Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bike Share: Passes & Projections

There was a pretty cool article in the Times late last week about bike share by the author of Bike Snob NYC. The article looks back over the first year of Citi Bike, New York City's privately-run bike share program. It's a very cool rundown of the program from the perspective of a relatively insightful but objective observer, so there's really no spin - just a hard look at the benefits and pitfalls of a bike share system in the most populous city in the U.S.

One of the things that struck me is the unexpectedly large number of annual memberships that were purchased, and surprisingly low number of day passes. This has become a problem because the system was set up to make money off of the day passes only, so the tilt towards annual memberships is dramatically reducing much-needed revenue for the program. This was so striking because I heard recently from a very reliable source that the B-Cycle bike share program in Kansas City is seeing the exact opposite trend; many per-usage or day passes (however their system is set up, I'm not sure), and very few annual memberships. As I understand it, the folks of BikeWalkKC are inferring that this means that more tourists and visitors are utilizing the program than are Kansas City residents.

Either way, these two scenarios show the benefit of multiple projections and having contingencies for each. When it comes to a program that includes a notable initial investment and infrastructure setup, you want to avoid unfortunate surprises.

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