Special Report: Cycling

Hamilton Bike Share Exceeding Membership, Ridership Expectations

Hamilton Bike Share has already generated 7,500 active members, almost 200,000 trips and 426,000 kilometres since it launched this past March.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 08, 2015

An information report presented to the Monday, December 7 Public Works Committee meeting provides an encouraging update on the status of Hamilton's new Bike Share program. I can't link directly to the report, since the City's Council/Committee website is an unusable quagmire, but you can access a short-term link to the report under item 5.1 in the meeting agenda.

A cyclist rides a Hamilton Bike Share bike past the hub at Hunter GO Station
A cyclist rides a Hamilton Bike Share bike past the hub at Hunter GO Station

The bike share program was funded with $1.6 million in capital funding from the Metrolinx Quick Wins fund. The system uses technology from Social Bicycles and is operated locally by Hamilton Bike Share Inc, a not-for-profit corporation.

Hamilton Bike Share has been officially in operation since March 20, 2015 after a two-month pre-launch beta test from January 16 to March 19. Both membership and usage have exceeded staff expectations.

Membership and Revenue

The staff report notes that the system has some 7,500 active members out of a total of 8,700 people who have tried the system since start-up. 1,227 members have annual memberships, 800 have monthly memberships and 5,527 have pay-as-you-go memberships.

Gross Member Revenues, Projected and Actual for Year 1
Member Type Year 1 Projected Year 1 Actuals
Cost Number Dollars Cost Number Dollars
Annual $79 1500 $118,500 $71-149 1,227 $82,000
Monthly $29 100 $2,900 $15 800 $78,800
Hourly $5 4000 $20,000 $4 5,527 $78,600
Hourly Usage $2 6500 $13,000
Total $154,400 $239,400

While revenues exceed first-year projections, the report notes that the system does not yet have a major corporate sponsor, which is needed for the bike share to become revenue neutral by the end of the three-year pilot. Efforts to secure a corporate sponsor are ongoing, but I hope its early success at attracting riders and usage will encourage a company to take the plunge.

The report also notes that the service area is much larger than was envisioned when the bike share system was proposed. It has been extended west into Dundas, east to Ottawa Street and south to the top of the Escarpment for a total service area of 38 square kilometres.

As a result, some areas have a density of stations that falls below the level necessary to make bike share a highly convenient, usable transportation system.

Strong Ridership

I recently signed up as a research partner with Hamilton Bike Share, and the following ridership totals are based on an analysis of anonymized ride data provided by Hamilton Bike Share.

Ridership grew rapidly after the official launch on March 20 and averaged 2,139 km per day during July and August, with a peak of 3,046 km on July 7.

From January 16 until December 6 this year, Hamilton Bike Share members collectively took 196,539 trips, covering a total of 426,419 kilometres. For a sense of scale, that represents 10.6 trips around the earth at the equator.

Chart: Trips, Distance and Duration by Day, January 16, 2015 to November 30, 2015
Chart: Trips, Distance and Duration by Day, January 16, 2015 to December 6, 2015

Daily ridership continues into the colder season. From December 1 to 6, the members took an average of 512 trips a day, riding a total of almost 1,000 km a day.

Hamilton Bike Share routes heat map, December 1, 2015 to December 6, 2015
Hamilton Bike Share routes heat map, December 1, 2015 to December 6, 2015

But with winter nearly upon us, Hamilton Bike Share will be reducing the fleet by 20 percent and taking some low-use stations, like the hub on Van Wagner's Beach Road, out of operation until spring. The following hubs will be closed for the winter:

As a personal anecdote, I rode several bikes last January through March during the beta test, and found the bikes to be highly performant in winter weather. They are heavy, sturdy and have a low centre of gravity, so they feel very stable even in snow and ice.

Everyone Rides

Currently, the density of hubs gets thin east of Wentworth Street, where the neighbourhoods have more low-income residents and have been identified for support under the City's Neighbourhood Action Strategy. Hamilton Bike Share Inc and city staff would like to extend service further wast through an Everyone Rides Initiative (ERI), which would add five to seven new hubs and 75 to 125 new bikes.

