(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 413: Biking Further in Detroit
This week we’re joined by Jacob Graham, a Program Manager for MoGo Bike Share in Detroit. Jacob chats with us about how the system works in Detroit, how bike share riders and bus riders coincide, the benefits of E-Bikes, and coordination with other organizations.
This podcast was produced in partnership with MPact (fmrly Railvolution)
Below is a full unedited transcript of this week’s episode.
Jeff Wood (40s):
Jacob Graham, welcome to the podcast.
Jacob Graham (1m 13s):
Thanks so much for having me.
Jeff Wood (1m 15s):
Well, thanks for being here. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jacob Graham (1m 18s):
Yeah, so my name’s Jacob. I’m a program manager at Mogo, which is Metro Detroit, Spike Share System. We launched in 2017 and I’ve been a fan ever since I was a founding member Passholder. Right, right at the launch. And actually it was before I moved here. So I’ve been in Detroit for five years now, the over five years. I love the, the city. I, I love to bike. Detroit I think doesn’t get enough credit for its bike ability, but because it’s an older city with not the population that it used to have, there’s actually a lot of space on the road. So the city’s done a lot for bike infrastructure, but there’s also just less traffic.
Jacob Graham (1m 60s):
So I, I love to bike. I own a older home, so I, I do a lot of work around the house and working on improving my bike maintenance skills in the background,
Jeff Wood (2m 10s):
So That’s awesome. That’s so interesting you said that about the streets, because I feel like here in California, you know, Oakland has a similar situation where they have pretty wide roads and not as many cars, so there’s been a ability to kind of retake some of that space as opposed to some other places where it’s pretty busy and so there’s a bigger fight over the space for cars or for bikes or people. That’s a really interesting point. I, I think about maybe Detroit’s kind of move forward on, on bike infrastructure.
Jacob Graham (2m 33s):
Yeah, I think that’s something that people can miss when there’s wider roads and less traffic. It’s more comfortable to bike just in general. But then also there’s more room for a new street scape to include wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and still have car lanes, whereas in, in some cities with the busier street or they’re starting with the narrower street, you know, they, they can’t include all of those things.
Jeff Wood (2m 58s):
Yeah, absolutely. What got you into cycling? Like was that something that you’ve always been interested in or is it something that, you know, came along later in life?
Jacob Graham (3m 5s):
For a long time when I started college, I didn’t have a car and so I got involved with sustainable transportation at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee. So not exactly a city known for transit and cycling, but with a really great advocacy culture. And so I, I got into bike advocacy in the city. I came from a rural town and so being in the city, it was so shocking to me that I could like to a restaurant or walk to a coffee shop. And I was just absolutely enamored with that for my first year and, and then the rest of my years and, and now I get to live that way. I live near downtown Detroit and yeah, I, I think cycling is just a really great way to experience your neighborhood and get to, you know, see things at a little slower pace.
Jeff Wood (3m 54s):
Feel the breeze on your face. Right, exactly.
Jacob Graham (3m 56s):
Yes, yes. And even talk to your neighbors while you’re moving, Right. In a way that you just don’t do when you’re in your car.
Jeff Wood (4m 2s):
Yeah, for sure. Well, you work at Mogo Bike Share. How is it founded and what are the basics of the system?
Jacob Graham (4m 8s):
It was founded in 2017, maybe towards the tail end of the bike share launches across the country. And so we like to say that we learned a lot from other systems. Lisa Nuzowski is our founder. It started as part of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which is like the downtown development authority and local university, Wayne State University that did some studies and realized that Detroit, like cities across the country at the time were realizing that they could support a system like this. And so Mogo is a docked system. We have 75 stations across the city and in a few neighboring cities and about 620 bikes that can vary a little bit.
Jacob Graham (4m 50s):
We’re 365 system all year round. We don’t close up in the winter. So we’re really proud of that. We’ve, we’ve never went a day with zero ridership. We’ve always had at least somebody willing and interested to ride a bike even on some, some rough weather days. You know, Detroit can definitely get, get some snow. You know, it’s, it’s hard to call this a snowy place, but certainly a lot more snow than California, Oakland.
