The Value of Bike Sharing for Multi-Family Communities

The next generation of multi-family amenities is here. Missing the trend could be wasting your and your residents' money.

The era of “what’s mine is mine” has steadily given way to one of “what’s mine is yours.” In multi-family communities this new trend is most noticeable in the shift among amenities sought after by discerning prospective residents.

Not too long ago, ownership was king. Developers scrambled to offer private parking, personal space and individual amenities to residents. The idea being that one didn’t have to give up the benefits of ownership to move from single to multi-family living. In a growing, collaborative-consumption culture, people are beginning to understand that there is more value and less risk in use than in ownership.

According to Rohit Anand, AIA, NCARB of national firm, KTGY Group, Inc., Architecture and Planning, amenities like community gardens, group exercise studios and car and bike sharing embody a new trend in the target market for multi-family developments. This new trend focuses on the availability and use of shared resources over the hassles of ownership and aims to provide activities, spaces and vehicles that help promote community in an increasingly hectic and isolated world.

While the trend toward shared resource amenities has been identified developers have been slow to understand the significance particularly when it comes to transportation and their bottom line. Bike sharing has been exploding all over the country, and yet brand new developments continue to go up based on old paradigms of outdated transportation needs. Perhaps the best illustration of this is a recent look at the cost and utilization of parking facilities.

In December, the Sightline Institute released a study of 23 recently built multifamily housing developments in the Seattle area. Their findings were extraordinary: 37 percent of the parking spots that these buildings provided remained unoccupied overnight – the time when most people are parked and home sleeping. Every development had vacant spots at night; four of them weren't even half full.

Why? People simply aren’t putting as much importance on car ownership anymore – on average, for every five cars in those parking lots, there were six occupied apartments. Because they'd universally built more parking (often much more parking) than needed, not a single one of the 23 developments studied so much as broke even on its parking structure when factoring in the costs of construction, operation and maintenance. It doesn’t take advanced math to realize that those costs get passed on to residents and that dedicating space and resources to amenities that aren’t being used robs space and resources from those sought after by your residents.

Developers won't necessarily have the same experience in every city, but by and large, people in cities – especially cities with robust public transit – don't want to own cars. They’re expensive, and dealing with city traffic and parking can be quite the nightmare. Not coincidentally, bicycle commuting is rising rapidly – it's up more than 60 percent since 2000.

All that adds up to forward-looking developers and property managers starting to see the benefits of bringing bike shares to their properties. Bike sharing has evolved into a fully fledged, high-tech amenity that provides real value to tenants dealing with the reality of multifamily urban living.

We're not getting rid of all the cars anytime soon, so we're still going to need parking. But instead of encouraging people to drive in the city when they lack the desire, the budget or both, the most reasonable step may be to compliment your community’s transportation strategy with a bike share.

Aside from the dollars and cents, bike sharing is an amenity that has a laundry list of benefits. Bike shares help promote a sense of community; they give residents a very tangible connection to the place they live. There's something more intimate about biking through a neighborhood than driving through it; there's a connection with your surroundings and with your fellow bikers that's nearly impossible to replicate with any other mode of transportation. There's a lifestyle that goes along with using a bike to get everywhere, especially if you don't own a car, and residents are more likely to remain in a building that promotes and supports that lifestyle. Integrating bike sharing into the transportation strategy of your development not only benefits your residents, it makes your community more competitive in an evolving market. Being responsive to these trends will make your residents happy as well as your wallet.

Interested in bringing a bike share to your multifamily residence? Talk to Zagster's experts about how a bike share can benefit your community.