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Ofo to be phased out at A&M despite reinstated permit

The Battalion

By Anthony Pangonas

Published: October 26, 2018

Update: The City of College Station announced Friday afternoon that ofo has met the city’s requirements and the company’s permit to operate outside the Texas A&M campus has been reinstated.

The permit will last until Aug. 23, 2019 as long as ofo continues to meet the requirements laid out by the city’s dockless bike-share ordinance.

According to the city’s statement, ofo was required to update its auto liability insurance, replenish its $5,000 escrow account with the city and pay $5,785 in outstanding citations. The company is also required to present plans for rebalancing and communication related to their bike-share service, according to the city’s website.

Texas A&M still plans to phase out its ofo program and look for a new bike-share vendor, according to a statement released by Transportation Services on Friday at 4:30. Ofo will continue operating on campus until the end 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,” the statement said. “A new company has not been selected.”

Transportation services plans to post details about the transition process on their website as new information becomes available. According to the statement, any new vendor must receive an operation permit from the City of College Station before A&M will consider it for a future bike-share program.

Original article: Texas A&M’s fleet of over 2,000 yellow ofo bikes will be phased out after the Chinese bike-share company failed to meet standards set by the City of College Station.

Through an ordinance created in the city of College Station last summer, ofo, or any dockless bike share program is required to obtain a permit to operate in the city limits. Ofo obtained their permit on Aug. 23 2018, and it was later revoked by the city on Oct. 12. Without the permit, ofo’s operations in College Station are restricted to the Texas A&M campus.

Jay Socol, director of the office of communications at the City of College Station said the number of bikes improperly parked in College Station sidewalks, yards and trees was not the sole reason for the city’s decision.

“[The ordinance] was created to govern and hold ofo or whatever vendors in place accountable,” Socol said. “Ofo stopped meeting those criteria and so their permit was revoked. Among the problems, the main included that they allowed their automobile liability insurance to lapse, which means the people they employ to drive vehicles on their behalf to go pick up those bikes and relocate them were not insured.”

Following the loss of their permit, ofo had a chance to appeal and get the permit back. That appeal period ends today.

While the bikes will be around until the end of the fall semester, Socol said Texas A&M Transportation Services has already laid out plans to phase ofo out and potentially introduce a new bike-sharing system. Staff from transportation services presented at the College Station City Council meeting on Thursday.

“Texas A&M Transportation services representatives outlined how ofo will cease operating at the end of the semester,” Socol said. “Texas A&M will be looking at engaging with a different dockless bike share vendor. If a new vendor comes in, that vendor will have to meet the same criteria according to our city ordinance in order to be permitted off of the A&M campus.”

According to the City of College Station’s website, desired qualities for a new vendor include direct communication with those who misuse the bikes, a 24/7 call center to address issues and tougher restrictions on where riders can park bikes.

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