Metropolitan Planning Organization

Montachusett Regional Planning Commission

Metropolitan Statistical Area

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Martha's Vineyard Commission

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

National Association of Regional Councils

New England Association of Regional Councils

Non-Federal Aid

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (as amended)

National Highway System

Neighborhood Housing Services program

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Northern Middlesex Council of Governments

Nitrogen Oxide

Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System 

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Transportation Safety Board

Old Colony Planning Council

Overall Condition Index (Pavement)

Open Space and Recreation Plan

Pavement Condition Index

Priority Development Fund

Purchase of Development Rights

Peak Hour Traffic (or Trips)

Payment in Lieu of Taxes

[Metropolitan] Planning Funds

Pavement Management System 

Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area

Pavement Management Users Group

Planner on a Disc

Public Participation Process

Planned Unit Residential Development

Pioneer Valley Regional Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund

Pioneer Valley Transit Authority

Quaboag Valley Community Development Corp.

Rental Development Action Loan

Regional Employment Board

Regional Education and Business Alliance

Regional Economic Models, Inc.

Request For Proposal

Request for Qualifications

Request for Response

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

Roadway Inventory Files

Revolving Loan Fund

Regional Planning Agency

Regional Pavement Management System

Regional Transit Authority

Regional Technology Corporation

Regional Transportation Plan

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

Small Business Administration

Supplier Diversity Office 

State Implementation Plan (for air quality)

Sustainable Knowledge Corridor

Single Occupancy Vehicle

Special Permit

Special Permit Planning

Site Plan Review

Statewide Planning and Research Funds

Single Room Occupancy

Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District

Springfield Technical Community College

Statewide Transportation Improvement Program

Surface Transportation Program

Targeted Brownfields Assessment

Transportation and Community System Preservation [Pilot Program]

Transportation Demand Management

Transfer of Development Rights

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

Tax Increment Financing

Transportation Improvement Program

The Literacy Project

Turning Movement Count

Traditional Neighborhood District

Transit Oriented Design (or Development)

Transportation Research Board

Trip Reduction Ordinance

Transportation Systems Management

Urban Growth Boundary

Urban Land Institute

University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute

Unified Planning Work Program

Urban Revitalization Development Grant

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Forest Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Geological Survey

U.S. Public Land Survey

Underground Storage Tanks

Vehicle Miles Traveled

Volatile Organic Compound

Vehicle Occupancy Rate

Ware Adult Learning Center

Weatherization Assistance Program

Women-owned Business Enterprises

Wellhead Protection Area

Western New England University

Water Quality Management Plan

Westfield River Watershed Association

Westfield River Wild & Scenic Advisory Committee

Water Supply Protection [District]

Westfield State University

Zoning Board of Adjustment (or Appeals)

Associated Communities: 

South Hadley

Associated Project: 

ValleyBike Share