In case you couldn’t deduce from the title of this post, my previously-mentioned blogging humdrumspringa continues. Not that I was crashing servers to begin with, but I’m still holding back on posting anything remotely interesting for the time being. In that vein, some poor soul googled “bikeshare bike to dock ratio,” and ended up on my post regarding measuring bikeshare system performance using rides-per-dock. Please, sir/madam, step into my cubicle….
Short answer: Go to page 56 this great bikeshare report (big pdf) from the Mineta Transportation Institute. Lead authored by Dr. Susan Shaheen at UC Berkeley (who was on a panel with me at Rail~Volution), this report is a comprehensive state-of-the-practice of bikesharing in North America. Most systems aim for a 2-to-1 dock-to-bike deployment ratio, including DC’s Capital Bikeshare. In fact, it is not uncommon to look at DC’s live system status and see a ratio around 2.2-to-1. Hope that helps, anonymous browser.
Longer unsolicited opinion: As argued in my prior post, taking bikes out of the active fleet to prevent “service failure” is a valid strategy, but it trades off labor savings (for redistribution) and/or ridership gains (from having more bikes active) for the additional capital cost to deploy more empty docks. A European report on bikeshare operations (another big pdf) notes that large European stations go as low as a 1.5-to-1 (in the case of Velib in Paris, for one). A higher dock-to-bike ratio is a capital-intensive way to provide system balance, and ridership metrics should account for this inefficiency. Hence, rides-per-dock.
However, I am not necessarily advocating that systems uproot stations in search of sites where bikes turn over throughout the day (think Dupont Circle, CaBirazzi), thus accommodating more bikes filling docks. Bikeshare systems need to manage themselves on a variety of sometimes antagonistic measures – revenue, ridership, equity, health/air quality impacts, and operating expenses are among the many necessary measures of success. But making more efficient use of capital assets to generate rides, and benchmarking against others in this way, can point to a need for improvements in marketing, operations, siting, or other factors that impact ridership. More aggressive goal-setting in filling docks with more bikes should accompany pursuit of these improvements.