Jeff Wood (5m 15s):
Right. I mean that’s good because I feel like even on those days there’s people that need transportation Exactly. To move around somewhere. So if you have it closed off, then it would mean that it’s maybe not as serious of a transportation system as it actually
Jacob Graham (5m 27s):
Is. That’s really well said, Jeff. Again, that’s something that we really pride ourselves in. You know, we, recreation is a huge piece of Mogo use, but, but we have a lot of users that this is their primary form of transportation for lots of activities. Maybe it’s not their only form of transportation. Mobile users tend to ride lots of types of transportation and so we think it’s really valuable that our service is available all day long, every day of the year.
Jeff Wood (5m 56s):
Well, that’s a good point about kind of the greater transportation network of Detroit. I mean, what’s the landscape or the transportation environment in terms of Detroit at large?
Jacob Graham (6m 5s):
So Detroit is the dominant city in the region, and so it has a city bus service that’s a city agency. And so that’s a very large part of the fixed route bus transit system. There’s also a suburban system called smart. They service the rest of the county that Detroit’s in and, and a couple surrounding counties. And then the nearest big city to us is Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is. They have a a bus system and those three agencies are the major agencies that make up the regions transportation. And Detroit was the last metro to have a federally recognized regional transportation authority. And so I know in the San Francisco area that’s a, a big deal too, right?
Jacob Graham (6m 47s):
There are lots of systems and, and not a lot of coordination and so that’s, you
Jeff Wood (6m 51s):
Know, working on it.
Jacob Graham (6m 51s):
Not, not unique to Detroit, but we certainly complain about it just like everyone else. We want everybody to work together more. And I can’t forget to mention our street car that launched on our, our main street Woodward Avenue. It’s called the Q Line. And we also have a elevated rail people mover that functions as like a downtown circulator that does a loop around downtown. Of course we’re on an Amtrak line, several Amtrak lines and paratransit. All of those agencies have their own paratransit services that you can schedule a ride. And then we have various scooter companies a little hard to keep track of, just like everywhere else. I think it’s, I think it’s five right now.
Jacob Graham (7m 31s):
Yeah, private scooter share companies, dockless scooter share, but we are the only bike share provider.
Jeff Wood (7m 38s):
There’s no dockless bike share? Nope. In the
Jacob Graham (7m 40s):
City. Nope. A bit of a technicality cuz there’s lots of dockless scooter share. Yeah, but there’s, there’s no dockless bike share that’s, it’s just us.
Jeff Wood (7m 47s):
Well I was looking at the bike share map in terms of like where the stations are. I noticed it’s kind of, it’s pretty north south in terms of it’s
Jacob Graham (7m 53s):
It is, yeah.
Jeff Wood (7m 54s):
The way it’s laid
Jacob Graham (7m 54s):
Out. And so that is the first reason for that is a lot of Detroit population is laid out that way. Woodward goes from downtown Detroit to Pontiac. Detroit’s a spoken hub layout like a lot of American cities and Woodward is the most densely populated spoke road. The other reason is because our expansions have been funded by tap grants, we don’t receive regular funding from that. That’s more for one time funding. And so our most recent one was with several cities in Southern Oakland County, which is the north side of Detroit. And those cities co-sponsored that TAP grant with us. And so that was a really natural expansion for us. Upward Avenue.
Jeff Wood (8m 34s):
Is that something that you’re looking at in the future? Is going more east and west in terms of the stations?
Jacob Graham (8m 39s):
It is, it is. So we’re a nonprofit and that’s a really important part of our operations. We don’t have VC funding like the private micro mobility companies do or even the privately owned, you know, there are city systems that have a lot of VC funding like city bike or, or something like that. We don’t have that kind of of funding. We have of course some sponsorships and things, but we’re, our funding is very member driven and then then casual ridership driven too. And so our expansions tend to be slow and really deliberate. And so our, our expansion north, I think we’re still working out how to maximize the utility for, for everyone so that they’re getting to use bike share as much as they can and want to.
Jacob Graham (9m 27s):
And so for us to move west of town or east of town is something that’s, is again, is gonna have to be funded not necessarily through a TAP grant, but some kind of major funding for that and will require a lot of community outreach. Community outreach is is a major part of our system because we’re a dock system. We like to say that dock system is a very reliable system because our stations get placed and don’t get moved very much. I can’t say we never get moved because they do for construction or various, you know, things like that. If they’re in a parking lot, the parking lot might get resurfaced. And so our station moves for a couple months, but for the most part our stations stay put and they’re very reliable. But that does mean that we do a lot of community engagement on the front end and on the back end to make sure that people know what they’re getting so that we are putting them where people want them.
