Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


Boston and Washington increase access to bike sharing

Bike sharing represents a great opportunity to provide a low-cost transportation option for low-income and minority communities, which historically have low automobile ownership rates and high dependency on transit. However, access to bike share systems by these communities has been limited in the US because of the high one-time membership costs and requirements to have a credit card to check out a bike.


Photo by Eric Gilliland on Flickr.

Boston and DC have implemented programs to which have helped to increase access to bikeshare. Officials from both jurisdictions shared these strategies at a webinar on social equity and accessibility for bike sharing programs, organized by the US Department of Transportation and National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida.

Darren Buck, from the Federal Transit Administration, also talked about on how the federal government is striving to identify ways to both increase funding for bike/ped issues as well as increase access to programs such bike sharing help bikeshare operators and municipal overseers identify sources of funding for their systems.

How Boston is promoting equity

Daisy De La Rosa, Project Director with the Boston Public Health Commission, explained that her commission was able to use a federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant (part of the Recovery's act funding) to subsidize 600 memberships for low income/minority residents around the Roxbury area of Boston.

While the percentage of minority users of Hubway is still very low (3% Latino, 5% Asian, 1% African American) and there is still lots to be done to increase ridership, they have been doing lots of outreach work and bike education around the low income areas that Hubway serves.

Credit card accessibility was not much of an issue to Hubway users, said De La Rosa, contrary to what we keep hearing about in DC, but aggressive marketing and outreach is important. Further, through existing partnerships with local CBO's, community leaders and word of mouth, they have been able to reach and sign up many new members qualifying for $5 yearly subsidized memberships.

Additionally, the Public Health Commission has met constantly with reps from Hubway to advocate for relocating a few stations closer to underserved minority and low income areas and closer to supermarkets, which could be a great solution to food deserts. Lastly, Ms. DelaRosa stressed on how important it is for bike sharing marketing campaigns to target their message differently for different communities and to continue to educate the public about the different transit options they have.

How Washington is promoting equity

Chris Eatough, BikeArlington Program Manager, talked about how the program continues to be at the forefront of innovative initiatives for reaching out to minority communities. And while minority/low income ridership remains low in this area, CaBi is reportedly doing a better job at reaching out to different communities.

For example, BikeArlington (CaBi's implementing office in Arlington) has been meeting with members of the Latino community about Arlington's Strategic plan and its call for phasing in Capital Bikeshare.

The Bank on DC program offers access to both a checking account and CaBi to people without bank accounts. CaBi's new payment installment program divides the yearly membership cost into 12 payments of $7just $9 higher than the $75 you would pay through a one-time payment.

Finally, while stations might not reach every single neighborhood in our area, and geographic equity might not be completely feasible due to the financial implications it may represent, CaBi continues to be the most geographically diverse system in the US, said Eatough: CaBi stations in the District have been placed in each of the 8 Wards giving access to many more people.

To summarize, there are a few things that programs can continue to do: emphasize educating the community at large about biking in general; use targeted marketing strategies that center around low-income and minority populations, and create market initiatives such as subsidies and amortized payments.

Finally, programs could even take away the security deposit requirements, just as Minneapolis' Nice Ride just did, which would remove the extra hold CaBi places on an account, tying up funds. By creating targeted opportunities campaigns, programs can continue to enhance the brand and make bikeshare available to a broader spectrum of the community.

Mauricio Hernandez is a transportation planner at a consulting firm in Silver Spring and a recent graduate of the University of Marylandís Community Planning program. 

Comments

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Great post, thanks for writing it Mauricio! One small correction -- States that I talked about "how the federal government is striving to identify ways to both increase funding for bike/ped issues..." -- We're not. At least I'm not. We (I) am striving to help bikeshare operators and municipal overseers identify sources of funding for their systems, and programs that increase access to those system. We don't advocate, just try to educate

Urge folks to listen to the recording of the webinar, or if you don't have an hour to spare, the slides are there in pdf

by darren on May 11, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

Do minorities ever get sick of being equated with "low income" as if the words are synonymous?

by Greg on May 11, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

Darren: I've corrected the post. Thanks.

by David Alpert on May 11, 2012 2:07 pm • linkreport

"Do minorities ever get sick of being equated with "low income" as if the words are synonymous? "

------

Darn straight.

And I'm sick and tired of being called a "minority". It's meaning is derived from the Latin "lesser". I'm not "lesser" than anyone.

by ceefer66 on May 11, 2012 2:13 pm • linkreport

"lesser" as in smaller number

"people with the sheer IQ to realize that "minority" is no insult are in the minority"

by RebelJew on May 11, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

@Greg and @ceefer66 - In the webinar, we tried our very best not conflate the two, apologies if we fell short. But while the main intent of ours was to discuss ways to increase access for low-income people -- in Arlington, income co-varies very closely with ethnicity, as the most spacially-concentrated low income population in Arl is recent immigrants from S America. Not discussing that unique circumstance would not have given a full picture of what Arlington is doing. In Boston (which i know little about), their bikeshare access program is funded through a public health grant. in pub health circles, my narrow understanding is that both race and income (even when controlled for each other) experience disparate health outcomes. Hence the discussion of both race and income in the case of Hubway.

by darren on May 11, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

CaBi continues to be the most geographically diverse system in the US, said Eatough: CaBi stations in the District have been placed in each of the 8 Wards giving access to many more people.

While it's great that W8 has three stations, the system is inefficient.

by HogWash on May 11, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

CaBi continues to be the most geographically diverse system in the US, said Eatough: CaBi stations in the District have been placed in each of the 8 Wards giving access to many more people.

yeah, just a few token stations in Ward 5 also. Wards 1, 2, and 6 have all the station density.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 11, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

Yeah, wards 3 and 4 have tokeb stations also. System is really geared towards downtown.

by Anon on May 11, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

Bikeshare works best in the places with concentrated activity hubs and older urban design that favors slower modes like biking and walking rather than cars. That means wards 1, 2, and 6.

by MLD on May 11, 2012 4:01 pm • linkreport

It may help to think of bike share as a ripple expanding outward in all directions. The system is by no means done with expansion but the way to make it successful the quickest and establish good patterns is to concentrate the placement.

by canaan on May 11, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

I live in ward 6, and use CaBi in my daily commute to Union Station, but I've also found that the handful of "token" stations in River East are enough to open up wards 7 and 8 to me in ways that wouldn't have happened without those stations.

by Lucre on May 12, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

Ward boundaries are somewhat arbitrary, political lines that change every 10 years. They shouldn't really be considered in transportation planning.

by David C on May 12, 2012 10:49 pm • linkreport

@David C: Ward identities are firmly established in DC, notwithstanding small changes to some of the dividing lines once a decade. So it's a handy way to identify gaps in bikeshare coverage.

We could use race or class if you'd rather talk about it that way, but I prefer to note the fact that geographic areas with approximately equal numbers of residents ("wards") have very unequal access to bike infrastructure.

One can say that Wards 4 and 5 are very car dependent, but it's sort of a chicken and egg problem. Planners have optimized Wards 4 and 5 to convey Maryland drivers in and out of the city efficiently, especially Ward 5, so the roads receive all the attention. Therefore residents and developers have designed the homes and retail around this model.

Take Ward 5. Until very recently, RI Ave Metro, Brookland Metro, and Fort Totten all lacked residential density. But hopefully that's changing.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 14, 2012 8:59 am • linkreport

We could use race or class if you'd rather talk about it that way...

Np. I think the relevant metric is probably population density. I think you'd find it matches up pretty well.

by David C on May 14, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

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