Center Identification Number: 576-05
Project Title: A Return on Investment Analysis of Bikes-on-Bus Programs
Christopher A. Hagelin, MA
Center for Urban Transportation Research
External Project Contact:
I. Project Abstract
Across Florida and the United States, bikes-on-bus (BOB) programs have significantly contributed to the integration of bicycles and public transportation. According to www.bikemap.com, over 40,000 buses of over 300 transit agencies in the United States are equipped with bike racks. It is estimated that over 670,000 bikes-on-transit (buses and rail) are provided each month. In the state of Florida, there are over 27,000 BOB trips per month in Broward County alone and over 10,000 per month in Pinellas County.
Research indicates that BOB programs have significantly expanded the transit agencies’ service area, and attracted new and different transit riders. Data collected by Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) for the Bicycle Parking Plan for Miami-Dade Transit showed that half of commuters that combine bicycling and transit live over 2 miles from their transit stop, and a fifth of bicycle-transit commuters earn over $70,000 per year.  A survey conducted by Regional Transportation District (RTD) transit serving Denver and Boulder also showed that 50% of bike rack users were new transit riders, and that 27% of those would have been single occupant vehicle drivers without the service.
These programs are limited by their own success. The rack systems used by transit agencies typically carry two bikes in the front of the bus. As the number of BOB users increase, so does the potential problem of bicyclists being unable to board buses due to the racks being full, as well as, increased dwell time at transit stops.
The focus of this research study will be a return on investment analysis of BOB programs in order to determine the return on investment of a BOB program from a transit agency perspective. The study will help agencies assess the benefits of integrating bicycling and transit, and what additional investments would be needed to mitigate problems hindering success.
II. Project Objectives
1. Conduct a return on investment (ROI) analysis of BOB programs with data collected by surveying transit agencies and BOB users to determine whether or not further investment is warranted to improve the integration of bicycling and transit.
2. Identify and examine potential solutions to the problems associated with successful bikes-on-bus programs.
In order to meet these two objectives, a sample of Florida and non-Florida transit agencies with BOB programs will be asked to participate in a survey combined with a follow-up phone interview. The survey and follow-up interview will be designed to examine BOB performance measures, estimate their cost of implementation and maintenance, collect information on the impact of rack capacity limitations and other problems stemming from the success of bikes-on-bus programs, and gather transit agency reactions to potential solutions and strategies.
BOB users will also be surveyed using BOB permit databases from a sample of Florida transit agencies. The purpose of the BOB user survey is to gather data on, including but not limited to, transit use before and after the implementation of BOB programs, distance bicycled to and from transit stops, bicycle parking issues, trip purpose, access to jobs and other destinations, and use of BOB as a means to avoid bicycling on dangerous corridors.
In regard to the analysis, part of the research will include the development of a methodology for conducting a ROI analysis of BOB programs. Data collected from the transit agencies will provide estimates of the cost of implementing and maintaining a bikes-on-bus program. This will include the initial costs of purchasing the racks, installation, the development of the program, and marketing. In terms of maintenance of the program, cost may include administrative staff time and repairs, and on the performance side, the cost of increased dwell time at transit stops during loading and unloading of bicycles.
Transit agency surveys may also provide data on the number of BOB boardings and the number of BOB permits sold (where applicable). This information will be supplemented by data collect from the BOB user surveys. The benefits of bikes-on-bus programs include increased ridership, the attraction of new riders, and the expansion of service area. Other benefits outside of the transit agencies point of view may include increased bicycle safety, change in mode split, and related reductions in traffic congestion, vehicle miles traveled, and auto emissions.
As a result, the ROI analysis could focus on a comparison between overall system and BOB fare box recovery rate. Another option is to base the analysis on comparing expenses versus revenues for BOB programs versus the overall system or other special transit programs. CUTR will also investigate potential solutions to problems associated with rack capacity. Some of the strategies to be examined include bikes-in-bus programs, higher capacity racks, and improved bicycle parking.
III. Task Descriptions
Task 1: Review of BOB Research
The purpose of this task is to identify and review previous BOB research with a focus on the type of BOB data collected by transit agencies, the costs and revenues associated with BOB programs, and BOB ridership figures. The review will also investigate problems associated with BOB programs, such as rack capacity issues, and potential solutions, such as bikes-in-bus programs, bicycle parking provisions, and higher capacity racks.
