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bike share

Sharing is Caring (About Economic Efficiency)

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Sharing is Caring (About Economic Efficiency)

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Alana Brasier recently wrote two excellent posts about bike sharing and car sharing, which (with some gentle prodding by a colleague) got me thinking a bit about some of the broader economic implications of what has become known as “the sharing economy.” This convergence of mobile apps, ubiquitous smart phones and the blurring boundaries between people’s private and public lives has produced an increasing number of things that you can share with others, depending on your particular preference and need. Lyft Map

I don’t think I could sum up the issues and implications of all this sharing much better than this post by Aaron Renn. He does a great job of tracking the emergence of the sharing economy all the way back to the emergence of less-structured corporate office environments in the 1990s. I witnessed this indirectly through my wife, who works for a large global consulting firm. When she wasn’t working at a client site, her workplace options were to either show up at the office in downtown Chicago to pick up her plastic tub of personal effects and grab a non-assigned desk for the day, or work from home. (I think you can guess which option she usually chose.) Now she works from home full time at an internal position with the company, as does every single one of her immediate co-workers.

A spokesman for her company was quoted saying that it has reduced its real estate portfolio from 3 million square feet to 900,000 square feet even as its headcount increased, which saves it considerable money on overhead. Because the trend of working remotely conflicts with the trend of increasing workplace collaboration (remember the Yahoo work-from-home change?), there are differing opinions out there about the future of office space. Not every company has the business model, means and desire to be as aggressive as my wife’s employer, but an increasing number of companies are taking the opportunity that technological and societal shifts are giving them to be more efficient in how they use space.

Sharing in Transportation

Sharing can help us use our transportation facilities more efficiently too, as Renn astutely points out in his post. (See the part where he talks about “deadweight loss,” which is a classic economics term.) We all know that single-occupancy vehicles are inherently inefficient because there are empty seats going unused in most cars on the road. David Levinson delves even deeper into the waste built into our current transportation system in a recent post. So it turns out that a car-dominated transportation system is a pretty inefficient use of space, which makes sense to anyone who has seen the famous visualization of cars versus transit on a single city block. Space means land, which must be purchased, paved, and otherwise constructed upon, not to mention maintained over the long term. From an economic perspective, the more people we can transport using the same amount of space (or less), the more productive the system will be.

So if we want to improve the productivity of our transportation system, we can start by making non-automobile modes more available, convenient, and comfortable if necessary (so people will actually use them). And we can allow people to make more productive use of those empty seats next to them and behind them in their cars. There’s a lot more we can do, which Levinson outlines in his post, from road diets to congestion pricing to driverless cars. It will probably take an assortment of strategies working simultaneously to make our transportation system more productive, but we need to make the effort. For a part of our physical world and economy that is both so important to daily life and so expensive to build and maintain, we are not doing a very good job in getting the most bang for our buck out of it. But it looks like there are a lot of ideas out there on how to improve that.

–Dave Stamm, Cities That Work Blog

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Bike Sharing Cruising Across the Country

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Bike Sharing Cruising Across the Country

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Bike Is The New Black

Bike is the New Black
Bike is the New Black

Bicycling is becoming a trendy way to travel in place of the automobile, aided in part by the growing prevalence of bike share programs in cities across the U.S., like DC, Boston, Chicago and many others. These bike share programs can vary depending on the city, but generally, bicycle stations placed at specific destinations or neighborhoods have bicycles available at the swipe of a card or the entering of a PIN. The bicyclist can then drop it off at a station near their destination for another user to take to the road.

It is likely that at some point in the past two months you heard about New York City’s newly launched bike share program, Citi Bike. Of course, NYC  does everything bigger and better than anyone else (seriously, an 18-month public planning process?), but Citi Bike is already a successful program that is still in its infancy. This interactive infographic from The New Yorker shows the geographic usage of the bikes during its first month. While it starts out slow, usage picks up a couple weeks in and clearly becomes widely used for commuting to work. Citi Bike has now become popular enough to warrant inclusion on rental postings as featured amenities.

Tampa Bay Bike Share

Tampa Bay is undertaking its own bike share program, and as a Tampa native and bicycle lover, I’m really excited. Tampa Bay Bike Share is set to launch this fall, with phase one calling for 300 bikes at 40 stations in the Tampa area. Nearby St. Petersburg is also looking to create a similar bike share network to connect the two cities. “It's not about replacing cars, but about giving people an alternative mode of transportation that connects neighborhoods, embraces healthy living, reduces carbon pollution and is cost-effective,” says Andrew Blikken, program director of Tampa Bay Bike Share. Unlike many of the other bike share programs popping up across the country, Tampa Bay Bike Share is more flexible by allowing riders to lock up anywhere, instead of strictly at bike stations. However, there is an incentive to leaving bikes at stations; parking bikes outside of “designated” bike share areas results in an extra retrieval fee. The costs for renting bikes have not been finalized, but a yearly pass will cost less than $100.

Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn biking on the Tampa Riverwalk
Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn biking on the Tampa Riverwalk

Florida is one of the most dangerous states for bicyclists, with the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area having a large share of Florida’s bicyclist deaths. To alleviate this problem, it’s not enough to have more bikes; Tampa needs more bikes lanes and trails. Many strides have been made in recent years to improve safety for bicyclists by adding new bike lanes and trails, such as the future completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, the creation of the Selmon Greenway through downtown Tampa, and the Courtney Campbell Trail set to open in 2014 that will connect Tampa to Clearwater. However, it will be vital to the bike share program’s success to create a culture of bicycle transportation in Tampa Bay. In addition to building a network of bike lanes on streets with continuous traffic flow, capacity and safe speeds, Tampa will also need a bigger focus on education and enforcement of rules of the road, for both motorists and bicyclists. One of the biggest deterrents for people to switch from driving to bicycling is the perception of lack of safety on roadways. Addressing these considerations will make roads safer to help people get over their fears, get out on the road and make bicycling a more visible and viable method of transportation for Tampa Bay residents.

Update: Here's an updated list of the 25 Best Bike Share Programs in the world.

–Alana Brasier, Cities That Work Blog

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