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.