Task 1.1: Search Transportation Research Information Service (TRIS) On-line, Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) journals, CUTR’s Resource Information Center (CRIC), National Transit Database, bicycle advocacy groups’ websites, transit agency websites, and other sources for information on BOB research.
Task 1.2: Post request for information on various listservs, such as the Florida Bicycle Association (FBA).
Task 1.3: Identify a peer panel of experts to serve in an advisory capacity for this project.
Deliverable: Interim Product #1 summarizing the literature review.
To be completed 4 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 2: Establish BOB Database
For this task, CUTR will establish a BOB database and identify transit agencies contact persons. The database will include all Florida transit agencies as well as a small sample of non-Florida transit agencies.
Task 2.1: Contact all Florida transit agencies and 4 non-Florida agencies to identify the data collected and tracked related to BOB. The 4 non-Florida agencies will be determined in consultation with FDOT Project Manager. This information will be used to design of the BOB database. Data to be included in the database may include information on the BOBs’ costs (capital, maintenance, marketing, permit programs, and administration), revenues (permit sales, farebox revenue) as well as performance data (BOB boardings). Another potential cost of the program is related to any claims from bicyclists injured or property damaged while using the BOB service.
Task 2.2: Collect past and current data from transit agencies. Data will be entered into the database.
Deliverable: Interim Product #2 BOB database
To be completed 12 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 3: Development of ROI Methodology
The purpose of this task is to develop a methodology for the ROI analysis.
Task 3.1: Examine ROI methodologies used by transit agencies and organizations such as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), including fare box recovery rates. One potential means of measuring the impact of BOB programs is to compare the fare box recovery rate of BOB programs to overall system rates. For example, the average fare box recovery rate for Florida transit agencies is approximately 20%. Another possible method is to compare the expenses of operating BOB programs to the revenues from BOB users, particularly BOB users that switched to transit because of the ability to combine bicycling and transit.
Task 3.2: Develop a methodology for BOB programs.
Task 3.3: Have recommended methodology reviewed by FDOT Project Manager and peer panel.
To be completed 20 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 4: Transit Agency Surveys
The focus of the survey will be to probe into programs costs and specifics, and fill in any gaps in data collected for the Task 2 Database, investigate the methodologies used by the transit agencies to collect data on BOB programs.
Task 4.1: Develop Survey Instrument and Follow-up Interview Guide. For this task, CUTR will develop a survey instrument and follow-up phone interview guide for the transit agencies and other key stakeholders identified in Task 2. Obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval of the survey design.
Task 4.2: Conduct Follow-Up Phone Surveys. The follow-up phone interviews will be done to clarify and verify survey responses, gather anecdotal evidence on BOB program success or problems, inquire into each transit agency’s plans to further integrate bicycling and transit, and gather perceptions on mitigating solutions to BOB problems identified in Task 1.
Deliverable: Summary of findings in Part 1 of Interim Product 3
To be completed 32 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 5: BOB User Surveys and Analysis
The purpose of this task is to gather information about BOB travel behavior and attitudes.
Task 5.1: Develop survey instrument. Based on information collected from the earlier tasks, the survey will be designed to collect data on past and present transit use. For example, the survey will assess transit usage patterns including trip purpose, distance bicycled on each end of the transit trip, and whether or not BOB programs have improved access to jobs due to an expanded service area. The survey may also examine issues such as, but not limited to, reasons for using BOB program, bicycle parking needs and issues, employer support of BOB commuters, and whether or not BOB programs improve safety by providing an alternative to bicycling on “dangerous” corridors.
Task 5.2: Obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval of the survey process.
Task 5.3: Complete subcontract.
Task 5.4: Conduct and complete up to 400 surveys of BOB users, primarily by phone, but supplemented by mail. A subcontractor will conduct the phone survey. The sample will be drawn from Florida transit agencies BOB permit lists. The number of transit agencies included in the sample will depend on the number of transit agencies that maintain a permit list database and are willing to share that information. CUTR estimates that under the current budget, a minimum 400 surveys can be completed.
Task 5.5: Process surveys and conduct analysis of user data.
Deliverable: Analysis to be included as Part 2 of Interim Product 3.
To be completed 36 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 6: ROI Analysis
Task 6.1: Conduct analysis using the methodology developed and approved in Task 3, CUTR will conduct a ROI analysis using the data collected in the transit agency database of Task 2, the transit agency surveys and interviews of Task 4, and the BOB user survey of Task 5. The ROI analysis will include all transit agencies in the BOB database that have provided the necessary data to perform the analysis.
