Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to complete our 2016 System Improvement Survey. We had a record response rate this year—338 responses total, representing around 15% of our total membership base. Let's talk about what we'll be doing in 2017, followed by the details of the survey responses.
A summary of what’s going to change in 2017:
Since this is probably what you came for, let’s get right into it. Here’s what’s coming in 2017:
- A new mobile customer service tool
- App-based AND text-based checkout
- At least a few new stations!
- Keeping the gear ratio of our bikes the same
- Tightening up our brakes
- Additional operations hours to improve system balancing
How are we doing overall?
Here’s how your average scores from 1-10 broke down for our three major categories:
Overall Average Score
Biggest Area To Improve
Overall appearance (8.86)
Full/empty stations (7.31)
Response time (8.80)
And here’s what you said about things we could work on to improve Boulder B-cycle in 2017:
Let’s go through some of the subjects the survey addressed and examine in more detail what we learned, and the changes we plan on implementing moving forward:
Almost everyone (95.4%) thought that the quality of the bikes has either stayed the same or improved in the last 12 months:
That’s good news, but we still think we can do better. We’d love for a majority of next year’s riders to say that the quality of bikes has not just stayed the same, but improved. So, how do we get there?
In particular, your comments suggest that brakes could be a bit tighter. As old Uncle Wally used to say, “going is optional, stopping is not.” We’ll work on tightening up the brakes in 2017!
In this year’s survey, we also explored the option of changing the gear ratio of B-cycles to either improve hill climbing or top speed. Here’s what you said:
The plurality of users want to keep the bikes how they are, so that’s what we’ll do.
As in previous years, there were also a number of comments on the bike hardware itself, such as the weight of the bikes, the size of the basket, and the aesthetics. While we have made some proprietary upgrades to the bikes (such as new bells, grips and pedals), it’s important to keep in mind that we don’t manufacture the bikes we use in our system, and most of these same characteristics exist by design across all bike sharing bikes regardless of the manufacturer. Bike share bikes are designed to have sturdier frames, large cargo capacity, dynamo-powered lights and internally-geared hubs, all of which contribute to a particular weight and aesthetic.
Finally, there were a few questions and comments about adding cup holders or phone docks to bikes, so let’s talk about that: We actually made it to the prototyping stage with a corporate partner for one such accessory earlier this year. Two factors ended up killing the cup/phone holder. First, the small-scale manufacturing cost was prohibitive. Second, as you may know, B-cycles tend to bounce a bit going over bumps, and we weren’t keen on offering a cup holder and phone dock, only for riders to have drinks and phones bounce out of them, spilling and breaking.
Overall, your impressions of our station maintenance were slightly more favorable than your opinions of our bike maintenance. 98.6% of riders felt that station quality has stayed the same or improved in the last 12 months:
That being said, one of the biggest areas you identified for improvement system-wide was the issue of full and empty stations. Nearly 57% of respondents identified having run into this problem in the past 12 months—more on that below. In response, we’re aiming to increase our balancing efforts in 2017. In particular, thanks to our recent successful Colorado Gives Day campaign, we’ll be able to expand balancing completed by bike trailer through our B.E.A.S.T. program throughout the busiest months of the year.
Overall, customer service was the area you gave us the highest ratings on, and we think that’s great. However, there’s still more work to be done to both reduce the number of reasons for you to contact customer service in the first place, and to improve the ease of of the overall customer experience.
Here are the problems riders ran into in 2016, and how that compared to 2015:
The incidence of some problems increased, while the incidence of others decreased. Overall, we’re a bit disappointed that we didn’t see a more substantial decrease in some areas, so we’ll redouble our efforts on the operations side to mitigate the identified problems.
There were a number of comments in this year’s survey about a text-based or mobile-based customer service tool. We’re excited to announce that we’re working on that! This tool will launch in early 2017, with the aim of increasing the reporting of maintenance issues, as well as reducing the time riders spend on customer service issues. You can expect an announcement on that soon.
