Ditch the Car. Share a Ride. Discover Your Place

There was a time when nothing said freedom more clearly to many Americans than a full tank of gasoline. With a foot to the floor and an open road beckoning, we were free to come and go as we pleased, when we pleased.

That’s not the case any more. A report released last week by Arity, a technology research spinoff created by insurance giant Allstate, estimated that Americans now spend an average of 321 hours—that’s 13.4 days—stuck in traffic. That’s longer than the sum total of their vacations. Think about that. Chances are good you spend more time at a dead stand still on an interstate than you do hiking or touring art museums or sitting on a beach. Freedom? More like confinement.

And for too many of us, it’s solitary confinement. Eighty-six percent of American workers commute by private vehicle, and the vast majority of them are single-occupancy vehicles. And if you need any more data to understand why traffic is so bad, consider this: While the number of vehicles on America’s roads grew from 226 million in 2000 to 268 million in 2015, the number of miles of roads barely budged over that same period, from 3.9 million miles to 4.1 million. More cars, and nowhere for them all to go.

But here’s the thing: half of all car trips in the United States are less than three miles.

Three miles is an easy distance to cover on a bike or a scooter. Some might even say it’s the perfect distance: just far enough to get the juices flowing and let you see your town with a fresh perspective, but not so far that it saps all your energy or turns you into a sweaty mess. One that lets the breeze blow through your hair and clears the mind for whatever is ahead of you. One that lets you see the town or city you live in as your own personal art museum, with something new to look at every day because you’re out of the big metal box and connecting with your surroundings, not just staring at the bumper in front of you.

One that gets you out of that traffic jam and makes you feel like you’re on vacation.

Let’s try something. Let’s all try to take one fewer car trip per week, and to try to convince a friend to do the same thing. Let’s substitute a bike or scooter trip for that single-occupancy vehicle trip. Use a Zagster bike or scooter or a Pace bike if you can—after all, we know they’re the best one out there. But if you can’t, use whatever’s at hand. It’s all good.

Kind of like going on vacation. Or going to your own personal museum.

Huntsville, Alabama and Pace : How Innovation Spurs Growth

By Chad Emerson, President and CEO of Downtown Huntsville

When people think of the most innovative cities in America, they probably don’t think of Huntsville, Alabama. But they should.

Huntsville was named the fastest growing technology market in the United States in 2017, with an astounding 309% year-over-year growth in technology jobs. That’s no surprise to those of us who know Huntsville’s history. The city has been a tech hub since the 1950s, when the United States government sent a group of scientists here to ignite the country’s early space program. This group eventually became NASA, which has long served as a magnet for the nation’s tech savvy and as a beacon of our innovative nature. But with fewer than 200,000 people, Huntsville can be overshadowed by tech hubs like San Francisco, Boston and Austin. We’re working hard to change that by modernizing and revitalizing our community.  

One of our most exciting new initiatives was the introduction of dockless bike share in early 2018. Bike sharing has been taking the country by storm, but we were wary of some of the well publicized backlash. We searched for a system that fit our view of ourselves as a forward-thinking city. Ultimately, we chose the Pace dockless bike share system. Pace bikes can be unlocked easily on a rider’s phone, providing a more seamless experience for our tech-savvy residents who expect nothing less from us. While it’s fairly easy for pedestrians to walk from one side of our compact downtown to the other, we saw in Pace an opportunity to introduce a transportation alternative that also augments the downtown experience. Now, residents and visitors alike have a fun new way to explore our growing city.

Data from the program shows particularly high ridership on the weekends, especially when the weather is nice. With bike share, residents and visitors can discover the historic areas of Huntsville or travel to the furthest corners of downtown with ease. For some, the program is not only used for recreational purposes, but also for an efficient, convenient way to regularly travel from point A to point B—such as from home to work each morning and home again, or to the grocery store each week. Met with overwhelmingly positive feedback, the program has successfully improved both leisure and transportation in the city.

