With more than a half-million residents, Albuquerque is New Mexico’s biggest city—home to the University of New Mexico, the Sandia-Manzano Mountains and the world’s largest hot air balloon festival. Rio Metro Regional Transit District (Rio Metro), central New Mexico's regional public transit agency, is committed to providing safe, accessible and efficient transportation for the local community and economy. Historically, Rio Metro has included commuter rail and bus lines, but in the last few years it recognized that the community needed a new mobility solution to tackle the area’s first- and last-mile problem, the gap between an individual’s point of origin or destination and the closest public transportation hub.
So Rio Metro started looking for a convenient and affordable way to bring transit options to neighborhoods that were hard to get to via existing transportation systems—and ideally a solution that encouraged folks to forgo a trip in a single-occupancy vehicle. Enter dockless bike share: a flexible transportation option for both residents and visitors, and one that fills existing gaps in first and last mile connectivity without putting people in cars.
With sights set on bike share, Rio Metro set out to find a vendor it could partner with to ensure the project’s success. It looked for a supplier that would closely monitor use of the bike share system, work actively on the ground to rebalance the vehicles and constantly scan for ways to optimize ridership both in ABQ and in communities along the commuter rail. That provider was Zagster.
The DowntownABQ MainStreet Initiative and the Mid-Region Council of Governments launched and monitored a Zagster station-based pilot bike share program from May 2015 through May 2016. The downtown pilot program’s sustained success demonstrated the community’s demand for a permanent and expanded program. That’s when Rio Metro stepped in. Rio Metro’s executive board saw value and opportunity in bike share and unanimously approved the adoption of the pilot bike share under their management with the goal of creating a permanent and expanded program beyond downtown.
Rio Metro transitioned to Zagster’s dockless brand, Pace, to expand bike sharing with a more flexible service. Powered by Zagster, the Pace dockless bike share was selected because of its ability to bring an accessible transportation option to areas of the community that had been historically underserved, and to ensure that ABQ offers the kind of transportation options both residents and visitors want to help them explore all the area has to offer.
Pace expanded in April 2018 to 250 bikes and 43 Pace parking stations strategically placed at key bike-friendly locations in ABQ. With the expanded fleet, Rio Metro and Zagster brought a modern, convenient form of transportation to some of the city’s most densely and highly populated areas—downtown, Nob Hill and communities surrounding the University of New Mexico.
In just seven months, Pace dockless bike share has helped to begin the transformation of ABQ’s transportation environment, both capitalizing on and improving on the gains realized by the original Zagster program. It helped address first and last-mile challenges. Some of the most important takeaways from our dockless bike share program:
• It provides a viable alternative to driving: Pace bikes have helped close transit gaps for residents and provide a healthy, fun alternative to driving. The introduction of a dockless mobility program spurred five times the number of daily rides compared to the station-based system the previous years. And that increase sky-rocketed to 10 times during especially busy time periods like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Cinco de Mayo and the entire month of July.
• Diversified use cases: Off-station parking, the key feature of dockless mobility, helped riders diversify how and when they used the bikes. Burqueños use the bike sharing program primarily for recreation (69 percent of rides); commuting accounts for 15 percent of rides Use of the system peaks during commuting and lunch hours, underscoring the fact that bike share is used as a preferred transportation option, not just for fun.
• Increased awareness: Anecdotal reports point to an increased presence and awareness of cyclists in densely-populated parts of the city, creating a positive feedback loop that makes cycling safer and a more viable form of transportation. The dockless program in the ABQ area has strong female ridership, suggesting that the community is bike-friendly, as women often self-identify as interested but concerned riders who participate only in places with safe transportation infrastructure.
• Discovery: The program has also helped Rio Metro identify areas of the city that could benefit from shared mobility services, like the city’s International District, which houses a higher concentration of transit users that need first- and last-mile solutions and are less likely to own personal vehicles.
The benefits of Pace dockless bike share in ABQ continue to be varied and far-reaching. Through a combination of superior service and close partnership with Rio Metro, the program is poised for growth and sustainable success.