Dock‐based and Dockless Bikesharing Systems: Analysis of Equitable Access for Disadvantaged Communities

Currently, most of the bikeshare systems in the U.S. are dock‐based. These systems require users to pick-up and return a bike at specific bikeshare stations and require users to check out a bike through a kiosk. However, the advent of advanced technologies, such as mobile payment and real‐time positioning and tracking, have allowed the development and commercialization of a new system that doesn’t require a dock. These dockless bikeshare systems are becoming more and more prevalent around the world. With dockless systems, bicycles can be located and unlocked using a smartphone app and be parked within a specific area at a bike rack or along the sidewalk.

Overall, there is a lack of research about the performance and impacts of these systems. Gu, Kim, and Currie conducted an empirical analysis for dock‐based and dockless bikeshare systems in China. They concluded that dockless bikeshare is a good option for cities with welldeveloped cycling facilities and strong supervision and enforcement capabilities, though there are challenges such as financial sustainability, vandalism and theft. Recently, Mooney et al. pointed out the potential of dockless systems to offer equitable spatial access to all communities. However, there is no additional research to quantify the direct and indirect benefits, or comparative analyses, between dockless and docked systems regarding equitable accessibility improvements. In a previous study, the research team identified potential (dock‐based) bikeshare locations to serve disadvantaged populations in Chicago. The team found that a well‐designed bikeshare system could generate accessibility improvements for disadvantaged communities; though current bikeshare systems usually underserve these communities. The work laid out a robust theoretical framework to evaluate the potential benefits of dock‐based system. The objectives of this project are to expand the previous work to evaluate the potential benefits of dockless systems to improve accessibility to disadvantaged communities, and to compare them with dock‐based systems. Specifically, the project will analyze the difference in service levels among dock‐based and dockless systems. Quantitatively, the team will study the trip patterns and user characteristics under dockless and dock‐based systems. The analyses will help public and local governments to better understand these systems, as well as how to regulate and manage them. The study objectives (in California markets with available information) are summarized as follows:

  • Conduct a comparative assessment of current travel behaviors between dockless and dock‐based bikeshare users;
  • Quantify the service level for dockless bikeshare in disadvantaged areas; and,
  • Provide suggestions for the development of dockless bikeshare systems that address equity issues for both public and local governments.


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