Virginia Tech Capital Bikeshare Study

A Closer Look at Casual Users and Operations
Source: Virginia Tech

Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) has generated detailed demographic profiles of both its annual and monthly system subscribers, yet has not gathered adequate profiles of its casual users. This report is the first in-depth look into the makeup and characteristics of this group, constituting of both 1- and 5-day CaBi members ("casual users"). Given the elusiveness and greater revenue-per-ride earnings of this group, CaBi would benefit from gaining a better understanding of casual users, aiding efforts to increase ridership and improve system functionality. This report also details best-practices amongst similar bikesharing systems worldwide with the goal to inform future improvements to CaBi's operations.

Intercept surveys at the five highest traffic bikeshare stations resulted in nearly 340 survey responses providing insight into those who purchased 1-day and 5-day memberships. Analysis revealed that the average casual user is a well-educated, Caucasian female between the ages of 25 and 34, a frequent cyclist, a domestic tourist and travels with a group. The gender, racial and group elements of this casual user differs from both the profile of the typical CaBi annual member and the typical Washington DC bicyclist. Additionally, a majority this audience reported that they learned about and decided to use CaBi based on either seeing the CaBi stations, or being referred by a friend. If CaBi wishes to attract more casual users, targeted marketing tactics could include enhancing the visibility and availability of bicycles in high-tourist traffic areas, reaching potential tourist users by marketing through their hotels and transportation providers, and focusing marketing messages on the social aspects of bicycling.

The purpose of the second part of this study was to gain a better understanding of bikeshare systems and their operations worldwide. Through a series of outreach and research efforts, detailed responses from eight contemporary systems were collected and analyzed with the goal of selecting applicable best-practices for CaBi to improve their operations and procedures. In many respects, CaBi is already at the leading edge of the industry in maximizing ridership, however several areas of potential improvement were noted.

Rebalancing efforts have the potential to become more technologically sophisticated, including the use of predictive modeling and route mapping for balancing vehicles. This would have the secondary benefit of reducing reliance upon institutional knowledge of staff members, thus reducing the impact of staff turnover. Satellite storage and repair facilities will be needed as the system expands further from the main location in Washington, District of Columbia (D.C.). Targeted marketing to low-ridership regions and under-represented groups could have the benefit of improving balancing and capitalizing on existing infrastructure while broadening the membership base. Exploring true peak station demand through the use of unannounced "bottomless stations" was highlighted as an important method for informing potential enhanced operations corridors. The efficiencies of balancing vehicles in the CaBi fleet was questioned as well, given that they are in the minority of systems by not employing open trailers.

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