Task 6.2: Summarize findings for Part 3 of Interim Product.
Deliverable: Interim Product 3.
To be completed 48 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Based on the findings of Tasks 1-6 and Interim Products 1-3, CUTR will prepare a Draft Report.
To be completed 56 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 8: Review of Draft Report
The Draft Report will be reviewed by CUTR faculty, FDOT Project Managers and selected outside experts.
Task 8.1: Internal CUTR Review.
Task 8.2: FDOT Review.
Task 8.3: Peer Panel Review.
To be completed 64 weeks from Notice to Proceed
Task 9: Preparation of Final Report
CUTR will incorporate the comments from the review process into the Draft Report to create the Final Report.
Task 9.1: Make changes to Draft Report to create Final Report.
Task 9.2: Final FDOT and CUTR Review.
Task 9.3: Print and deliver 75 copies of the final report to FDOT.
To be completed 72 weeks from Notice to Proceed
IV. Student Involvement
Graduate students may play a role in the literature review and data collection as well as the analysis and report writing. Other anticipated student benefits will include synthesis of information and technology transfer support.
V. Relationship to Other Research Projects
Although there have been many success stories written about bikes-on-bus programs, TRIS and TRB publication searches yielded no results that focused on the problems of successful bikes-on-bus programs, such as rack capacity limitations. As previously mentioned, a survey conducted by RTD transit serving Denver and Boulder also showed that 50% of bike rack users were new transit riders, and that 27% of those would have been single occupant vehicle drivers without the service. Furthermore, a CUTR study revealed that bikes-on-transit programs significantly expand the transit service area and attract choice riders.
Currently, there are over 40,000 transit buses with bike racks and over 670,000 bikes-on-transit trips per month. Two of the largest providers of bikes-on-bus trips include King County Metro with over 60,000 trips per month and CAT of Las Vegas with 35,000 trips per month. In Florida, Broward County provides over 27,000 trips per month, PSTA over 10,000, and HARTline and SCAT each provide around 5,000 per month.
Although no empirical data was found on the impact of rack capacity limitations, discussants on the Cyber Cyclery listserv (www.cyclery.com) frequently discuss the problem of getting “bumped” on San Francisco area bikes-on-bus and bikes-on-rail programs due to full racks or full train cars. In some cases, these discussants state their intention on stopping their use of bikes-on-transit programs due to getting bumped all the time.
According to Lisa Robinson, sales representative for Sportsworks, the manufacturer of the majority of racks used in the United States, transit agencies are frequently requesting ways to increase their capacity. At the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) EXPO last fall, Sportworks unveiled two products that addressed this overwhelming need. One is their Trilogy bike rack, which is currently being tested in revenue service in King County (Seattle, WA) right now. This rack carries three bikes in the same amount of space as the two-bike rack (the rack is wider, yet the distance from the face of the bus is the same). Sportworks also has an interior rack that can mount to the bottom of a fold up chair in either a rail car or bus. This allows for secure transport of a bike inside of a bus. In relation, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority allows up to two bikes inside each bus, at the driver’s discretion, when the racks are full, according to FTA’s “Bicycles and Transit”. (http://www.fta.dot.gov/library/policy/bikes.pdf).
VI. Technology Transfer Activities/Peer Review
The final report will be available on the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) website (www.nctr.usf.edu) in HTML and pdf formats. The results of this project will be made available at conferences in Florida such as Florida Public Transportation Association, APTA, TRB and other related. A brief presentation by the Principal Investigator will be recorded and available for playback as a streaming media presentation on the NCTR website.
Peer reviewers will include representatives from FDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Office, FTA or a Metropolitan Planning Organization Bicycle Advisory Coordinator.
VII. Potential Benefits of the Project
Increase the integration of bicycling and transit as a means of increasing transit ridership and service area, reducing vehicle miles traveled and auto emissions, and providing a viable option to the single occupant vehicle. By overcoming the limitations of current bikes-on-bus programs, transit agencies can attract more bicyclists and prevent the loss of current users due to the inability to access the system.
VIII. TRB Keywords
Bicycle, Transit, Bikes-on-Bus
1. Time Line
Project Start Date:
Notes: This budget does not reflect any federal participation.
The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above.
 2002 “Bicycle Parking Plan for Miami-Dade Transit”. Center for Urban Transportation Research, Tampa, Florida
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