Construction crews in San Jose recently got to work on tearing up busy city streets for new roads and bike lanes, and the work is almost complete. Accompanying the infrastructure improvements is a new program to get people out of their cars and on to bikes.

VTA is partnering with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to establish a new bike sharing program. The program, set to launch Fall 2012, will offer 1,000 rental bikes across the Bay area, with about 400 in San Jose, Mountain View and Palo Alto. Each bike will have high-tech features that include smart cards, wireless internet solar powered stations and GPS technology.

Aiko Cuenco is the project manager implementing the bike share program in Santa Clara County, and she hopes the program will both help the environment and add members to the biking community.

“The goal of the program is to really increase cycling, making a really visible program for people who don’t normally bike for transportation,” Cuenco says. “It’s really adding another option for people to just get around town. Since a lot of these bike stations are going to be centered in the downtown area, all of those short trips that people can make within downtown into other regional destinations, they can make all of those by bike share instead of driving and parking.”

A pilot program will launch this fall to evaluate the program for a year. After that, VTA will figure out what needs to improve for the future of the program.

“We’re really going to push to make the pilot program really marketable and accessible to people, so that everybody knows the program is out there and try it out and see if it works as part of their daily way of getting around town,” Cuenco says. “So we’re hoping that a lot of people will try it and really get the benefits of having an urban bike share program accessible in their community. If it proves to be a success, we’re hoping to continue the program and expand to more communities in the bay area.”

According to the VTA website, the program is currently funded by local and regional grants. The biggest grant was $4.3 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Climate Initiatives Grant program.

“The grant is funding all of the equipment and basically capital assets of the program,” Cuenco says. “So, it’s a fully funded program for the duration of the pilot.”

VTA is planning for over 400 bikes available at approximately 40 bike stations throughout the county, with the most bikes at the Palo Alto, Mt. View and San Jose Diridon Caltrain transit locations.

The program also plans to build bike share pod stations throughout downtown and shopping areas. Users can return the bikes to either one of these stations.

Currently, there are no specified plans for bike share pod locations, but San Jose residents can expect some stations near City Hall, San Jose State University and Diridon station.

Pricing for the program has not yet been decided, but VTA expects to offer similar individual use and monthly subscriptions like other bike share programs in the country. The first 30 minutes is expected to be free, with a small charge to follow and increase, so bikes are returned sooner.