In September, the cities of Toronto and Hamilton had the pleasure of co-hosting hundreds of industry colleagues to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association annual conference. Together with Bike Share Toronto, we welcomed many participants to our operational headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Lively conversations spurred with other Cities, operators, micromobility program owners and advocates. Important topics were discussed around fleet rebalancing, customer satisfaction, operationalization of e-bikes, capacity and resource planning for an ever-changing landscape and much more.
There was healthy curiosity around the strong relationship Toronto Parking Authority and Shift Transit have fostered to manage and grow the Bike Share Toronto program to where it is today. That relationship is founded on a shared vision of building and operating a world class bikesharing system that serves Toronto residents and its visitors. Last year, the system saw 4.6 million trips, a 29% year-over-year increase in usage, which translated to 8.5 million pounds of carbon emissions saved from Toronto’s pedal power. How do we continue to support the demand for sustainable mobility solutions as a way of commuting and traveling the city?
Growth: 2017 to 2023
In April 2017, when Shift Transit was awarded the operator contract of the Bike Share Toronto program, the system was 2,000 bikes and 200 stations large. Fast forward to October 2023, Bike Share Toronto currently has over 9,000 bikes (1,825 of which are e-bikes) and more than 800 stations, with further expansion taking place through the end of the year. Expanding the system more than 240% in six years has been a big lift for both Bike Share Toronto and Shift Transit as we worked jointly on the on-the-ground planning and execution.
As the fleet and system footprint expands, operational challenges come with this growth. We need to service more neighborhoods, more riders and travel further distances to opposite ends of the system, while battling Toronto’s traffic, a city ranking 3rd for most congested city in North America. Ensuring the right mix of expertise and resource allocation is essential to operating one of North America’s largest bikesharing systems.
“As the Bike Share Toronto network expands from the city’s core further into the suburbs, we need an operator who can take on challenges and effectively help us create a great customer experience for riders. Shift Transit shares our commitment in achieving those” remarks Justin Hanna, Director, Bike Share Toronto at the Toronto Parking Authority.
We share two (of many!) key strategic approaches the Shift Transit team prioritizes to support success:
Daily operational excellence
Within the micromobility world, rebalancing is often referred to as the “unicorn” of our industry. Where are bikes needed and when? The art of rebalancing is a complex canvas and in Toronto, our team has focused on a winning approach:
Coupling ‘the predictable’ – leading with AI that studies historical trends to “predict” the future – with ‘the art’ which is the human input to evaluate what will deviate from the historical (such as events, closures). This allows us to adjust where we put our resources to have the biggest impact on usage needs. During the course of the year, the Shift team runs approximately 1,500 valet service locations to support bike demand and supply. Valet locations are staffed to help commuters during peak commuting periods, recreational riders on weekends and provide reliable service at high-attendance events, such as concerts and professional sports games. The goal of providing valet service is to increase capacity and drive consistent demand, for an overall positive customer experience. On any given day in peak season, there is a robust rebalancing fleet hitting the streets to move bikes and a dedicated staff working the many facets of the operation.
Develop team morale
Running a micromobility system is a complex operation. Recognizing the most amazing team on the ground delivering the system and driving an exceptional customer experience every single day is a high priority at Shift Transit. Because without the entire team, success would not be possible. A key component within our organization is to foster personal and professional development opportunities. Offering new challenges or prioritizing real-time performance check-ins to foster growth are essential.
Every couple of months, we conduct an eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) survey to measure how team members feel about the organization. It’s an opportunity to share valuable and anonymous feedback. Together, we take every occasion to celebrate wins and be social with colleagues across departments with regular food truck and lunch events. #Oneteam
As a front-line operator for a growing micromobility program, we must continue to drive better productivity and efficiencies in our operations to support an expanding system, while still being able to pivot to meet challenges and customer needs. Operating a micromobility system is a complex task, however, with skilled expertise behind each function, we can deliver the results needed to power a successful active transportation solution.
A booming year for mobility with a connected future
2022 was a year of renewed connection, as people, communities and cities across borders moulded to a newly shaped normal. A normal that has people seeking connection and face-to-face interaction, whether in professional or personal settings and shared mobility is playing a vital role. Whether it’s bike sharing, scooter sharing, car sharing or para/microtransit, many forms of transportation are helping deliver this connection piece as an increasing number of people are discovering, adopting and using new forms of shared mobility.