Jacob Graham (10m 14s):
And then of course the people are getting good use out of them after the fact.
Jeff Wood (10m 18s):
Slow and steady wins the race I think sometimes. Yes, yes. Many times actually towards, yes,
Jacob Graham (10m 24s):
Especially in the nonprofit world.
Jeff Wood (10m 26s):
Exactly. Well you all have been looking deeper at how to connect all these systems that we just talked about, including ddot, giving free bike share passes with a monthly pass in 2018 as a pilot, which was really interesting where the inspiration for that come from.
Jacob Graham (10m 38s):
So that was before I started working at MoCo, but I can say that that was with the rta. With the RTA being founded, there was a lot of talk about better integration between systems and we knew through our surveying we do a lot of annual surveying of just our rider. We knew that we were not getting a lot of bus riders in our survey responses. People, let’s say, who are riding the bus and riding Mogo. And so we, we saw an easy place to test a connection or improvement. And so what, you know, we hope would function as a very low cost pilot. We gave out 2000 passes that went with people who purchased a d a pass.
Jacob Graham (11m 20s):
So when they would go to buy a d a pass and they would also get a mobile pass with a little instructional packet on how to use that. And what we learned from that was that the people who activated those mobile passes used them a lot. In fact, they used them more than they were monthly mobile passes. And so they, they used that monthly mobile pass more than our average monthly rider, which was great news. The downside to that though was that most of the users did not activate the mo pass at all. And so our major learning there was that not everyone you know is, is ready to ride Mogo, you know, that could be for several reasons, but that Mogo can really serve as a useful addition to people’s bus trip.
Jacob Graham (12m 10s):
You know, whether that’s on the front end of the back end. Of course we were able to identify several stations that saw a major uptick in usage that were near bus stops. And so that, that was great to see some of that data. You know, with these type of small scale pilots it can be hard to pull out useful data, but we do know that the vast majority of these passes were purchased with cash. So the way micro mobility works best, at least from the operator’s perspective is with credit card because people can overuse the bike or the scooter, whatever that may be. And so then they get charged an overuse fee and then of course if they don’t return the device, then they’re charged a lost or stolen equipment fee.
Jacob Graham (12m 55s):
And so credit card use is the default I think for a lot of systems. And first most systems is the only option. Credit debit card for us though, as an equity component to our system, we, we find it really important to accept cash. And so with the DDO program, people were able to buy their bus pass with cash and then receive a Mogo pass and, and for us that is taking out a risk because if someone overuses their bike, we’re not able to directly charge them. We can send them an invoice if we have their email, then they can of course then choose to pay that. But it’s a much slower process. And so like I said, most systems are credit card preferred if not credit debit card exclusive.
Jacob Graham (13m 38s):
But we, we find it very important that cash is always some sort of option for our system. You know, we, we don’t have 24 7 cash payment at our stations currently, but you know, we, we can talk more about some possibilities that we’re exploring to make that easier. With this d a pilot that we did in 2018, DDOT does have windows with tellers that people can pay with cash, customer service representatives. So that was a good experiment for us.
Jeff Wood (14m 3s):
Well yeah, 15% of people activated the pass in the pilot and then you had three times more trips than the average monthly user, like you said. That’s really interesting. Did they know whether some of those folks were already Mogo users that were like power users and they’re like, Oh, I’m getting a free pass with my bus pass, I might as well just combine the to you?
Jacob Graham (14m 19s):
We don’t think so. We don’t actually have evidence that any of them were existing pass holders. Of course that could be missed. Maybe someone registered with different names but there was no overlap with our existing systems, so we think it was all new riders.
Jeff Wood (14m 33s):
So given that initial positive finding, you did launch a, a research project with Wayne State. Can you talk a little bit more about that and you know, what you were hoping to learn from the research that you did?
