Friday, July 18, 2008

Albuquerque Plans to Roll in 2009



The City of Albuquerque has selected Clear Channel Outdoor to provide its SmartBike bike-sharing service. According to local TV station KRQE, "Mayor Martin Chávez said he plans to have 500 bicycles in more than 25 kiosks throughout the city by early next summer." Pricing for use of the program has yet to be worked out, however, the mayor promises it would be affordable.

After the problems Clear Channel has had in D.C. with the local power company, PEPCO, metering and electrifying the stations, Clear Channel is considering making their stations solar. This is a good idea in general and especially so in the American Southwest which has some of the highest rates of solar energy in the U.S.

image credit: Wikipedia

6 comments:

Phil Lepanto said...

Paul,

Is the DC system compatible with a solar station? Does Clear Channel have a station proto-type that runs on solar? My understanding is that it is questionable whether DC would be able to quickly expand the number of stations without a substantial investment when it proves to be a success. It seems that if the stations were running on solar, that would be a significant reduction in deployment costs.

Paul DeMaio said...

Phil, SmartBike's technology doesn't presently use solar, but with a little engineering, it could. The solar shelter would also protect the bikes from the elements, which would extend their useful life.

It will be a substantial investment to grow DC's program, but the city is committed to making the program large (think 500-bikes) to ensure that it's well-used and a true transportation option.

Paul

John Briner said...

It will be interesting to see how this project turns out - maybe a model for other cities...?

John Briner

Israel said...

This model is definitely not for any non-tourist oriented city.

The median income is ABQ is about $30,000 annually. ABQ is not a tourist oriented city, though Santa Fe (an hours drive away) is.

This program will FAIL if it is aimed at tourists!

It needs to be aimed at commuters, but it is not.

First, just to have the option of renting a bicycle, there is a $40 annual fee. Then the bicycle rentals are $1/hour. So, lets assume a modest commute from a train station or bus station to a final destination of 4 miles each way. On the bikes available it would probably take 20-30 minutes each way. That does not seem so bad, $2/day for the bicycle portion of the commute. The problem is that there will surely be no kiosks near most people's final destination, so they would need to keep the bikes for 8 hours or so. This would increase the cost to $8 a day, which is unacceptable! Gas is much cheaper!

But the city will NOT EVEN ALLOW people to keep the bikes for longer than 3 hours anyway, making the above point entirely moot! So, a non-tourist or commuter will probably not use this system.

This program is going to FAIL because of the poor implementation!

Paul DeMaio said...

Israel, I think you may have taken this analogy too far. As bike-sharing isn't intended for all day use, it is rare that someone would use a bike for an entire day for the $8 fee as you described. I think a commuter would ensure there was a station available at their destination before taking a bike out.

It's sounds like you're a resident of ABQ, so maybe lobbying for stations at important locations would be a good way to ensure that the situation you describe isn't common.

Israel said...

Paul,

Who would use these bikes then? Like I stated before, Albuquerque is not a tourist driven city. ABQ is so sprawled that there will not be kiosks at very many commuter's final destinations. So the program is being aimed at the recreational/tourist user.

Now it is true that some families/people will use these bikes for recreation, but the people who are residents of ABQ and would rent these bikes for recreational purposes are few. What will happen is that the kiosks will go up and have giant advertisements, and the bicycle usage will be abysmal. So we will have advertisements cluttering up our city with no real public benefit.

My main point is that the current implementation aimed at recreational/tourist use will fail in ABQ. There are a few small areas where people may rent the bikes, but they will drive to the kiosk to do so, and that does not help our transportation problem in ABQ at all.

ABQ is a sprawling city, and some of the politicos and government are trying to reduce car usage through public transportation. There has been huge amounts of taxpayer money spent on public transportation in recent years. It has, however, had little effect because although most people can take a bus or train to a relatively short distance from their destination, they then must walk or bike the last leg. Many people do not want to walk 1-4 miles. Biking the last leg is a problem with a personal bike because it is difficult to transport a bike on the currently available public transportation. The buses have very low capacity for bikes (each bus can hold about 4 bikes), and the trains can only hold 2 bikes per train (with something like a 60 person capacity). This is a problem in itself, and another failure by our government to properly implement our public transportation. The trains that were built in the past 2 years cost us $135 million and no one rides them because once they get off of the train they have no easy way to (quickly) get to work (besides walking).

The Q-bike program could be setup to help some of these other commuter problems, and provide commuters with options to use public transportation. If a commuter could easily (and cheaply) bike to his/her work from a bus/train stop, it would give a lot of incentive to people to use public transportation instead of driving a car to work. It would be a wonderful idea!

Instead, the Q-bike program is being aimed at a non-existent user base in order to justify increased advertising on public land.

A properly implemented program must :

1. Have some kind of measurable public benefit

2. Be cost effective for the area

3. Be easy to use

Number 3 is probably met currently.

I have already stated why I think number 1 is being incorrectly implemented.

Number 2 is an issue, people here just won't pay the $40 annual fee plus the additional rental costs. This is a poor implementation even when it is aimed at recreational/tourist use! For recreational/tourist users the bikes should be able to be rented immediately to the user! Many recreational/casual users will not jump through all of the hoops to register an annual fee, and if they had to pay the $40 at the time they have a first rental, many will choose not to rent at all because subsequent rentals may be a rare. Who would pay $40+ for an essentially one time rental of 3 hours or less? Most casual users will not use this system more than a few times a year, making the fee excessive.

A commuter who wanted to use the rental bike to get from the train/bus would be better suited to an annual fee structure. I would expect it, of course, to be more expensive than $40.

So the proper way to implement a bike rental system would be to allow

1. Bikes to be rented on an individual basis, at any time, with no annual fee. Something like $0.25 or $0.5 per hour might work here in ABQ. And let people rent the bikes for up to at least 24 hours.

2. Commuters to pay some kind of annual fee that would be less than renting the bike 5 days a week 8 hours a day at the regular rate for basically unlimited bike rentals (with some return time to prevent theft).

This would benefit both recreational and commuter users.