At Shift Transit, we continued to work closely with partners and Cities, resulting in record-breaking growth and innovation. The impact that shared mobility has on communities and cities really highlights how important our work is in providing reliable transportation services.
The increased usage of shared mobility had our team busier than ever this past year. From managing a fully electric bike share fleet, through system expansions, to operating the 4th largest bike share system in North America, many of our markets saw big advancements in:
- system expansion
Doubling down on this growth are future plans to continue propelling micromobility as an integral part of everyday life. Let’s have a closer look at how Shift Transit, hand-in-hand with our partners, delivered more shared mobility options as city transportation landscapes continue to innovate and evolve.
📍 Toronto, Canada: Bike Share Toronto
Ending the year with over 1 MILLION more rides than in 2021, Bike Share Toronto set a new record of 4.6 MILLION trips. Things really accelerated in Toronto in 2022, with expansion, e-bikes and system electrification to welcoming more riders than ever before to bike share! Bike Share Toronto closed the year with incredible results:
- 4.6M trips – 29% YOY increase
- 178% YOY increase in e-bike trips
- 30% YOY growth in users of the system
- 29% YOY growth in memberships sold
Innovating the customer experience was top of mind to make it even easier and seamless for new and returning users to access bikes. In August 2022, Bike Share launched a new all-in-one mobile website platform. The Bikesharetoronto.com website on mobile now offers all types of pass purchases, bike unlocks and member dashboard access for a levelled up customer experience. Within weeks of launching, we saw a 20% increase in new user transactions from the mobile website portal, with the support of a robust marketing and communications campaign.
Bike Share Toronto continues to grow in popularity and importance and in September 2022, the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) announced the program’s Four Year Growth Plan. Shift Transit is excited to partner with the TPA as it aims to make Bike Share Toronto the best bikesharing system in the world. Since TPA and Shift partnered together, the system footprint has grown upwards of 225%; growing from 200 stations and 2,000 pedal bikes in April 2017 to 655 stations, 6,675 pedal bikes and 525 pedal assist e-bikes at the close of 2022.
2023 promises to be nothing short of exciting! Be sure to follow along.
📍 Detroit, Michigan: MoGo Detroit Bike Share
The MoGo Detroit Bike Share program had a gainful year, celebrating 5 years of service with new stations added and a booming membership base in an ever-changing ‘Motor City’. A total of 6 stations were installed, growing the system to 78 stations across six Metro Detroit cities, while also introducing the program’s first e-stations. Shift Transit led the installation of 2 hardwired e-stations located at the new Michigan Central Station, and 1 solar-powered e-station in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood as part of continuing efforts to electrify the entire system. Additionally, 3 bike share stations were installed in Belle Isle Park, the largest City-owned “island” park in the US, making it the first time bike share is offered as a way to explore the beautiful, big state park that spans 982-acres in the heart of Detroit. In the first month of servicing the island, the 3 stations saw immediate ridership.
Pictured: Skyhook solar e-charging station
As the system footprint grew, so did MoGo’s membership base. Spurred by the partnership with Wayne State that launched in 2021, over 1000 memberships were sold, ranking the stations around the campus within the top ten utilized in 2022. Overall, member ridership was up 45% year-over-year. This usage is a true testament to the necessity and success of the partnership, giving students, faculty and staff an accessible and affordable mobility option in Detroit.
Before the year came to a close, a new partnership was established with DivDat, broadening the cash payment option with DivDat’s widely accessible, easy, and real-time payment processing platform, continuing to drive equitable access to bike share in Detroit.
📍 Chattanooga, Tennessee: Bike Chattanooga
Shift Transit has been proudly working with the City of Chattanooga Division of Transportation since 2017 to run the day-to-day operations and management of the Bike Chattanooga program. This past year, Bike Chattanooga celebrated a decade of service, kicking off with a series of events, supported by the Mayor, to mark the 10 year anniversary.