The checkout process:
One of the things we wanted to assess this year was how you felt about the bike checkout process and what new checkout options we should put our resources toward in the future. First, we asked what method you used most frequently and what you thought of the overall quality of the experience on a scale of 1 to 10. Here’s what you said:
Credit card checkout: 7.70
B-card checkout: 8.91
The lesson from those results is clear: If you’re using your credit card to grab bikes and don’t love it, switch to using your B-card. It’s faster, and you’ll probably like it more.
As for future checkout methods, we asked you to rank five checkout options from 1 (least favorable to 5 (most favorable). Here’s what you said:
Checkout by B-card was the overall favorite, followed by the possibility of checkout by a different RFID card, such as a student ID or ecopass. There was also a strong preference for the possibility of mobile app checkout, and nobody seemed particularly jazzed about checkout by text message.
Let’s start with the good news: Two of these new checkout methods are coming within the next few weeks. Our software developer has finally released a new version of the BCycle app (different from the B-cycle Now app most of you use) which will allow mobile-app based checkout once our stations are ready. This will will require us to update a few components at some of our older stations, a process which is currently underway. These updates will also make text-message checkout available. We’ll send a system-wide email as soon as this new mobile app is Boulder-ready.
And now for the bad news: while the enthusiasm among riders for using an EcoPass or student ID to check out bikes is clear, that option is not likely to happen in Boulder due to the limitations of the technology we use at our stations. Simply put, our stations are not set up to read the radio frequencies that either EcoPasses or CU student ID cards emit.
The price tag to refit our stations to read those cards? Just shy of a half million dollars.
While we don’t mind investing in improvements to our program, we think that cost is simply too high for what it yields—Slimming your wallet down by a few millimeters.
Coupled with the fact that neither an EcoPass nor a student ID card is tied to a credit card (something we require of all riders), we feel that our resources are best invested elsewhere.
Overall, as in previous years, station locations were the number one area identified for system improvement. Unfortunately, stations are also the single most expensive component of our program. Yay! Let’s look at the five most-requested sites in order of popularity and talk about what it takes to make a station happen:
- Table Mesa & Broadway
- Table Mesa Park N Ride
- Various sites on CU campus
- East Boulder/Arapahoe Corridor
- North Boulder
This list is fairly similar to what we’ve seen in years past. Table Mesa & Broadway and the Table Mesa Park N Ride have been our most-requested locations for the entire history of the program, and we’ve been working to make them happen for the better part of five years. The increased request for CU stations this year was a wonderful surprise, and a product of the fact that CU ridership has exploded in the last 12 months.
So, what are we doing to get new stations in the ground?
The unfortunate reality of siting new stations is that it’s a long and arduous process. We’ll be writing a more detailed blog post about that process soon, but suffice it to say the process involves securing sufficient funding, identifying sites of proper housing and employment density, avoiding floodplains, securing either private land use permission or public right-of-way access, and more.
We’re generally reluctant to talk about the station sites we’re working on securing for the simple reason that with all of the aforementioned moving parts involved, we don’t want to get your hopes up too high. We’ve seen enough station plans fall through (including some of the locations mentioned above) for one reason or another that we don’t want to make promises we can’t keep.
Here’s what we’re comfortable saying about where we’re at in the station siting process: The City of Boulder is working on our behalf to secure additional grant funding for future stations, and we’re currently navigating the bureaucracy of both RTD and CU to assess the feasibility of adding more stations on their property. We are confident that at least one of the locations identified above will be installed within a few months, and optimistic that at least one more of them will follow in the next 12 months.
Broadly speaking, Republic Riders and People’s Pedalers were satisfied with both the sign-up and per-trip cost of their passes. The Casual Cruiser pass, which is our least popular pass at the moment, told a different story. We’ll be exploring alternative pricing for that pass in early 2017.
A few subjects touched on in this survey deserve posts of their own, so we’ll be revisiting some operations considerations on this blog in the coming weeks. Again, thank you to everyone who took our survey, and to everyone who rode in 2016. Keep your eyes out for formal announcements about the updates we have planned for 2017.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or email with questions, comments or concerns.