If you have a transit pass in Pittsburgh–a refillable card that costs $1–you can now also use it for free rides on the city’s bike-share system.
“I think there’s a couple of big hurdles that are holding back more widespread adoption of bike share,” says David White, executive director of Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike-share network. First, he says, someone has to have a credit or debit card and be willing to link it to the system. Second, bike share systems aren’t necessarily well-connected to existing public transit.
The new program addresses both issues. The city’s transit pass, ConnectCard, can be purchased with cash. And someone can step off light rail or a bus and use the card already in their hand to check out a bike. An RFID reader in each bike recognizes the card. Unlike other bike shares, there’s certainly increased possibility of theft without a bike share card that’s linked to your name and credit card, but the city is hoping honesty will prevail.
The free rides are limited to 15-minute increments, but that’s enough to help fill gaps in public transportation, so someone who doesn’t live or work next to a transit station can more easily reach their final destination (someone can also make multiple 15-minute trips in a day). “It’s trying to make that process a lot more seamless and reduce the friction between wanting to go somewhere, not wanting to drive, but not really knowing what to do next,” White says.
Over a six-month pilot, Healthy Ride will test how the system works, and measure how many paying riders it loses compared to new riders it gains. But the free offer is likely to continue over the long term. Ultimately, the organization’s mission is to increase bike trips and the number of people who ride bikes as a part of their daily routine–and the new system could particularly help reach riders who might not have considered bike share in the past.
“Around the country, we see that people using bike share do not always reflect the demographics of the city that they’re living in,” White says. “There are people who feel like it’s not for us. My goal here was to say for a lot of these communities that have been traditionally underserved . . . we’re going to make it easy to use the bus pass that’s already in your pocket.”