While the City support for bike sharing in Chattanooga remains strong, 2022 also brought further connection with the community, welcoming many more members to the system. Annual memberships sold was up 14% YOY, while the annual member ridership increased at the same fierce rate. More and more Chattanoogans are discovering the benefits of biking and accessing bike share as a way to move around the city.
Chattanooga was an early-adopter of e-bikes back in 2018. E-bikes continue to be popular among members and all riders, with e-bike ridership accounting for 35% of all trips taken in 2022, while only representing 14% of the bike fleet. With e-bikes being this popular, we are excited to introduce more in 2023 – Chattanooga is ready for some serious pedal power!
Before finishing off the year, Shift prepared to transition operations and launch our second market with partner Via, one of the largest microtransit/paratransit companies in North America. Shift has successfully operated the Green Bay, Wisconsin paratransit service since March 2020, now adding Hampton Roads, Virginia, a program consisting of 85+ vehicles.
Shift Transit oversees all mechanical and maintenance of vehicle operations, including preventive maintenance programs, OEM recalls, road calls, and general repairs. The majority of the fleet consists of paratransit WAV (wheelchair-accessible vehicle) e-450 buses outfitted with lifts which we also service and maintain. As an essential service for the community, the goal is to maintain a vehicle availability rate of over 90% at all times.
As we celebrate the wins of 2022, we also reflect on lessons learned and opportunities presented to shape a thriving 2023. Let’s ride!
For our fourth profile in our Employee Spotlight series, we checked in with Joannah Burkhardt, General Manager (GM) of the Bike Chattanooga program. Joannah has been an integral part of the program since it began 10+ years ago and is largely responsible for its record-breaking growth and success over the past few years. Today, Bike Chattanooga is seen as a national model for how to operate a viable, thriving bikeshare service in a smaller city.
We spoke with Joannah to learn more about how Bike Chattanooga has evolved over the years, the critical characteristics Chattanooga possesses that make it a great biking city, and our exciting upcoming expansion plans.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born in Florida and am the youngest of 5. At age 4, my family moved to Tennessee where I have lived most of my life. I started my journey with Bike Chattanooga over 10 years ago as the Marketing Manager and then moving into the General Manager Position. The whole concept of bikeshare sparked my interest when I first heard about it. Coincidentally, through friends, I met the previous GM that was handling the launch of the program and here I am 10 years later.
You’ve been a part of Bike Chattanooga since the program launched more than 10 years ago. What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced and observed since you started?
I’d say the biggest changes I’ve experienced are how much downtown has grown and how the city has transformed into more of a bicycle friendly town. Ten years ago there was minimal bike infrastructure and now we have protected bike lanes, miles of new cycling infrastructure, and a Riverwalk that spans over 16 miles.
Bike Chattanooga has enjoyed tremendous success over the past few years, consistently breaking major usage and customer acquisition records. What do you attribute this to?
Introducing eBikes to the system was a huge game changer. People absolutely love them and we are seeing up to 4x more trips on ebikes vs pedal bikes. I also have an amazing team that works very hard to keep the system up and running. Without them, our success wouldn’t be possible.
Chattanooga is obviously a lot smaller than those cities that we mostly think of when it comes to successful bikeshare programs, including Toronto, New York, and Chicago. What qualities does Chattanooga possess that makes it a model for operating a successful bikeshare program in a smaller city?
Chattanooga has a thriving arts, music, and dining scene along with a variety of outdoor adventures making it a tourist and vacation hotspot. Chattanooga also hosts multiple sporting competitions throughout the year attracting visitors from all over the world. Bike Chattanooga is an added attraction to the city’s bustling tourist scene.
Bike Chattanooga is set to expand over the next few months. Can you tell us a bit more about the program’s expansion plans?
We are so excited to be adding an additional 50 pedal assist ebikes to our fleet and another ebike charging station. We will be replacing the already existing Walnut Street Bridge station with an ebike charging station to assist in the charging of additional ebikes. Once received, we will have a total of 105 pedal assist ebikes, 345 pedal bikes, 38 solar stations and 5 ebike charging stations.
As one of a few women leading the day-to-day operations of a bikeshare program, what advice would you give to other women in the industry seeking to become business unit leaders?
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Get out there and learn all aspects of your operations. The industry is constantly changing and improving, the more you understand and know about your entire operations, the better you can lead your team to success.