By Malcom Glenn, Head of Global Policy, Accessibility and Underserved Communities, and Amy Smith, Policy Research Data Scientist
We wrote earlier this year about how JUMP bikes were helping fill transportation gaps in Washington, DC and San Francisco, recognizing that it was just the start of a broader conversation about equity on the JUMP platform. This post builds upon our previous analysis, as we wanted to deepen our understanding of not just where JUMP bikes are being used, but also who they are serving. Considering that low-income communities tend to have fewer public transportation options than more affluent communities — and that we intentionally design our service areas to include low-income communities — we paired JUMP activity data with detailed zoning and income data to better understand our impact on these neighborhoods.
What we found was that JUMP bikes in residential areas are used more frequently during commute hours and that trips to and from low-income residential areas are more common than other residential areas.
Using JUMP to Increase Access to Affordable Transportation Options
We looked at trip frequency in two cities — Sacramento, CA and Austin, TX — specifically in areas zoned as “residential” and below a median income threshold (more on that in a bit).
Despite the fact that only about a quarter of areas zoned as “residential” are low-income, we found that half of residential JUMP bike rides begin or end in low-income residential areas. The data also showed that JUMP bikes have twice the pick-up/drop-off rate in low-income residential areas than that of medium and high-income areas. While research still needs to be done to understand the drivers of the additional demand in these areas, as well as into more complex zoning categories, these initial results are promising.
The maps below show residential and low-income residential areas of Sacramento that we looked at for this analysis on the left, and JUMP trips in Sacramento on the right.
And the same, below, for Austin. Similar to Sacramento, we also found that about half of all residential trips begin or end in low-income residential areas.
Why look at residential areas? Our earlier analysis was an important step in helping us better understand who JUMP bike users are, but it’s not a complete picture. Because Uber doesn’t collect identifying demographic data about JUMP users, trip location alone doesn’t tell us who is using JUMP. This is in part because mixed land uses — which are particularly common in dense city centers and college campuses — limit our ability to draw meaningful conclusions about rider characteristics. Think of downtown buildings with shops on the floor level, offices above, and residential buildings next door. Even if low-income residents lived in those buildings, it’d be unclear if trips starting or ending near these locations were being taken by residents, employees, or other folks passing through.
That’s why we looked exclusively at geographic areas with the least amount of complexity: areas designated purely as residential based on city zoning data. This means that mixed use areas won’t be captured in our analysis, but it also gives us more confidence in our takeaways about who is using JUMP.
Understanding Motivations to Use JUMP
With a better understanding in hand of income-related information about some of our users, we also wanted to better understand why they were using JUMP bikes. So to start, we looked at weekday ridership patterns for low-income residential zones.
As the chart above shows, ridership is heaviest roughly during traditional commute times in the mornings and evenings. This trend in combination with the residential-only land use designation helps us infer — to a degree — that these are trips to and from a person’s home. In Austin we see a similar trend.
We’ve long believed that JUMP bikes could be particularly useful as a commuting tool — providing riders with access to affordable transportation during the two times during the day when they need it most. This is consistent with other data showing that people at the lowest income levels are more likely to bike to work. That our analysis bears this out on the JUMP platform is encouraging, particularly given the increased cost-sensitivity for this population. And it’s consistent with what we’ve learned through community engagement to better understand the needs of people who live in low-income areas.
Part of getting bikes to low-income areas is dependent upon the size of our fleet in a given city. In Sacramento and Austin, JUMP is permitted to operate a sufficient fleet to serve communities across the city. But in cities where the supply of bikes is capped below demand, there are fewer bikes available to users — which makes it especially hard to serve certain neighborhoods, because so many of the bikes are attracted to the central business district during the work day. We’re working with cities to ensure that their regulations allow sufficient levels of bike supply to sustainably match the demand of a city’s citizens.
Though we’re learning more about how income and other motivations play a role in why people choose to use JUMP bikes, there’s a lot more work to do. Over time we’d like to increase awareness of and learn more about current users of our Boost plan, which is designed to give eligible low-income riders a daily option for a low monthly fee. And through the use of both qualitative and quantitative surveys, as well as conversations with residents and city officials, we hope to understand firsthand what’s driving JUMP usage in specific places at specific times, particularly to help us better consider how to maximize access to a bike when a rider needs one most.
This is especially important considering that the number of regular bike commuters in the US is still less than 1 percent, despite the fact that research shows that commuting by bike is good for physical and mental health. We’re excited by the prospect of changing that calculus by expanding more access to JUMP bikes for the very users who stand to benefit most from reliable, affordable access to transportation.