How to save time and money with a bike-share pilot program

A bike-share pilot program with Zagster produces real-life feedback about bike sharing’s viability in a given community. A traditional feasibility study offers only estimates on that front. And yet, the two cost comparable amounts.

So why would cities spend tens of thousands of dollars on theoretical — rather than actual — data?

That question is on our minds with the news that Grand Rapids, Mich., plans to spend $100,000 for a feasibility study on bike sharing. Though that price tag may sound steep, it’s on par with the cost of feasibility studies in other mid-sized cities around the nation.

For the same cost, a community could launch a 50-bike Zagster pilot program to see how bike sharing works not just in theory, but in practice, with real users delivering real insight into everything from ridership patterns and adoption metrics to hardware functionality and system satisfaction. What’s more, a Zagster pilot program comes backed by the same sort of statistical analysis used in those expensive feasibility studies. The only difference: It comes at no additional cost.

That’s because Zagster offers feasibility analyses as a free service to communities considering bike shares. There are no costs, no strings and no contracts. Interested cities aren’t even obligated to move forward with bike sharing. The feasibility analysis is meant solely as a planning tool to arm decision-makers with the information necessary to determine if bike sharing makes sense for their communities, and if so, how to move forward with implementation.

Here’s how it works. With backgrounds in civil engineering and transportation planning, Zagster’s consultants compile custom reports detailing information vital to anyone interested in building a bike share. That includes an overview of the bike-share industry in general — the available technologies and providers, system launch and expansion trends, and so on — as well as a comparative analysis of your city to similar communities with successful bike shares. It also includes a thorough review of your city and its potential demand for bike sharing, complete with a plan outlining the scope, scale and implementation phases of that potential program.

As a free service, this feasibility analysis is a no-cost, no-risk proposition for municipal planners. If it leads to the nixing of bike-share plans, cities will have saved themselves tens of thousands of dollars by obviating full-blown feasibility studies. And if it encourages cities to move ahead with bike sharing, cities will be better prepared to take the next steps to achieve their transportation goals.

None of this is to say feasibility studies have no place in transportation planning. For megacities, where the requisite scale of new services and infrastructure projects makes small pilot programs unrealistic, soup to nuts feasibility studies are important planning tools. But for everyone else, a pilot program paired with a lighter — yet still comprehensive — feasibility analysis can provide far greater value.

Our Princeton University program is a perfect case study of this. One year after launching as a 10-bike pilot, the program has grown to include more than 100 bikes — a tenfold expansion based not on abstract data but rather on a real-life study of the demand for and value of bike sharing.

It’s a no-lose opportunity for those interested in building great bike shares. So if you’re a decision-maker wondering if a free Zagster feasibility analysis can help you, ask yourself: What do you have to lose?

Complete the form below to request a free analysis for your community.