Meeting The Operational Demands Of A Growing Bike Share System

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.