While bike share has been welcomed in Huntsville by people of all ages, we believed the forward-thinking, sleeker design of the dockless Pace program would be especially appealing to younger riders, and we were right. We are one of many mid-sized cities hoping to get on young people’s radar because we know that attracting and retaining youthful talent is important to our community’s long-term health. Fortunately for us, young people are increasingly looking to move to mid-sized cities, citing reasons like the lower cost of living and a stronger sense of community than they find in bigger metro areas. While these factors are important, we in Huntsville understand that they’re not sufficient on their own. That’s why we’ve worked hard to offer both a happening environment as well as opportunity so young people will consider us a viable place to live and work.

Though an innovative bike share program certainly contributes to the overall vibrance of Huntsville, it’s by no means our only initiative. Two years ago, we launched a comprehensive, ongoing plan to promote neighborhood development, economic growth and the modernization of public transportation. More recently, we signed an agreement to bring 5G technology to the city, and invested millions into the airport to accommodate easier travel.

Each of these initiatives capitalizes on our existing strengths and sends the message that we are committed to long-term growth and innovation. For mid-sized cities to become appealing destination, they have to find their own ways of building on their unique strengths to communicate that they are an interesting and innovative place to live, work and play. Americans have tremendous choices about where they’d like to live. If we want them to choose our cities, we have to give them a good reason. Pace certainly helps Huntsville do that.

 



 

Free Rides! Roll to the Polls on Election Day, Courtesy of Pace

We love Roald Dahl because he gave the world Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, among other classics that blew our young minds. But he did something more important than presenting Gene Wilder (or, not as good, Johnny Depp) as Willie Wonka. Dahl wrote a single sentence, in Matilda, that’s stayed with us ever since middle school. It comes to mind every year about this time: “Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”

We think of it around Election Day because as Americans, our right to vote gives us, quite simply, the power to change the world. It’s easy to be cynical and say your vote is just one of millions and doesn’t really matter. But if the closeness of recent elections has shown anything, it’s that every single vote counts. Especially yours.

That’s why Pace is giving away free rides this Tuesday, November 6. In the same way we believe in our core that we can change the world every time we choose to use shared bikes to get around our towns or campuses, and that our communities become more vibrant, more livable, more desirable places when we explore them on two wheels, we believe that your vote, your decision, can help make the world a better place.

Riders in eight pace cities and universities—Albuquerque, Annapolis, Bloomington, Fort Collins, Huntsville, Knoxville, Norfolk and at Purdue University—can enter the code IVOTE on the Pace app and get two free 30-minute rides on Tuesday, one to take them to the polls and one to get them back. It’s another way Pace helps you change the world, one ride at a time.

Oh, one more thing: Chances are good that you’ll have plenty of time to get yourself to and from the polls to cast your ballot with those freebies. So here’s an idea: use the extra bike time to do something good for someone else. Run an errand for a neighbor. Visit someone who doesn’t get out much. Ride around and encourage other people to vote.

 And wherever you go, be sure to tell us about your vote and your ride by sharing with #zagthevote2018.

 

 

Zagster's Smooth Operator

By Adrian Albus, Zagster’s Vice President of Markets

A long list of things needs to go right for a shared transit system like Zagster’s to work. And while much of a system’s success stems from the people who use it, true success starts and ends with our operations department. At Zagster, we know it’s our responsibility to anticipate our rider’s needs. While many of our competitors are busy investing resources in brand awareness and rapid expansion, Zagster focuses on making sure riders have a great experience every single time they use one of our vehicles.

How do we do that? By zeroing in on the four key pillars of a successful shared transit system, a checklist that the Zagster operations team uses to run more than 250 bike share programs in 35 states: the right vehicles in the right condition in the right place at the right time.

Let’s break it down.

