The Effects of Bikesharing Programs on Transit Use: New Research

August 5, 2014
Do public bikesharing programs increase or reduce transit use in cities?

That depends, say Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC). Previous research has shown public bikesharing programs decrease driving and taxi use in almost every urban environment. But how do these programs affect shifts to—or from—transit?
In research just published online by the Journal of Transport Geography, the two describe how Washington, D.C.’s public bikesharing program has reduced transit use in the city’s urban core because travelers have found it faster to bike from place to place downtown rather than use Metro or the bus. On the city’s periphery, however, bikesharing programs have led to an uptick in transit use, perhaps as a means to get to and from a transit station.
But not all cities are the same, and the influence of public bikesharing on bus and rail use in Minneapolis/St. Paul has been different. In the Twin Cities, the advent of bikesharing has led to about a 15 percent increase in rail use compared to a slight decline in bus use.
The differences in mode shift between the two cities is largely due to the geographic placement of transit stations and the location of bikesharing networks.
Martin and Shaheen based their findings on a survey completed in late 2011. Among those surveyed they also found common attributes associated with shifting to public transit, such as age, gender, living in lower density areas, and longer commute distances.
“We believe this research is notable because it supports the argument that bikesharing acts as a form of public transportation," said Shaheen, co-director of TSRC. "Cities and policymakers can use this analysis to substantiate the role of subsidies in supporting program planning/deployment and service expansion in terms of geographic and socioeconomic scope.”
To read their paper, go here.