Bike N’ Ride: linking first and last mile bike-share with transit

Coord releases the first hosted, mixed-mode router combining real-time bike-share and transit for trips in NYC and DC.

Fastest routes from Greenpoint, New York to Lower East Side, New York in our demo app. Riding a shared bike (Citi Bike) to the subway would reduce travel time by one-third.

With the increasing number and quality of transportation options, how people get around in cities is becoming more diverse and variable. A recent survey suggested that 35% of people take shared mobility options to reach fixed transit at least occasionally. In NYC, most bike-share trips are taken by New Yorkers trying to get to transit stations faster.

However common taking multiple modes is, it can be very hard to figure out what the best options are for a particular trip. For instance, none of the major navigation apps currently has bike-share as a travel option, let alone showing the available bikes near you. They also only suggest transit routes if a stop is within reasonable walking distance from the origin and destination. This is generally not a bad rule of thumb. However, there are plenty of situations in which taking a bike-share or ride-hail to or from public transit would shorten the travel time. More significantly, it may make traveling by public transit an attractive option, where previously unfeasible.

The reason for the lack of these modal options lies largely in the apps’ routing algorithms (commonly called a “router”) and the data available to the router. To be able to recommend trips by bike-share, a router first needs accurate information about the location and availability of shared bikes and docks. This information is scattered and, in some cities, not publicly available. Computational complexity is another challenge. There are also many ways to combine transit and first/last-mile services; this is especially a challenge when incorporating dockless shared bikes, as they can be dropped off almost anywhere. Should you stay on the bike the whole way or switch to transit? Which subway station or bus stop should you ride the bike to?

We decided to build a router to help answer these questions, and we are excited to release the first version our Routing API today. This hosted routing service supports trip planning for travels by bike-share, transit, and a combination of the two. We are starting off with the Washington D.C. metro area and New York City, and will expand to other geographies in the near future.

Let us show you a few really cool features of this Routing API. You can see them in action in our demo app, which we hope inspires some ideas of what you could build with this API.

First, you can leverage it to find the best ways to get from A to B using bike-share — docked, dockless, or both.

The router only suggests such a trip if there is a bike available near you right now, and, for docked systems (such as Capital Bikeshare and Citi Bike), if there is at least one empty dock near your destination so you can check in the bike at the end of your trip. The router also takes into account dockless bike-shares’ service areas — where one’s allowed to drop off a bike.

All this bike location, availability, and service area information is made possible through our very own Bike-Share API. We built the Bike-Share API earlier this year to harmonize the 65+ bike-share systems in the country into a single, standard information portal, so navigation apps — such as our demo app — could easily integrate bike-share info into their system.

The fastest route from Federal Center to Union Station, in Washington D.C., via docked and dockless bike-shares, as shown in our demo app.

But, what if the bike or dock availability changes during a trip? Good question! We know it is frustrating to be stranded without a bike, or be stuck with a shared bike when you need to jump onto the subway. We’ll be working on adding predictive insights in future iterations.

Second, this is a multimodal router that thinks in mixed-mode ways. Instead of looking at bike-share and transit as an “either-or” choice, it can surface the best ways to combine the two modes as legs of a trip. Instead of taking a meandering bus, it can be faster (and more pleasant) to take the subway station most of the way and then bike to the final destination.

Numerous research and case studies point to the bike-share systems’ benefits for transit, especially in expanding access to transit and relieving transit congestion during peak hours. We are hopeful that tools that provide inter-modal insights, such as our router, will help planners, policymakers, and operators leverage different modes to create transportation networks that better serve people’s travel needs.

Fastest routes from Georgetown to the Convention Center, in Washington, DC. At this particular time, it would take about 32 minutes by transit only (including a 17 minute walk). Travel times would be shortened to 23 minutes if combining transit with Capital Bikeshare, and 20 minutes if taking a dockless bike.

We’d love to hear about what you’ll build with our Routing API and get feedback on features and coverage. Chat with us on our site to get in touch!

This article was written in collaboration with Amy Kyleen Lute. Illustrations by Stephen Kennedy.

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