Wednesday, March 01, 2017

BikeShare in San Francisco: $5,000 per bike?


Not all bike sharing systems are created equally.

We decided to analzed data collected by Priceonomics customer Spin, a bikesharing startup. So, we compiled a year’s worth of ride data (10/01/2015 to 09/30/2016) from six major cities: New York City; Washington, DC; Boston; Seattle; Chicago; and San Francisco.

San Francisco is often thought of as a bicycle mecca. But when it comes to bikesharing, so far the city lags far behind other successful systems...

In raw numbers, New York City’s Citi Bike system has the largest number of bikes in operation (a whopping 10,000). Seattle’s Pronto network (soon to be shuttered), at 500, has the least bikes of the cities we analyzed. Calculating per 1,000 capita, San Francisco’s Bay Area Bike Share (1,030 bikes), falls far behind comparable cities...

While DC boasts 6.4 stations per square mile, San Francisco clocks in at just 1.5. Save for Seattle (which has a much less ambitious bikesharing economy), San Francisco has the least amount of stations among the cities we looked at, with 70 spread across its 46.87 square miles...

San Francisco’s showing is comparatively poor: each of the city’s 1,030 bikes sees less than one ride per day, on average...

San Francisco’s Bay Area Bike Share ranks last here — and not by a close margin. At less than 10.5 minutes per ride, it falls 7.5 minutes behind the next closest system, New York’s Citi Bike.

Part of this could be due to the city’s size — it’s the smallest on the list — but there seems to be little correlation between a city’s size and how long each ride is: Boston, at 89.6 square miles, is far smaller than New York City (304), or Chicago (234), yet handily outranks both.

Lastly, an analysis of San Francisco’s most popular station by the hour of the day reveals very few overall rides — even at peak hours.

During morning rush hour (9 AM), the most popular station (San Francisco Caltrain, at 4th and King) only sees a peak of 25 pick-ups. At peak afternoon commute time (6 PM), the same station sees even less drop-offs — about 22, on average.

Despite the costing the city $5,000 per bike, San Francisco’s system currently lags other cities in this analysis. There is, however, a strong case to be made for building out a robust bikesharing system not just in San Francisco, but in every major US city. Such systems boost the local economy, reduce congestion, improve air quality and public health, and complement pre-existing forms of transportation.

Rob's comment:
How "strong" a case can be made for bike sharing projects depends on how much they cost. $5,000 per bike seems pretty steep. Still would like to know what this program costs city taxpayers. (See Bikeshare failures.)