Thursday, 16 November 2017

MOBI (Vancouver Bikeshare) expands!

Make no mistake about it, I'm a big fan of MOBI (Vancouver's bikeshare offering).  Along with my wife, I was an early adopter and found it to be well worth renewing my annual pass this fall.

Early on I had written about my experiences as the program was rolled out:
July 12, 2016
Aug 6, 2016

Back then, the concerns were "Will people use it?", "Are they placing the stations properly?", "How will the helmets work?" - all of those issues seem in the distant past now as it has turned out to be a huge success and the MOBI operations people must be either reading my blog or view the movement of people in the city much as I do.  In other words,.. for my purposes,.. they nailed it.

This week it was announced that MOBI's home-zone was going to be expanded eastward to Commercial drive.  Well worth reading the whole article: HERE

I'm really excited to see this.  Is that because I want to ride further east using MOBI than I do now? Actually no.  Like most MOBI riders, my MOBI usage tends to be under 4km per trip and because of the limitations of my membership,.. I'm limited to 30 min.  I'm a pretty strong cyclist so can get some distance even on a heavy MOBI bike in 30 min, but every time I plan to leave my home I make a simple, but conscious, calculation to determine what mode I'm going to travel that includes:

  • weather in combination with what I need to be wearing (eg. work clothes)
  • distance
  • direction (including uphill/downhill)
  • do I want to be tethered to a locked bike or parked car?
  • security of the area I'm going to
  • am I meeting people that need me to transport them, or vice versa
  • do I know if for some reason my return trip has to be a different mode of transportation?

Based on that, I choose. For the most part... short distances I walk, medium I bike (my own bike), longer I'll bus or drive and for me, MOBI fits between walk and my own bike. (note: I live at the south end of the Mobi map so most destinations for me are downhill, so often a MOBI choice means I'm coming back a different way).

All this to say that I could probably get to anywhere on Commercial Drive (the new East edge) in a 30 min MOBI ride,.. but I probably would choose my own bike for that distance.  The reason this expansion excites me is something else: it could remove more car congestion from the road.

Car and bike shares have been a huge contributor to the relief of congestion.  The amount of people in Vancouver keeps growing and though people love to blame bike lanes anyone who looks at any data knows that is not really how it works here or elsewhere (and we here in Vancouver are still early in the game, the build for true impact can take years,.. but already is exceeding expectations here).  Population growth is the problem,.. anything getting people on a bus their feet, or bikes,.. for some or all of their trips, offsets that growth on the road level.

This expansion, specifically, has the potential to connect some pretty critical dots for some clear multi-modal movement opportunities, and reduce overall single occupancy car "rides".

It can all be seen by looking at maps.

First off, let's take a high level look at what is "within" the expansion zone (Main to Commercial, Powell to 16th).

  • 3+ post secondary institutions along with dozens of small ESL schools: students are a key demographic in transit and cycling initiatives.  Combine Mobi with a skytrain and all of a sudden the fastest way to Emily Carr or VCC is no longer a car (whereas they might have been too far to walk from a transit hub, and buses too infrequent).
  • 3+ excellent east/west cycle paths: Union/Adanac, East 10th, and Great Northern way make the last leg of a trip easy. People needing to walk 6+ blocks from a transit hub probably will seek a different option,.. but now there is a bike sitting waiting that could cut that down depending on station placement.  There also is an orphaned section of cycle path parallel to Terminal that can carry more confident riders quickly to Columbia college etc.
  • Hills aimed towards the city centre: People are more concerned with getting TO work/school faster and less sweaty. Commercial is the high point of the slope (a sub-ridge running north south) and like 16th west of Main, the south end of the Mobi map also offers a desirable morning start point.  Yes, those hills are a barrier going the other way for weak cyclists,.. but once a car has been left at home.. the decisions is made, carshares and transit can accommodate the return trip.
  • Chinatown, dozens of bars and eateries: Now someone planning to drink can pick up a bike significantly further East and get from Commercial area with no wait in 11 minutes.  Why drive?
  • All of Strathcona, most of Mt. Pleasant: This new zone, aside from the area around the train yard,.. is mostly condos and houses full of people,... these people did not have Mobi close by until now.  Not being in Surrey or Burnaby it seems they might have more likelihood of being able to make a trip to the core by bike.  The area just west of Commercial... also heavily condos and full of potential riders close enough to downtown to appreciate another, flexible, short distance option.
  • VCC skytrain station: HUGE! If you live in Mt. Pleasant but need to go east via Millenium line ,.. the often lengthy walk to the station is replaced by a quick coast downhill. Burb commuters going to False Creek no longer have to suffer the indignity of getting off at Commercial,.. and taking a B-line only to somehow need to go down the hill still ... use MOBI. (GNW is only 8 min ride in entirety).

Then, let's look at what is "next" to the expansion zone (or on the edge).
  • Main St. development: wouldn't we all prefer these new home owners leave their car at home? However Main has horribly slow transit...MOBI offers a quick solution (nothing downtown or False Creek is more than a 20 min ride from Main and Broadway).  Now these people can also go east.
  • Commercial Drive itself: major dinner, entertainment, and shopping destination... 
  • The biggest transit hub in Vancouver:  Multi-modal utopia with MOBI.  Anyone ending or starting a trip at Commercial and Broadway no longer need to be dropped or picked up or maybe even transfer... just MOBI. 

Lastly, now that all of these connections will exist,.. lets remember what niche MOBI fills that a personal bike does not... you need only look up to see if you want to ride in the current weather,. once you have made that trip,.. you are not committed to your next leg,.. but you know it will not include a personally owned car requiring parking and even should you choose carshare,.. at least part of your trip did not contribute to congestion.

The value isn't only that people with ride instead of drive,.. the value is that Mobi makes other non-car options the optimal choice by making the last leg faster and more convenient.