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Portland firm gets Chicago bike-sharing contract

Portland's Alta Bicycle Share Inc. will launch an $18 million bike-sharing project in Chicago this summer.

Members of the Chicago City Council's Committee on Traffic and Pedestrian Safety decided Friday to award a five-year contract to operate the city's program to the Portland company. The city will use an $18 million federal air quality grant to fund the contract, which includes the purchase of 3,000 bicycles and installation of 301 solar-powered docking stations and platforms for the bikes.

Alta Bicycle Share's national headquarters is on Southeast Grand Avenue in Portland. It operates two other bicycle sharing programs across the nation. In 2010, the company launched Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va. In 2011, it launched the New Balance Hubway in Boston.

The company also worked with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria and Bixi to launch the first bicycle-sharing program in Australia, with 600 bicycles in Melbourne.

Chicago already has a smaller bicycle-sharing program using about 100 bicycles.

Under the Chicago project's new contract, Alta Bicycle Share will rent bicycles around the city for between $4 and $7 a day. Annual membership passes will cost between $60 and $85.

The first year's operation and maintenance costs for the program will be capped at about $7.8 million. Also during the first year, the city of Chicago plans to cover 90 percent of any shortfall between revenue and operating costs. After the first year, the city and Alta Bicycle Share will determine any cost and revenue caps.

The city of Portland will use $2 million local transportation funds to pay for part of a $4 million bike-sharing program that will be launched next year. The City Council approved the project in August 2011, using a combination of regional transportation funds and federal money.