Jacob Graham (14m 42s):
Yes, so we applied for a grant through the the Living Lab program of the Better Bike Share Partnership and received that grant funding in late 2020. And so in 2021 we embarked on what we call our connected project, Breaking down barriers to bike share and busing in Metro Detroit. So with Wayne State we did a large survey of bus users and bike share users on how they’re choosing what mode to travel on, how they’re combining modes and how they’re paying for those modes and general perceptions of various modes. We’ve got over a thousand responses, which we’re really happy to see and the survey is really the first half because then we want to take what we’ve learned there and of course make some changes in our system and and work with DDO and SMART to make some changes with their system so that we can make it easier for anyone who wants to combine those modes to do so.
Jeff Wood (15m 43s):
Well that’s an important focus I think is the behavior change, you know, starting from the lessons of the 2018 pilot and I’m wondering why people’s behavior is so important to understand.
Jacob Graham (15m 51s):
So there’s a major difference between driving a car and riding a bus. And I won’t belabor the point too much, but when you have your car, you have a lot of independence with your choice maybe people don’t always have much independence as they think, but you make a lot of choices and people tend to, because they have their car and they’ve invested a lot of time and money and to storing it and driving it, they tend to use it and they tend to only use their car bus ridership is very different because you’re using a public service, you don’t have that same kind of feeling where, well I bought my car so I have to use it. You don’t feel that same kind of way with the bus. So bus riders tend to use a lot of different services and so with the bus, a major component of that is reliability, which is why maybe bus, bus ridership isn’t where we, we might wish it was because reliability can be a real challenge in a lot of cities for all kinds of reasons.
Jacob Graham (16m 48s):
I I I, right now it’s a driver shortages but it’s also traffic and maintenance issues. And so we thought that it was important that when choosing that mode, not everyone thinks of bikes as a reliable form of transportation, but like I said previously, our bikes are available 24 7 365. And so we think that we have a lot to offer that bike share has a lot to offer in the transit world as a reliable form of transportation. And so for us, the behavior change really boils down to exposure to our system. We regularly find through our surveying efforts that the best marketing devices that we have are our stations themselves.
Jacob Graham (17m 33s):
People are most likely to have heard about Mogo by seeing a Mogo station more than any kind of marketing we can do. And so this project is really about showing bus riders that Mogo is an option instead of let’s say having a long walk at the end of your bus ride or having to ride a second or maybe even a third bus instead of waiting for that transfer, which could be an hour long wait for your transfer riding a Mogo can augment that trip. And of course cost is is always an issue and something that we are working to develop with the regional transit authority, how we can offer discounts on transfers and that sort of thing.
Jacob Graham (18m 15s):
But multimodal trips are always going to be harder than single mode trips because they require more coordination on the user’s part. Again, that’s why people who drive really tend to get in their car, drive to where they’re going and get out of their car and why park and ride lots tend not to be as successful as planners wish that they were. Because cars really are a single mode vehicle, primarily a single mode vehicle and our survey really reflects that. And so we wanna help people see that there are multi-modal options out there, which again can add a layer of complexity to it, but we think that that complexity is actually convenience and helps people save time and, and probably save money and of course it’s a bike so it’s fun too.
Jeff Wood (19m 3s):
Well you mentioned you surveyed a thousand people about travel habits and thinking about the bus and the bike connections, what did the report tell you about these different groups of writers?
Jacob Graham (19m 12s):
So first off, the report showed us that cash is the primary way that people pay for the bus. And I think that it wasn’t a surprise to us necessarily, but to see the numbers laid out so starkly was really important when we are thinking about people combining trip methods because Mogo, like I said, and all micro mobility that I’m aware of is credit debit card forward, whereas bus systems tend to be cash forward and certainly DDOT and smart in our region are very cash forward systems. The buses don’t take credit cards. They’ve recently launched a payment app, but it’s pretty limited at this point and the use of it is very limited.
Jacob Graham (19m 55s):
So to work with the high percentage of cash users on the bus network and the high percentage of credit card users on the bike share network is a major challenge that we identified. That was a bit of a surprise to us. The difference there, something that was less of a surprise was the location of stations. We really found that a lot of bus riders did not know where the nearest mobile station was to their bus stop. And so there’s a couple responses that that we can make to that. Some of that is just signage, helping people through wayfinding, how to get to the nearest a mobile station or vice versa, how to get from the MO station to the nearest bus stop.
