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Public Bikesharing in North America During a Period of Rapid Expansion : Understanding Business Models, Industry Trends and User Impacts
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    CA-MTI-14-1131 ; MTI Report 12-29 ;
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  • Abstract:
    Public bikesharing—the shared use of a bicycle fleet—is an innovative transportation strategy that has recently emerged in major cities around the world, including North America. Information technology (IT)-based bikesharing systems typically position bicycles throughout an urban environment, among a network of docking stations, for immediate access. Trips can be one-way, round-trip, or both, depending on the operator. Bikesharing can serve as a first-and-last mile connector to Tech Report modes, as well as for both short and long distance destinations. In 2012, 22 IT-based public bikesharing systems were operating in the United States, with a total of 884,442 users and 7,549 bicycles. Four IT-based programs in Canada had a total of 197,419 users and 6,115 bicycles. Two IT-based programs in Mexico had a total of 71,611 users and 3,680 bicycles. (Membership numbers reflect the total number of short- and long-term users.) This study evaluates public bikesharing in North America, reviewing the change in travel behavior exhibited by members of different programs in the context of their business models and operational environment. This Phase II research builds on data collected during our Phase I research conducted in 2012. During the 2012 research (Phase I), researchers conducted 14 expert interviews with industry experts and public officials in the United States and Canada, as well as 19 interviews with the manager and/or key staff of IT-based bikesharing organizations. For more information on the Phase I research, please see the Shaheen et al., 2012 report Public Bikesharing in North America: Early Operator and User Understanding. For this Phase II study, an additional 23 interviews were conducted with IT-based bikesharing organizations in the United States,Canada, and Mexico in Spring 2013. Notable developments during this period include the ongoing expansion of public bikesharing in North America, including the recent launches of multiple large bikesharing programs in the United States (i.e., Citi Bike in New York City, Divvy in Chicago, and Bay Area Bike Share in the San Francisco Bay Area). In addition to expert interviews, the authors conducted two kinds of surveys with bikesharing users. One was the online member survey. This survey was sent to all people for whom the operator had an email address. The population of this survey was mainly annual members of the bikesharing system, and the members took the survey via a URL link sent to them from the operator. The second survey was an on-street survey. This survey was designed for anyone, including casual users (i.e., those who are not members of the system and use it on a short-term basis), to take “on-street” via a smartphone. The member survey was deployed in five cities: Montreal, Toronto, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and Mexico City. The on-street survey was implemented in three cities: Boston, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio.

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