Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bums on Seats - Melbourne Bike Share Challenge

Based on anecdotal evidence the Melbourne Bike Share sheme is struggling, which is a shame, because it's a great initiative. Below are some thoughts on how we can get some extra bums on seats and make the scheme more of a success.

1) Temporary Bike Stations - We know Universities are busy during the week and normally quiet during the weekend. Conversely, places like the MCG or Docklands football stadium are busy on the weekends, but would have a hard time justifying their existence on weekdays. Do bike share stations needed to partitioned into Weekday and Weekend stations to reflect this reality?

A key to getting the bike share scheme to work is getting as many stations out to places people frequent. Justifying a station such as the MCG could be hard based on 7 day patronage figures, but opening stations at the MCG just on the weekends could be a work around for this problem. Excess bikes from Melbourne University could be shifted to the MCG on weekends.

Understanding that Melburnian's travel habits are not rigid, is a key to a dynamic system and one that would maximize utilization.

2) Discounts - It doesn't take a genius to figure out that bike share patronage will be down on a rainy day. This will always be the case, but can some people be enticed to use the system on rainy day by offering discounts? Will a 50% discount be enough to entice people? What about extending the free travel period from 30 minutes to 60 minutes on a rainy day to factor in the wet?

The crux of getting this discount scheme to work is semi "real time" notifications. Push notifications via mobile phones or SMS notifications for subscribers can be sent at 6:30am in the morning. If rain is forecast or detected, a message offering discounts to users and a reminder to bring a helmet should be sent.

Further patrons should be able to register their favourite stations. If a station is underforming, discount notifications can be sent to users to encourage patronage.

3) Loyalty program - I like getting my free cup of coffee after 10 drinks, and i'm sure bike riders would appreciate a free ride after X amount of trips. It's a simple and effective way to encourage repeat patronage.

4) Bike share Buddies - Much like myki mates, the initial reaction from many Melburnians is confusion on how the scheme works. Having volunteers available to explain and demonstrate the features will be a key part of getting bums on seats.

5) Better integration with city wide festivals - Melbourne is a city of festivals. The Food and Wine festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne Open House and The Melbourne Internation Comedy Festival to name a few. These festivals use venues scattered around the city, and are excellent candidates to promote the use of bike share. Cross promotion and using the "bring a helmet" slogan would be benefitial for all.

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