Gotcha! Tax-Payer Funded Bike Share Program Going Down the Drain in Baton Rouge?
Baton Rouge taxpayers spent over $100,000 to bring Gotcha bike-share program to town. Is it money down the drain?
Just over four years ago, in September 2018, East Baton Rouge Parish leaders and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome celebrated the signing of a contract for Baton Rouge's first bike-sharing program, with Gotcha Bikes, a contract worth up to $801,000 in federal, state, and local tax dollars. This came after a process launched in July of that year seeking bids for the exclusive contract that ultimately went to Gotcha. According to that initial announcement, up to $600,000 in funds from the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) and up to $260,000 in East Baton Rouge City-Parish funds would be used to launch to program.
Ever since that September 2018 announcement, it seems city-parish leaders should have been more wary of spending taxpayer dollars with a company literally named "Gotcha", as they seem to have gotten the best of Baton Rouge taxpayers.
First, came the delayed launch. Originally slated to launch in early 2019, Gotcha delayed deployment in Baton Rouge until March 2019, with a goal of being in place by St. Patrick's Day. That target date came and went- and Gotcha finally had bikes on the ground and ready for use 6 months after their target- in July 2019 with a big ribbon-cutting celebration on July 18, 2019 in downtown Baton Rouge.
The celebration was short lived, as just a week later the bikes went offline due to a technical glitch.
Now, after repeated delays, technical glitches, and hundreds of thousands of tax-dollars being poured into the Gotcha bike sharing program, they may be disappearing completely.
In the last month, Bolt Mobility, who operates Gotcha bikes, has suddenly ceased service in at least 6 U.S. Cities. They've seemingly vanished in these cities- leaving behind hundreds of dead bikes and scooters, and with company representatives all the way up to the CEO ignoring the calls of confused city leaders, who, like in Baton Rouge, have dumped hundreds of thousands of their taxpayers dollars into the bike-share program.
While city-parish leaders project confidence that Gotcha won't continue to live up to their name, despite multiple signs to the contrary, they have a solution should Gotcha abandon Baton Rouge: dump more money into another company, citing taxpayer investments already made into the current infrastructure.
As leaders continue to debate other taxpayer funded investments into transportation projects with little market-demand- like the Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger train, we hope they will consider the waste of tax dollars on Gotcha bikes, and its broken promises, before moving forward.