Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Is BikeShare worth it

The Montgomery County Planning board recently released a pdf presentation on the state of bicycling in Montgomery County.  Part of it talks about BikeShare (starting on page 33).

I've had a few questions about bike share, primarily, how much is it costing taxpayers, is anybody using it, and is it worth it?  This presentation answers some of those questions.

First, some basics.  There are 51 bikeshare stations in Montgomery County, MD in Tacoma Park, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Friendship Heights, Rockville, and Shady Grove.  The first 14 opened in September of 2013.

Bikeshare got its initial funding from a variety of sources, a $1 million state transportation grant, a $250,000 state bond and a $200,000 commitment from the Chevy Chase Land Company, a private developer, and $140,000 in developer payments to Montgomery County (see this article).  Montgomery County spent 3.78 million dollars in 2014 (the first full year of operation) and has budgeted 1.6 million dollars in 2016 for Bikeshare.  A significant portion of the 2014 cost of bikeshare were one time costs associated with buying docking stations.

Most bikeshare stations are located on public property so there are no dollar costs associated with the land the stations are on, but there are opportunity costs.

2014 was the first full year of operation for BikeShare in Montgomery county.  September was the month with the most trips and it had under 6,000 trips for the entire month.  That works out to under 200 trips per day across the whole county bikeshare network in the busiest month. The least busy month was January which saw around 1,000 trips, or about 33 trips a day (less than one per bikeshare station on average).

The bikeshare station at Bethesda Metro.  This is the most used station in the network. More trips originate here than any other station.
The busiest station in the network was the one at Bethesda Metro, with 11.3 trips originating there per day on average.  Friendship heights metro came in a distant second with 6.5 trips a day originating there.

They don't give the total number of trips for 2014, but they do give the 10 most popular trips and the percentage of total trips they were.  If you add up all the trips that make the 10 most popular (10,543) and divide by the percentage of trips those account for (25.8)  You will see that each percentage point is approximately 408 trips, so that means in 2014 there were somewhere around 41,000 trips.  If we take the $1,600,000 budget for 2016 and divide by the 41,000 trips, you find the county spends about $39 per trip. (I used 2016 budget instead of 2014 actuals since there were still significant startup costs in 2014, If I had used 2014 actuals it would have been $2,530,000/41,000 or $61 per trip see this page and change the "spent total in FY 2014" to "the calendar year 2014")
Bikeshare station at Old Georgetown Rd and Southwick St in Bethesda, MD near NIH and Suburban Hospital

So to summarize.  The most popular station sees less than 12 trips a day starting there.  Each trip in the system is subsidized by about $39 in county funds, and we lose the use of the land the stations are on.  Is it worth it? Or are there other transportation initiatives that the county that would make better use of the millions of dollars the county spends on Bikeshare?

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