Map of existing hubs (red circles) and proposed ERI hubs (blue squares)
Map of existing hubs (red circles) and proposed ERI hubs (blue squares)

As the report notes:

The ERI pilot program aims to install bike share infrastructure in underserved and low income communities, while also providing supports for residents in the form of subsidized access, education and trip planning to ensure that the infrastructure is highly used and successful.

The capital, design, implementation and operating costs for this initiative are expected to total a little over $500,000. The work to date has been funded with a $25,000 grant from Union Gas.

Everyone Rides Initiative Design and Implementation Costs
Item Cost
5-7 hubs capital cost $40,000
75-125 bikes capital cost $165,000
Site selection, capital deployment, testing, installation $75,000
Operational and capacity building costs $250,000
Total $530,000

So far, staff plan to submit a funding request to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Green Municipal Fund for half the cost, with the balance proposed to come from the following sources:

The research from other cities indicates that the program will be more successful if it includes efforts to reduce the barriers to access for low-income residents.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

38 Comments

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By rgelder@cogeco.ca (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 14:05:48

Spot on, Ryan! Sobi bikes and Hamilton Bike Share are awesome.

If I ever start a punk band (after having first acquired to ability to either sing or play a musical instrument), I am going to call it "Unusable Quagmire". I will give you full credit, of course.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 14:50:33

Some of the expansion stations have now apparently been installed, using the freed-up racks from the winter-closures.

This is only one block from my home! I was the first-ever to dock two bikes to it, thanks to a heads-up by Stanley from Facebook.

Imgur

Imgur

Imgur

I printed and waterproofed some wayfinding signs, and attached them to strategic locations since people keep docking them all over the place nearby, and may not be currently aware of this brand new SoBi station!

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By mkuplens (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 15:41:27 in reply to Comment 115542

So that's where the sign by the church car park came from!

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 15:25:22 in reply to Comment 115542

The hub is getting actual use. I have seen it fluctuate from 0 to 7 bikes and then back. It appears already a quite popular hub. This is near the boulevards (Proctor, St Clair, south of King) so probably relatively-speaking more affluent. Still lots of rental dwellings here too, so a mixed income neighbourhood due to the mix here.

More low income memberships is an excellent idea; as long as effectiveness is measurable and accountable -- I want to see good effective use of these, without stolen SoBi issues from people without credit cards.

Fortunately, the SoBi fleet is fully GPS tracked. I have heard anecdotes from some SoBi contacts about bikes being brought indoors, the GPS trail disappearing into a door, and being subsequently rescued by SoBi staff who knocked on the door, Even saved a SoBi bike from being about to be disassembled! I also hear the bikes also have remotely triggerable alarms as well, which assists in quick recovery.

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-12-08 15:44:16

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By brendansimons (registered) | Posted December 08, 2015 at 15:21:45

Is it possible to get a version of that heatmap with a better colour scale, or at least a legend showing approximately how many riders (per unit time) correspond to how bright each blue line?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 16:47:17 in reply to Comment 115544

Unfortunately that heat map is generated by the SoBi admin Web application and does not seem very customizable. Let me play around with the data and try to come up with something more detailed.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:39:41 in reply to Comment 115550

I just saw old SoBi heatmaps using a fuller multicolored gradient, in other cities.

I wonder if this is because of SoBiHamilton's color theming is different for Hamilton than it is for other cities. (e.g. dark navy blue is part of Hamilton's theme).

Maybe a little CSS overriding/tweaking is possible? Snoop the browser console and talk to SoBi if they can open up the color theme editing ability, or at least permit local overriding of the colors via a hidden API...

Comment edited by mdrejhon on 2015-12-17 11:40:09

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 15:26:09 in reply to Comment 115544

Ditto. Seconded! A wider color gradient would be nice, like the heat maps found in some other cities.

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By fact checker (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2015 at 16:49:01

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2015 at 09:04:08 in reply to Comment 115551

The original budgeting was based on a bixi style model which has 24 and 48 hour passes, escalating overage charges, and fees for not checking the bike in every 30 minutes - none of which the Hamilton system has so there isn't a perfect 1:1 relationship of revenue types.

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By fact checker checker (anonymous) | Posted December 08, 2015 at 17:08:03 in reply to Comment 115551

You know sending other people scurrying to look things up for you is not what is meant by 'fact checking' ... right??

