COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - ofo is back in business in College Station, at least for now.
Thursday night, KBTX learned their permit had been pulled, but Friday morning it got reinstated. ofo’s permit was revoked October 12 due to multiple violations of College Station’s ordinance governing dockless bike-share programs.
Among the violations was a lapse in automobile liability insurance coverage, which prevented ofo’s paid drivers from legally operating vehicles used to gather and relocate the yellow bikes.
Now, Texas A&M will be transitioning to a new bike share vendor in the coming months. Lindsey Jones and her friend Isaiah Brown have enjoyed the bike share service from ofo, while it's lasted.
"I wish that we could keep them here. Hopefully, A&M can find a way to like keep them on campus and other bikes," said Jones.
"I think that stinks that's unfortunate just because like I know I use them a lot and I know other people use them a lot," said Brown.
“I’ve never had any issues and I like them a lot I think they're convenient," added Jones.
Problems have plagued the bike share company with the yellow bikes being left in improper places and slow responses from the company after much of the ofo staff was cut.
"They recently ramped up heir employees to 14 here, but prior to that there were three employees managing 2,300 bikes. It just wasn’t enough," explained Aubrey Nettles, College Station Special Projects Coordinator.
Friday morning, their permit was reinstated after they paid a $5,785 citation for operating without a permit in recent weeks. They also had to add $5,000 back into an escrow account that gets deducted when the city charges a relocation fee.
"We have discussed a transition plan with both A&M and ofo. As we understand that A&M will be moving forward with a new vendor for next semester. ofo has explained that they will be picking up all bikes, donating some, selling some parts and recycling the rest," said Nettles.
She says residents should still use See Click Fix or call code enforcement if they encounter problems.
"If they don't take care of it we will and the vendor will be charged accordingly," said Nettles.
“One thing that the city has learned and will absolutely require with a new vendor is that the vendor operating in the city will need to have a phone number that is on the bikes that citizens can call," she added.
Texas A&M Transportation Services say they plan to keep bike sharing on campus. ofo users hope a new company will have better luck.
"I think another bike service like ofo would be so fun to have around I wouldn't want it to go away," said Jones.
A&M hopes to have a new vendor in place after this fall.
The City of College Station released this statement:
On Friday, the City of College Station reinstated the permit required for ofo — the Beijing-based dockless bicycle sharing company — to operate outside the Texas A&M University campus.
As long as the company continues to meet city requirements, ofo’s permit to operate in College Station remains valid through Aug. 23, 2019 — one year from its original issue date.
Texas A&M currently holds an exclusive contract with ofo to operate the bicycles on its campus; however, a city ordinance governs how dockless bike-share businesses operate beyond campus boundaries. Texas A&M Transportation Services has indicated it will transition its dockless bike-share system to a new vendor after the fall semester.
In addition to its automobile liability insurance coverage reestablished, ofo also paid $5,785 in outstanding citations and replenished its $5,000 escrow account with the city.
Texas A&M Transportation Services also released this statement:
COLLEGE STATION, Oct. 26, 2018— Texas A&M University’s Transportation Services will transition from its current bike share system to a new vendor in the coming months. The current vendor will continue to service the campus community through the remainder of the fall semester.
To address some of the operational issues resulting from the recent nationwide ofo layoffs, such as slow response times and operational deficiencies, Transportation Services is reviewing other vendors that can provide operational enhancements to the bike share system. A new company has not been selected.
“Bike share has been widely accepted by our community and the launch of bike share on campus has shown us that we can provide a successful and sustainable mode of transportation to our customers,” said A&M’s Alternative Transportation Manager Ron Steedly.
Transportation Services is working through the transition details and expects uninterrupted service. Details will be provided about how to switch to the new vendor. As information becomes available, there will be a campaign to communicate it...
“Our expectation is to select a vendor that can provide improved service, including a round-the-clock call center to address operational issues. In addition, we would like a vendor that can offer improved communications tools for reaching customers directly when there are user issues that impact the community,” Steedly said.
On-campus bike share delivered 2,300 bikes with more than 39,500 registered users. Since the launch in March, more than 330,000 miles have been logged on over 500,000 rides taken by customers.
Before A&M will consider a new vendor to begin providing service, the vendor must first apply for and be approved by the City of College Station for a permit to operate in the city.