[A thorough cost-benefit analysis] was conducted in 2010 as part of a grant proposal for Capital Bikeshare. Using a 7 percent discount rate, the study projected a benefit-cost ratio of 1.72 over 20 years.
More than three years into the program, it would be useful to revisit the calculations to see what assumptions held true and which were not accurate. Such an exercise would allow city planners to turn anecdotal user information into concrete data for decision-making and financial planning. The section that follows does not attempt to come up with a precise benefit-cost ratio, but rather to explore the nature and economic value of some of the non-monetary benefits of Capital Bikeshare.
It's too bad, I've also wanted MWCOG to look at, and update, this analysis.
Kristin Johnson, the author, then goes through some of the benefits and their values. This includes user cost savings of about $370,000 a year, increased access, congestion reduction from 4.7 million miles of reduced driving, CO2 reduction (for which a good number was not available), health benefits, crash reduction, and reduced travel times.
And I agree with this
Despite the fact that Capital Bikeshare has not yet achieved full cost recovery, its proponents argue that it is a part of the public transportation system just like Metrorail and Metrobus, and as such should not be expected to fully pay for itself. If that is truly the case—if cities around the country continue to add bikeshare programs and treat them as key components of their transit system—it will become even more important to rigorously collect data on the various costs and benefits associated with bikeshares.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was able to get an amendment added to a package of tax breaks passed this week by the Senate Finance Committee that will allow people who use bike sharing to pay for it with the existing bike commuter benefit. The text of the amendment isn't available yet, but you can find a description of it at this link (click on Amendments to the EXPIRE Act).
This amendment would modify the qualified transportation benefit in Section 132(f) of the Internal Revenue Code to add expenses associated with the use of a bike sharing program to the list of qualifying expenses.
BTW, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner co-sponosored it.
A little history. The bike commuter benefit was the brainchild of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and was included in tax extenders legislation in 2008. Those extenders were passed into law in 2008 as part of the bailout bill (oddly enough, Blumenauer voted against the bill, because it was not paid for, and Republicans voted for it even thought it wasn't. Such is politics.) Anyway, this was before bikesharing was really a big deal - CaBi had launched only a few days beforehand - and so the bill didn't mention it. Now that bikesharing is, people who commute by bikeshare want to use their bike commuter benefit to pay for their membership and fees. Oddly, the IRS ruled that they couldn't. Here's how Schumer put it:
The Transportation Fringe Benefit in the Internal Revenue Code allows employers to provide compensation for the transportation costs of their employees on a tax-free basis. This incentive covers costs associated with parking, mass transit and, since 2008, costs associated with bike maintenance and storage if the employee regularly bikes to work.
Unfortunately, last summer, the IRS ruled that costs associated with bike share memberships were not eligible under the statute as currently drafted and indicated legislative action would be necessary to broaden the definition of qualifying expenses. This amendment would do just that. Specifically, it adds bike share costs to the list of recognized expenses eligible for the transportation fringe benefit under Section 132(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. Like the already-existing incentive for those who ride their own bike to work, employees using a bike share program to commute to work would now be eligible to receive $20 per month on a tax-free basis from their employer to subsidize their bike share membership.
And Schumer, as New York's Senator, has tied this back to Citibike and oversells it quite a bit when he says it "Could Be Major Boost for Financially Strapped Citi Bike Program." It will probably help a little bit, but I doubt it will be a "major boost" in the short run.
So, now conservatives have jumped on it as a "bailout" or "subsidy" or claiming that he's proposing tax breaks for Citi bike. None of which is true. The tax break is for bike commuters - specifically those who bike by bikeshare. It's not a bailout and it's not a subsidy. And it isn't even really a new tax break, it just updates a current tax break because the IRS took a narrow view of it. It's a tax break to certain types of bike commtuers to bring them into line with existing tax breaks for those who drive, take transit or bike now.
Update: Let me add a bit to this. When I say it will help a little bit, I mean that I think it will add no more than 1% extra revenue. The only way this helps Citibike, CaBi or other bike sharing systems is if it adds members AND those new customers are a net gain. By a net gain, I mean that I don't know about the intimate details of their ledgers but it is possible that some annual members cost the company more than their annual fee. If they're heavy users who make more rebalancing necessary they may be more of a burden than a benefit - especially if facilitating their bike commuter benefit has some extra overhead to it.
It's not clear how many people will use this benefit or how many of those users would not have joined bikesharing without it. In order to lead to new revenue a person would have to do all of the following.
1. Work someplace that offers the bike commuter benefit
2. Choose that benefit over transit or parking
3. Choose to use that benefit on bikesharing instead of their own bike
4. Use bikesharing only because of the benefit
And I just don't see that many people meeting all four. I don't even know that many people who meet #1. When I try to use my bike commuter checks, the people at the bikeshop often have to call a manager to tell them what to do with it because they have never seen one before.
Good news for people who commute via employer-provided CaBi memberships and who report that membership as a taxable fringe benefit (If any such people actually exist).
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said Tuesday he’s introducing an amendment to a tax bill that would allow workers who commute via bike-share programs like New York’s Citi Bike to get a tax break; the bill is set to be debated on Thursday. The tax break would let employees biking to work exclude $20 a month from their income for income tax purposes if they have an employer-provided bike-sharing membership.