1.) The right vehicles

Everything starts with the vehicle. We determine the kinds of shared vehicles a program needs by conducting an exhaustive study of the place—a city, a campus, a neighborhood—the vehicles will be used. We study the width and characteristics of the streets riders would use. Are they narrow? Are there bikes lanes? Are there curb-protected boulevards? Then we look at topography. Hilly streets dictate a certain type of vehicle, while flat cityscapes mean we can use another, or consider a mix of vehicle types. Mindful of a client’s specific needs, we then determine the best fleet size and mix to roll out in that community.

2.) In the right condition

Once the vehicles are on the ground, our team then prioritizes regular maintenance to ensure the fleet is in great shape so our customers have a safe, enjoyable ride. Bad rides on Zagster vehicles are simply not an option, and we work hard to make sure all our vehicles are running smoothly.

This means the operations team has to know when bikes are damaged, improperly locked or left outside of the system area. We take this very seriously at Zagster; our team is constantly rebalancing our fleet to make sure vehicles are in the places people want them at the time they want them. And so we use this opportunity to inspect each vehicle and make sure it’s running smoothly and do the necessary maintenance required of such a fleet. This takes a lot of time and energy. But investing in safe vehicles is a no-brainer for us. Safety comes first at Zagster

3.) In the right place

We want to make sure riders find vehicles in the places they want them—our goal is to introduce mobility to the neighborhoods and people that need it most. We enter areas where people are experiencing any number of common transportation problems like traffic congestion, low access and high prices. We build a presence in the densely populated, congested downtown areas where potential for ridership is high, but we also look for opportunities to introduce transportation to areas that have been left unserved by transit options—bypassed by subways or bus routes and unserved by livery fleets.

Our rebalancing teams make sure our vehicles are in the right place at the right time. Bikes don’t always flow evenly, especially when used for commuting: a lot of bikes and scooters can end up in downtown areas after the morning commute and need to be brought back to a high-demand area by a member of our team. Our rebalancers use our internal data and analytics, collecting and analyzing figures every day to evaluate traffic patterns across our systems and to figure out how we can adjust the distribution of our fleet to make ridership even easier for our users. By actively measuring and optimizing the use of our shared vehicles, we create a reliable form of transportation that people return to again and again.

 4.) At the right time

To truly transform someone’s daily transit routine, vehicles have to be available at the right time—every time. To make this happen, our team first studies and learns the community’s current movement patterns—who goes where and when, and how do they do it? Is there a better, simpler option? We work with local transit agencies to learn peak traffic times and how use differs across existing transportation options. Our ultimate aim: identify transportation gaps and fill them with a Zagster system.

When we work with a city to launch a bike share program, we make a promise to the community around engagement, equity and safety—all the responsibility of our operations team. Especially in smaller cities, residents likely have a car and affordable parking to fall back on - meaning you only have one, maybe two chances to facilitate a positive experience with your service before they revert to these familiar options. In operations, we recognize the importance of our work knowing that only when you have an effective operations technology and process will people trust shared transit with their trip.







 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bike Sharing

The need for innovative bike share systems has never been greater. Cities are on a mission to modernize urban mobility to keep pace with the public’s shift away from personal vehicles and toward shared, on-demand transportation. However, bike sharing’s tremendous growth and evolution — most notably the recent shift from dock-based to dockless systems — has not exactly been a smooth ride.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some cities race headfirst toward a dockless model that took China by storm: blighting streetscapes with a flood of unlocked, cheap bikes to gain market share. But as bikes began piling up, floating away, alighting on telephone poles, and blocking rights of way, cities like Dallas are beginning to question whether this model actually makes sense for American cities.

At Zagster, we’ve been in the bike share game long enough to know this model isn’t sustainable. Informed by a decade of partnering with cities and operating more than 200 bike shares across the US, we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to bike share in America. Given it’s the start of a new year, when many cities are considering dockless bike sharing, we felt that now was a good time to share a brief list of the most common do’s and don’ts.

If this list resonates with you, be sure to get in touch to learn more about how Zagster and our new dockless network, Pace, can help your city modernize its transportation options without any of the drawbacks of first-gen dockless models.

