LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - In a new David Goldstein investigation, we found that almost one-third of bicycles provided through Metro's taxpayer-funded Bike Share program have either been stolen or stripped for parts.
We tracked down one of the $2,000 bicycles downtown, painted blue with the seat missing, treated like a piece of trash on the street by a homeless person.
We found another painted red. Another painted black.
These are only a few of the hundreds that we found had been stolen or vandalized, many of which ended up in homeless encampments around town.
The Metro bike share program has been in place for about three years. It cost taxpayers $36,000,000, shared in part by Metro, the City of Los Angeles and the Port of L.A. Each bike ranges anywhere from $1,850 to $2,500.
Thousands have been placed around town in electronic racks, which can be unlocked using an app with your credit or debit card for $5 a day.
Our investigation has found the bicycles are being stolen at an alarming rate.
A document obtained by CBS2 shows a total of 973 bikes are missing or have been stolen from the bike share program. That accounts for 32% of the fleet with a cost of over $1.7 million.
We showed MTA's Holly Rockwell what we found. She runs the bike share program.
"Well, anybody can check out a bike, it's very relatively easy to check out a bike. Once these bikes are checked out a normal way, they just aren't returned," said Rockwell.
Officials admit some people may have figured out a way to cheat the system by using a prepaid credit card.
They say 329 bikes have been recovered, but that still leaves hundreds missing.
But where are they?
Goldstein found some in homeless encampments downtown and in the valley. Many were found camouflaged with spray paint, while others stripped down.
We showed L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger the pictures of the bikes we found. She sits on the MTA Board and says the theft rate may mean the program isn't working.
"It doesn't sound good to me. It sounds like we are, and 'we' being the taxpayers, we all pay our taxes, subsidizing the program that may not be worth the money," said Barger.
Metro officials, however, claim the program is a success. They say the private company that runs it is responsible for fixing the bikes but won't say how many cannot be fixed due to vandalism or how many of the stolen bikes have been replaced.
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