The Key to Philadelphia’s Bike Share Access: Partnership
Coordination is critical to achieving equity goals when it comes to affordability and community outreach for bike share systems. Chief among these strategies are discount programs, cash payment options, and ambassador cohorts.
Here’s a rundown on how Philadelphia worked across sectors toward each of these initiatives, as well as suggestions for other cities looking to do the same.
Philly as the Case Study
Philadelphia’s bike share equity initiatives are funded in part through the Better Bike Share Partnership, which seeks to discover and elevate best practices for bike share accessibility at the national level.
Philadelphia acts as ground zero for such best practices and has often set the precedent for other cities, major and small. The focus on affordability and outreach arose early on.
Partnership is the way that all of this affordability and outreach work has been so successful. Here are the key organizations on the Philadelphia stage that have coordinated to make bike share a local asset:
- Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability
- Bicycle Transit Systems (operator for Indego bike share)
- The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
Making Bike Share Affordable
For many Philadelphians, bike share is simply too expensive to be a viable transportation option. Stakeholders understood that it was important to provide a discounted membership to enable all residents to access the system.
The Indego30 Access Pass allows anyone with a Philadelphia Access Pass, the local public benefits card, to use bike share for $5 a month. The membership includes 30 days of unlimited one-hour trips, and trips that exceed the hour are charged at a rate of $2 per hour. The pass has been immensely popular, with an estimated 10-15% of all Indego members enrolled in the program.
The key to the Access Pass success was to make sure from the beginning that it was as easy to sign up for as possible. Eligible residents only need to input their Access Pass number into Indego’s website to make use of the discounted option. While BTS figured out the technical side of setting up the Access Pass, the Coalition has been vital to getting the word out about this alternative, and encouraging individuals to enroll.
Providing Multiple Payment Options
The other key to bike share affordability is providing a cash payment option. Some individuals may not have a credit or debit card, or they may be uninterested in connecting their card to the payment system. Providing an alternative payment method makes bike share more appealing to potential riders.
Indego bike share members can pay with cash by accessing any PayNearMe location. PayNearMe is provided at any Philadelphia 7-Eleven, CVS, Family Dollar, or Ace Cash Express, making it an easily-accessible way to pay for the service.
To set up the program, BTS researched various payment options that would both take cash and provide a network of physical locations where prospective riders could make their transactions. PayNearMe provided some of this infrastructure, while collaborating with oTIS, the Coalition, and other Philadelphia entities to provide enrollment assistance at KEYSPOT locations throughout the city.
Sourcing from Strong Community Outreach
Philadelphia was one of the first cities to have a bike share ambassador program, and since then, countless cities have followed suit.
The ambassador program has taken off, and each year ambassadors lead outreach events and programming for a diversity of Philadelphians. Sourcing ambassadors from a variety of communities, particularly underserved areas, ensures that the word spreads about the system and that all community members feel like bike share is meant for them.
It’s important to make sure that community involvement also includes hiring directly from target communities, and that there are inclusion and retention efforts present for available positions.
- Indego Ambassador Toolkit
- Atlanta Bike Champions Training Guide
- Strategies for Engaging Community report
- NACTO’s Bike Share Intercept Survey Toolkit
- Sample bike share equity job descriptions
- Urban Sustainability Director’s Network strategies for diverse hiring
Successful partnerships don’t just happen on their own. Key components of a successful partnership include clear communication, building shared priorities, and accountability check points.
It’s important for each organization in the partnership to know its role and strengths. While BTS manages the day-to-day operation of Indego and the behind-the-scenes work, oTIS manages equity initiatives and coordination, and the Coalition takes the lead on diverse outreach.
Additionally, Better Bike Share conferences have created opportunities for stakeholders throughout the country to come together for sharing resources and best practices that help make bike share more accessible to everyone.
See below for additional resources from the Better Bike Share Partnership:
- 2018 Moving Forward Together BBSP/NABSA conference materials
- Footage from the first Better Bike Share conference
For additional information about the Better Bike Share partnership, please reach out to Waffiyyah Murray, Better Bike Share Partnership Program Manager with the Philadelphia Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability: Waffiyyah.Murray@phila.gov.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
TDM, when employed, works. TDM agencies around the country use a treasure’s trove of strategies to get people out of cars and onto trains, buses, and bikes, which is something that has to happen if we don’t want our roads to become unusable due to traffic and environmental congestion.
But one major problem with the practice of TDM is that it has had a hard time making the case that it is a cost-effective alternative or at least add-on to big infrastructure projects. It seems pretty obvious that teaching people, educating them, about how to use our systems will make those systems run more smoothly. But there has never been a great way to back up that assumption with hard numbers.
Public meeting-driven community engagement doesn’t produce equitable outcomes for communities. To get to an inclusive, fair outcome, the development & planning communities need to get more representative feedback from community members.
By addressing a variety of factors that add to pollution, cities can take a more comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of climate change. For example, Earthjustice worked with the Los Angeles Electric Truck and Bus Coalition to convince Mayor Garcetti and the regional transit authority to commit to 100% zero-emission buses by 2030. The campaign brought together environmentalists, bus riders, and good job advocates who see the potential of an electrified future to clean the air, create high-quality jobs, and combat the threat of climate change.