Don’t...

Build a completely station-based system. Entirely station-based systems are inherently inflexible, require tremendous capital up front and incur enormous operating costs at taxpayer expense. While they put bike share on the map, station-based or ‘dock-based’ bike sharing systems are showing their age and stage.

Go “completely dockless.” While convenient for riders and cheap to execute, first-gen dockless models from companies without much experience in bike sharing have serious drawbacks. With no locks to ensure safe parking, completely dockless or "lockless" bike shares sprawl haphazardly across sidewalks and streets, public parks and even in trees. Second-gen models like Pace and Jump deliver on the benefits of dockless bike sharing, but without the drawbacks. (Check out our video to learn how.)

Ask for forgiveness instead of permission. While it’s easy for companies to scatter 300 bikes across a city and walk away, this approach hinders ridership and risks souring officials and policymakers on bike sharing. Eliminating the dock from bike sharing systems doesn’t eliminate the need to build great partnerships with cities and local businesses.

Do...

Lay early groundwork. To create vibrant, sustainable bike shares, providers should prime community members for the new service to ensure the bike share debuts in a favorable environment from day one. Build a teaser program. Get bike advocacy groups involved. And do a proper launch event with city officials to get things off on the right foot.

Build real partnerships. Bike share providers must engage government officials, local businesses and community members to understand and adequately address their needs, and fill any gaps in the current transportation system. All transit systems should integrate with each other, including bike share.

Stay flexible. As cities change, bike share programs should evolve as well. From installing more public bike racks, to investing in bike lanes and rider education, partnerships that can meet the changing needs of cities are essential for long term bike sharing success.

For a deeper dive on this subject, check out this recent op-ed in Route Fifty by Zagster CEO Tim Ericson.

How to convince student governments to support bike sharing

Campus bike shares are perfect fits for the transportation habits of today's college students. And in planning a new program, securing student support is a crucial step toward bike-share adoption. We're here to help toward that end, with a sample message students can bring their governing bodies to get the wheel rolling toward impactful new Zagster programs.


Dear Student Government,

Students need affordable, reliable and convenient options to get around. They also want ways to stay fit, and they care about making campus more sustainable.

Bike sharing is a perfect tool to achieve all those goals — and more.

Bike shares are perfectly suited to making the kind of short trips native to a campus environment, and they're perfect for forming last-mile connectors between on- and off-campus destinations. They're incredibly cost-effective, too. Owning and using a car throughout a four-year enrollment adds, on average, $20,000 to college's overall cost, according to Forbes. In contrast, students can spend on average less than $50 per year on bike sharing.

 Zagster launches at the University of Maryland

Zagster launches at the University of Maryland

Plus, bike shares are a great way to fight the Freshman 15.

Bike shares are great investment from the college's perspective, too. It can cost up to $40,000 to build a single parking space in a new structured garage. An entire bike-share fleet can cost less than that — while serving far more users per day.

Meanwhile, bike trips can ease the strain on our existing transit services, making the entire transit system work more efficiently for everyone on campus.

College can be difficult, confusing and expensive. Bike sharing doesn't have to be.

So when it comes to implementation, consider Zagster, a bike sharing company operating more than 140 full-service bike shares across North America, including some two-dozen on college campuses — more than every other provider combined.

 Station installation at Dartmouth College

Station installation at Dartmouth College

With Zagster, everything is included — hardware, software, maintenance and marketing — to minimize costs and make bike sharing as hassle-free as possible. With Zagster, we'll get low, predictable costs, an all-inclusive business model, cutting-edge technology, and a consistent level of service that leaves school administrators wondering why they didn’t do this sooner.

By bringing bike-sharing to our university, you can make a significant improvement to campus. And because bike sharing is a tangible investment, you'll leave a lasting, visible impact on campus you can be proud of long beyond graduation.

Thank you and remember; life’s better on a bike!

To learn more about planning a campus bike share, check out our step-by-step guide to getting rolling.