Though that sum may sound insignificant, the IRS’s current position is that bike-share fees do not count as a commuter fringe benefit—meaning that employers that provide employees with a bike-share benefit can’t exclude its cost from an employee’s gross income, like they can with monthly parking or mass transit costs—or even the cost of storing or buying a bike you ride to work (up to $20 in 2013). What’s more, the IRS said last year that a move of this sort would require legislative action.
It's not clear if these means you can use the bike commuter benefit to pay for a bikeshare membership on your own or if it has to be employer-provided.
While this amendment would certainly delight the thousands of travelers who commute to work via bike-sharing programs, there’s certainly no guarantee it will pass. Indeed, the amendment will be part of a larger “tax extenders” bill that will address renewal of some 50 tax credits and deductions that expired last year. But Schumer seems confident that that this amendment would be part of a “must-pass” senate tax bill that will be debated Thursday.
Last week, Paris tried to limit the number of cars on it's streets by banning even or odd numbered license plates on alternating days AND making tranit, electric car share (autolib) and bikeshare free. All of this was done to try and deal with pollution that was described as critical.
It comes after an air pollution alert for the region was raised on March 7 by Airparif, an independent association that measures air quality around France. Its pollution index for Paris stood at 75 on Monday – where 0 marks "very low" air pollution and 100 marks "very high."
The impact on limiting cars and making bike share wasn't as dramatic as one might expect, but then the city was probably pushed to it's limits.
The move was welcomed by Parisiens, with the use of both Autolib' and Velib' soaring. By the end of last week, Velib' reported a 130 percent hike in usage, while Autolib's was 37 percent higher.
Wonkblog's Emily Badger makes it sound like a failure, but I'm not sure that is right. It was called off because the weather changed, and it appears that it did reduce driving. Really, the point is that having a system of banning alternate plates every day doesn't work because clever drivers just buy two cheap cars, but for short term emergency use like this it should. Who would buy a car to use 2 or 3 days a year?
Still, a congestion tax that goes up on bad pollution days is probably better.
Regional transportation planners at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments are launching a study to determine how to make 25 “underutilized” Metro stations more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists, work that overlaps with Metro’s research into exploiting excess capacity during the reverse commute: morning rush hour trains heading into D.C. are usually packed; trains heading out of the city into the suburbs are often empty by comparison. The reason is that many suburban stations, particularly in Prince George’s County, lack office development and employment centers within a mile’s walk or bike ride, and the areas surrounding some of these stations lack sidewalks and bike lanes, too.
The 25 stations were also picked because the vicinities are “anticipating employment growth in the near-term future and/or have significant transit-dependent populations living in close proximity,” according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).
Another way to exploit excess capacity is to allow bikes on reverse commute trains.
Metro is not going to reverse its ban against bringing bicycles aboard rush hour trains, but Kannan said the underused stations would benefit from bike share docks.
Oh. Never mind.
Both Metro and the TPB want their respective studies to provide a foundation for collaborative work with the jurisdictions where the 25 stations are located. Neither organization is in the real estate development or sidewalk/bike lane construction business. They cannot decide unilaterally where to locate the necessary office space near the stations and whether to build adequate walking/biking infrastructure for commuters once they get off their trains.
When the novelty wears off, she expects New Yorkers will sour on the blue bikes. “I have a strong feeling that about a year from now many politicians are going to be spending a lot of time distancing themselves from the bike-share program," she said. "Wait until January.”
Alta, the company that operates Capital Bikeshare for the local transportation departments that own it, announced today that they signed a deal with 8D Technologies, the original provider for Bixi to launch and operate the next generation of bike share in 2014.
The next genereation of the 8D system, named BSSv4 builds upon the current BSSv3 platform that CaBi uses now.
The new system has a sleed design, merges the electronics boards and screens, and has an improved docking mechanism linking the bikes to the stations. Other BSSv4 enhancements include.
Key distribution from the kiosk
Account management and bike reservations through a new mobile application
Enhanced power management solutions
Improved docking/undocking mechanism
So it seems Alta wasted no time adjusting to the Bixi bankruptcy.
On Monday, as news spread that Bixi had laid off its interim CEO and 11 other employees, 8D and Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Ore., another company with ties to Bixi, announced they were forming an alliance to sell bike-sharing systems to cities around the world.
Under the deal announced Monday, 8D will provide software, electronics and docking stations, while Alta will operate the systems. They have not decided which bikes to use, 8D CEO Isabelle Bettez said in an interview.
She said 8D will consider making an offer to buy Bixi’s operations.
Jimmy Fallon was a great choice to host Saturday Night Live’s Christmas episode, mostly because he loves to sing and was obviously going to do a whole lot of it. In his monologue, the late-night star explained that he was supposed to perform with three of his idols — David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney — but they were all stuck in traffic and couldn’t make it. Knowing that the show must go on, however, Fallon busted out some of his famous musical impersonations to sing their parts.
But then, a twist: as Fallon began to impersonate Paul McCartney, the legend himself appeared on stage. (He beat the traffic by hopping on a Citi Bike.)