Examining spatial equity and accessibility to a public bicycle share program using a balanced floating catchment area approach

Authors: Elise Desjardins*, McMaster University, Christopher D. Higgins, University of Toronto Scarborough, Antonio Paez, McMaster University
Topics: Transportation Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: accessibility; equity; public bicycle share program
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 33
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Public bicycle share programs are implemented to promote cycling as a convenient and sustainable mode of transport. These systems also play an important role in addressing transportation needs and advancing environmental justice if they make cycling more accessible to low-income or otherwise marginalized populations. In Ontario, the City of Hamilton launched a public bicycle share program in 2015 that currently has over 900 operational bicycles and 130 docking stations. In 2018, the non-profit organization that operates the program launched an equity initiative to provide subsidized memberships and to expand service by adding 12 more docking stations. Since the time or distance that members of the population need to reach a bike share station decreases the potential of accessing the program, the location of stations matters. Unlike other public amenities with greater ability to adapt to crowding, the utility of stations is limited by the number of bicycles that they can hold, which makes crowding effects critical: the system may not necessarily be improved if stations are easy to reach but offer only a small number of bicycles. Using a balanced floating catchment area approach, in this research we calculate accessibility to bicycle share stations and explore the spatial equity of the program. We compare accessibility in the program with and without the equity stations. We find that the addition of equity stations achieved its stated goal to increase accessibility for lower income populations, although the increase was relatively modest. Further research is needed to determine whether this encouraged more cycling.

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