 

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. 

Why Zagster is enthralling city planners in cities of all sizes

They say everything's bigger in Texas. But when it comes to bike sharing, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Cities like Brownsville or Corpus Christi would never build rail networks as big as the one serving Dallas — so why would they build bike shares on the scope and scale of a big-city system?

That’s the message Zagster brought last week to the annual conference of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. There, we spoke with transportation planners, municipal officials and transit advocates from across the country who are eager to bring bike sharing to their communities but unsure how the traditionally big-city amenity could work for them. It’s a refrain we often hear, and it’s a misconception we’re happy to put to rest.

With modular infrastructure, nimble hardware and a business model that minimizes the cost and complexity of bike sharing, Zagster makes bike sharing work for communities of all sizes. It’s why Zagster programs are going strong in environments ranging from real estate properties with dozens of tenants to cities with 500,000+ residents. And it’s why we’re confident we can provide a stable and scalable solution for ever more cities.

For more information on how Zagster makes bike sharing work in smaller cities, check out a case study of our program in Carmel, Ind.

Zagster’s Fort Collins bike share is great — and growing

Zagster’s Fort Collins bike share is off to a fantastic start.

Backed by a host of local sponsorships, the program began in April with 79 bikes and a hope to grow. And indeed, that goal is already coming to fruition. Due to robust usage and strong demand, Zagster will in early October deploy even more bikes in Fort Collins to grow the program by about 25 percent.

This kind of community-sponsored growth is one of the best benefits of Zagster’s programs, and it’s precisely what Fort Collins envisioned when they partnered with us to bring bike sharing to the city. So though Fort Collins was already one of the best cycling cities in America before Zagster came to town, Zagster’s bike share is helping to, as Bike Fort Collins President Bruce Henderson put it, “further Fort Collins to the next level."

So how is Zagster making this bike-loving city even better? We’ll let Fort Collins’ bike experts explain, in their own words, in the video case study below.

Bike Share For Properties: The Significant Upside of a Distinctive Amenity

For cities, bike shares are transportation infrasturure. For real estate properties, however, bike shares are more than that — they’re unique amenities that add enormous value and entice great tenants.

That’s because with transportation preferences shifting nationally toward shared and on-demand modes of transit — a majority of all Americans, and two-thirds of millennials, prefer to live and work where they don’t often need personal cars — bike shares are increasingly desirable add-ons for commercial and residential properties alike.

So what do property-based bike shares look like? And how can interested real estate owners and managers bring these alluring amenities to their properties?

For the answers to those questions and more, check out Zagster’s recent webinar on the subject. You’ll hear from Bradley Ericson, Zagster’s sales manager for real estate, as he walks through all the basics of bike sharing for properties and how Zagster designs and operates impactful programs for properties nationwide.

You can access a recording of the webinar, as well as supplemental informational materials, by using the form embedded below.

Introducing the New and Improved Zagster Mobile App

The best part of bike sharing is riding a bike; we just made that easier.

We’re constantly upgrading our products and services to ensure our customers have the best possible bike shares. And today, we’re affirming that commitment with the launch of the Zagster mobile app version 2.0.

With additional features and a redesigned interface, the new version of the app improves the entire experience of riding with Zagster. Enhanced instructions simplify the processes of enrolling in Zagster programs and borrowing bikes, while a slick new skin streamlines navigation to make the app more intuitive and user-friendly than ever.

Users can join Zagster in seconds:

Search for and join a bike share system: 

FindABikeShare

A fast interface makes checkout a breeze:

This is the first significant overhaul of the Zagster mobile app — but it won’t be the last. And that’s a good thing!

At Zagster, we treat bike sharing as a service — not a product. We're always making iterative improvements based on user feedback and delivering regular upgrades to all our customers at no additional cost.

These updates are something that no other bike share provider does, and they are one of the main reasons why Zagster is the nationwide leader in bike sharing.

So head here to download the new app, and then get out there and ride!