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Chelsey Allder, Deseret News
Ben Bolte, founder of GREENbike, announces the reopening for the third season in Salt Lake City Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

SALT LAKE CITY — As March draws to an unusually warm close, GREENbike SLC is opening earlier than ever.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the bike-share program's third "season" on the streets, a major milestone for the nonprofit organization.

“We are proud to serve as a mechanism for increasing public health, air quality and public transportation ridership,” GREENbike Director Ben Bolte said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

As Salt Lake City’s only bike-share program, GREENbike works to reduce Utah’s automobile reliance by providing an active transportation alternative. GREENbike riders have only to rent a bike at one of 20 affiliated stations, ride to their destination and return their bike to the nearest GREENbike outpost.

“GREENbike represents a unique transportation option for our community,” said Michael Merril, director of public policy at the Salt Lake Chamber. “It connects our small business, it better gives options to our commuters and it also makes sure that our urban core is vibrant for both visitors, commuters and businessmen.”

The result of a partnership between several public and private agencies, GREENbike started small, sporting only 10 stations and 55 bikes when launched in April 2013. Since then, the program has more than doubled in size, ballooning to 20 stations and more than 150 bikes.

GREENbike's infrastructure grew by 87 percent in 2014 alone, resulting in a 184 percent increase in ridership.

"And there's going to be a lot more growth this year, too," promised Dee Brewer, a member of the GREENbike board of trustees.

Much of the bike-share program's growth, both past and projected, clusters around existing public transit hubs. GREENbike may eliminate the need for a last-mile bus or rail transfer, said UTA spokesman Remi Barron, making public transportation more widely accessible.

“The more people have the chance to hop off without getting in a car or maybe a bus connection … the more likely they are to keep using the same routes day after day,” Barron said.

Utah Transit Authority officials said the program has also helped to reduce congestion on TRAX trains, as GREENbike users have no need to bring their bikes aboard.

GREENbike has retooled its membership offerings for the 2015 season, offering unlimited season passes for $75, and less when purchased through an employer.

All season pass holders are also given a free "I Bike SLC" helmet valued at roughly the same price.

“It’s almost like it’s too good of a deal," Bolte said. "If you work or live downtown, I think the office pass is a no-brainer.”

GREENbike memberships can now be purchased online.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: allisonoctober