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By fact checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 04:15:23 in reply to Comment 115553

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By Huh? (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 08:44:30 in reply to Comment 115562

What "other side" are you talking about?

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By fact checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 18:34:45 in reply to Comment 115565

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By fact checker checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 07:59:18 in reply to Comment 115562

If there is something missing from the story, "fact checker", then tell us what it is. Otherwise stop insinuating that there's "bias"

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By fact checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 18:35:09 in reply to Comment 115564

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By crap checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 23:25:39 in reply to Comment 115583

Someone posted an answer up there for ya, "bud". Notice you conveniently ignored it.

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By Noah Webster (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 07:44:17 in reply to Comment 115562

Or you could look up advocacy in the dictionary.

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By fact checker (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 18:35:56 in reply to Comment 115563

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 20:59:31 in reply to Comment 115584

yea, as opposed to standing in mailbox holes.....

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 17:56:49

I recently found a little-known way to get permalinks to individual agenda items on the siretechnologies website (from a non-intuitive copy and paste technique that I need to do before clicking)

Direct Permallink: Public Bike Share Transit Implementation Plan

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By keithbeck (registered) | Posted December 08, 2015 at 18:58:23 in reply to Comment 115554

I'm going to guess that you share the agenda item to your own email and that gives you a copy/paste (able) link to use. Right?

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2015 at 04:08:44 in reply to Comment 115556

Actually, I go to the page that's 1 page before the actual page, and then right-click, "Copy Link". Paste. (And verify URL doesn't have a long hexadecimal number -- those are the URLs that are temporary)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2015 at 11:49:24 in reply to Comment 115561

Unfortunately, even that method doesn't work. I tried it earlier this year, and discovered that if the Clerks change anything on the agenda, all the URLs get replaced and your link gets broken. It's really exasperating.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2015 at 12:05:29 in reply to Comment 115570

I knew there had to be a catch.

I guess this would be OK when it's a historical agenda that's not likely to change any further. So all this is, is simply a longer-lasting link, not a Permalink.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 08, 2015 at 21:49:36 in reply to Comment 115556

HEY - you two better watch those terms of service violations!

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 11:25:20

So when is the Hwy #6 boondoggle (or any other car infrastructure project) going to be expected to have a corporate sponsor?

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By Matt (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 17:48:26

Yes, yes, yes, pleeeease go east of Gage.

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By Keep Going (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 19:17:42

Well you're half way there.

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By stone (registered) | Posted December 09, 2015 at 23:30:29

now if we can just get grown men and women to stop riding their bikes on the sidewalk we are on to something

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 10, 2015 at 09:19:37 in reply to Comment 115589

I'm guessing those grown men and women are doing what they feel is necessary to avoid the other grown men and women who just killed 4 people in one week with their cars.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2015 at 06:06:50 in reply to Comment 115589

There's a pretty easy way to do that: provide safe bicycle lanes.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2015 at 07:32:58 in reply to Comment 115591

And that means lanes that are marked through intersections, connected to each other and along streets with actual destinations.

Riding on the sidewalk is extremely unsafe for the cyclist. The fact that anyone perceives it as the least dangerous option should be taken as a signal that when it comes to providing an actual safe space, we're doing it wrong!

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By MattM (registered) | Posted December 10, 2015 at 12:53:53

I hope the next wave of hubs includes Ottawa Street (I can't really tell from the map since its small). I live much farther East than that (Woodward Avenue) which is why I don't have a membership yet but if it comes East to Ottawa, that might push me over.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 10, 2015 at 13:11:09 in reply to Comment 115600

Its definitely ottawa st. Looks like 3 Ottawa St racks - Barton, Queenstown and one in between

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:44:05

On the heatmap, I notice that there's no blip of bikes on Concession St in this heatmap. But I also observe Concession St was shut down completely because of ongoing construction.

It will be interesting to see what bikeshare statistics for Concession St will be for 2016!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 17, 2015 at 16:05:42 in reply to Comment 115718

That heat map is only 5 days of riding

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 17, 2015 at 11:53:00 in reply to Comment 115718

hopefully the Sobi maps can pin-point how many ride on the sidewalk vs road on Concession. Someday when we need to rebuild that street maybe we can add bike lanes....

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