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Pioneering Public Transportation Integration in Pittsburgh

Healthy Ride will launch electric assist bikeshare to make cycling more accessible and more convenient for more Pittsburgh residents.

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Pittsburgh needs more public transportation options to fill the needs of both its residents and those who commute into the city for work and school. The car-centric mentality that pervades the region is neither sustainable, nor accessible for many people who commute. At Pittsburgh Bike Share (henceforth referred to by it’s system name, Healthy Ride), we believe that short bike trips can help people cut down commute times, avoid waiting for public transportation, and ultimately live a healthier and happier life. Healthy Ride launched in May 2015 and has since grown both it’s bike fleet and system footprint. However, with the traditional pedal-powered bike share model, the system only reaches a small segment of the city, struggling to connect to new demographics and areas with hilly terrains. Even your most fit city cyclist avoids taking Healthy Ride bikes up Pittsburgh hills, meaning that much of this city remains inaccessible by bike share. 

Healthy Ride’s contribution includes working with the Port Authority of Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh to install 2 remote charging stations for electric-assist shared bicycles at bus and light rail terminals along high-traffic public transit corridors, adding a limited number of e-assist bicycles to the existing fleet of 700 pedal-powered bicycles, and performing community outreach to engage residents before installation and educate new riders after the charging stations and e-bike fleet have launched. Healthy Ride is dedicated to building the best possible bike share system for the City of Pittsburgh, and bike share has proven to be an important part of the multimodal transit network. However, the Healthy Ride system must grow and develop in order to fulfill the needs of Pittsburgh residents and visitors; e-bikes are an essential part of the multimodal transit future. Funding to establish the infrastructure necessary to build this program will not only establish a sustainable e-bike system in Pittsburgh, but also help pilot the concept of remote charging stations and establish local best practices and identify opportunities for future growth.  

Healthy Ride was built on innovative partnerships and as an organization, Healthy Ride continues to utilize partnerships in order to fulfill public transportation needs in Pittsburgh and build a more sustainable, multimodal transportation network for the future of our city. This proposal relies on not only developing the Healthy Ride bike share system to include e-bikes and remote charging technology, but also continues the important work of collaborating with the City of Pittsburgh and The Port Authority of Allegheny County to create multimodal connections along high-traffic, public transit corridors. Through these partnerships, Healthy Ride has identified 5 high-traffic corridors that will be considered as future locations for remote charging stations: the Downtown Light Rail Terminal at Liberty Avenue & Stanwix Street, the East Busway at Negley Avenue, the East Busway Terminal in Wilkinsburg, the Hazelwood Green development, and the South Hills Light Rail. Pittsburgh Bike Share will work with both the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) and The Port Authority of Allegheny County to identify the final locations for a pilot of 2 remote charging stations that integrate with these public transit hubs. 

Beyond the charging stations, Healthy Ride will use remaining funds to purchase a small fleet of e-assist bicycles from it’s hardware provider, nextbike. By introducing a small number of bicycles during the Pilot phase, our rebalancing team will learn best practices for e-assist bicycle maintenance and charging. Furthermore, this small fleet will help Healthy Ride identify operational and customer needs on a small scale to prepare for a future e-bike expansion.

Finally, public outreach is at the core of Healthy Ride’s continuous growth. We believe that community input is essential to building the best public transportation network for Pittsburgh. Not only will Healthy Ride seek input from residents during the planning phase to create the greatest impact for current and future bike share riders, but will also continue outreach efforts beyond the launch of the e-assist fleet. Healthy Ride will host 6 launch events across the service area with the goal of providing opportunities for all of the neighborhoods connected to Healthy Ride to experience the new bikes. The focus of these events will be to introduce e-assist bicycles to new communities who may be intimidated about using bicycles as transportation. Each of these events will feature test rides on the e-assist bicycles, safe city cycling education, and a short group bike ride to introduce new riders to biking on public streets. 

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

E-bikes have the power to connect new demographics to bike share. Healthy Ride receives consistent requests for e-bikes from a variety of Pittsburgh commuters who are looking for assistance climbing Pittsburgh’s many hills, who want to travel further by bike without sweating through their everyday attire, and who want to connect new geographically challenging neighborhoods to the Healthy Ride system. Our User Journey, attached here, shows the multimodal connections that integrating shared e-bikes creates for residents and city workers. Before shared e-bikes, Heather would have taken the “T” (Pittsburgh’s Light Rail) into Downtown Pittsburgh, taken a 10 minute walk to catch a new bus that would take more than 30-minutes her to her class at the University of Pittsburgh. E-bikes turn Heather’s multi-leg journey where she has to handle multiple schedules and the potential for late buses into a reliable, active, enjoyable commute.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The Healthy Ride bicycle sharing system is owned and operated by Bike Share Pittsburgh Inc. a 501(c)3 non-profit. The mission of Bike Share Pittsburgh is to expand access to public transportation through easy-to-use, affordable active transportation opportunities. The organization’s mission is driven by the following values: accessibility, equity and inclusivity, community engagement, interactive customer experience, and city health and sustainability. HealthyRidePGH.com PGHBikeShare.org

Size of your team or organization

  • 11-50

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Pittsburgh Bike Share currently operates a station-based bicycle sharing system called Healthy Ride. After launching in May 2015, Healthy Ride has seen over 290,000 rides and 60,000 customers. Pittsburgh Bike Share has already built a sustainable bike share system for Pittsburgh as a 501(c)3 organization. With sponsorship, grant funding, and ridership revenue Healthy Ride provides a sustainable public transportation service that is mission-driven and dedicated to serving everyone who lives and travels through our beautiful city. In addition to serving new demographics and ride opportunities, e-assist bicycles provide a new revenue opportunity for Healthy Ride. Furthermore, Healthy Ride can show proof of concept by piloting charging stations at select Port Authority transit hubs and further integrate bike share into Pittsburgh’s public transit system.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Healthy Ride will compare the volume of rentals taken on our electric assist fleet with our pedal powered fleet to assess the relative utilization of the bikes. We will also examine the origins and destinations of trips taken on e-assist bikes to better understand changes to trip making behavior precipitated by this new technology. We hope to gain understanding of the operating costs associated with an e-assist fleet, so we will compare the rebalancing rate and service needs of the new e-assist bikes to those of our pedal bikes. As with our pedal bike fleet, we will commit to publishing anonymous rental information as open data to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center as well as a live feed of bike and station information, allowing developers and researchers to analyze our data. We will measure new user registrations at ebike stations and the number of people participating in launch and education events. We will also collect user stories and feedback.

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Lots of private companies are rolling out E-bikes. This is cool. Healthy Ride is run by a non-profit with a committed social mission to make bikeshare work for everyone regardless of neighborhood, background, or ability to pay. Let's see what E-bikes could look like if they are integrated into a social mobility strategy!

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