Jacob Graham (20m 36s):
And then a, a bigger piece of that, a more expensive piece of that is moving those stations or adding new stations that are closer to a bus stop so that when someone gets on or off the bus, ideally they, they don’t even need signage to find the mobile station. Ideally it’s there and it’s very visible. Of course there are some limitations to that because you can get on and off the bus, you know, northbound, southbound, eastbound westbound. I have to say we’re not very close to having a MO station on any set of four corners anytime soon. We like to think that we’re doing well, but maybe we don’t have that kind of cash to, to be on all four corners of an intersection just yet. But that is something that we really learned is that a lot of bus riders just really had no information about where the nearest mobile station was.
Jacob Graham (21m 25s):
You know, it, it’s hard to drill down into maybe why they didn’t have that, but we can really guess and, and and got a lot of open ended responses that suggested that signage could help but also really station placement or even adding new stations could really help with that.
Jeff Wood (21m 40s):
I was really interested to see especially that, you know, and I think this is kind of intuitive, but you know, more people that were already bike share rider are more likely to use transit than the transit riders are likely to use bike share and that kind of connection, I mean it’s a little bit intuitive cuz if you’re already into the system and you’re already, you know, using it, you’re probably already into active transportation generally. Whereas if you’re a bus rider, maybe you are just taking the bus as a means of transportation and it’s not likely that you’ve maybe tried to do other things. But I found that an interesting finding, even if it is a little bit intuitive.
Jacob Graham (22m 12s):
Yes. When I alluded to that earlier, I can get a little more specifics now. Sure. So bus riders tend to skew older and of course DDOT and SMART have been here long before Mogo was. And so I think again, just that exposure to the system, a lot of people have been riding the same bus or buses for a long time and have a pattern that they’re used to and so they’re not necessarily looking for a change. Whereas mobile riders tend to skew younger and of course have found our system, which means that they’re looking for new forms of transportation and our, you know, I, I think we can make the leap a little bit that they’re more interested in a variety of transportation methods like you identified in the report yet mo riders tend to ride lots of things, whether that’s the bus or that’s Uber, Lyft or scooters or their personal car mogul users tend to ride lots of, of different modes of transportation, whereas car drivers have the least mode switching and bus riders certainly have more mode switching than car drivers, but less than bike share.
Jeff Wood (23m 22s):
Another result that was interested in is that people of color and folks from low-income households are more likely to combine transit and bike share on a regular basis despite some of the problems they might have found with usability or the ability to connect the two. That’s another interesting finding as well.
Jacob Graham (23m 36s):
Yes, Detroit is a very black city and so that is something that we are constantly making sure that our system is as equitable as we can make it and we’re always looking to make it more equitable, whether that’s based on race or economic status. Bike share rider, again tend to skew younger and tend to skew wider as well. And so we wanna make sure that we’re marketing our services to all people who might be interested. And we know that bus riders are some of the most transportation stressed individuals who have the least choice in the decisions that they make. And so we find it really important that, I mean that’s why we’re doing this surveying, right?
Jacob Graham (24m 17s):
Because we, we wanna make sure that we know how we can get our bikes into the hands of those who need it.
Jeff Wood (24m 22s):
80% of respondents felt that the current bus transit infrastructure provides good access to key destinations while only 50% said the same thing about the bike share infrastructure. 80% sounds pretty good, even 50% sounds pretty good to me. I’m wondering, you know, is that skewed because of the folks that you’re, you’re interviewing? Because I imagine that if 80% of people overall found that the bus went to, or the bike share went to where they wanted to go, then they’d probably use it more often. That’s
Jacob Graham (24m 47s):
That’s a really great point. Yeah. There’s a lot that we might be able to infer from that question. I think that part of that is because that question is really not about level of service. That question is really about does the bus go where you need it to go? And DDA and smart, particularly ddo, are definitely respected for where they go to my neighborhood, for example, I, I have five different bus lines that I can comfortably walk to and if I am in biking distance, I think it’s more like 10 then I can comfortably bike to. So it’s not really about the stop locations for the bus network, it’s really about frequency and reliability.
Jacob Graham (25m 28s):
Whereas the Mogo docks are almost the opposite. Our bikes are very reliable and they’re very available, but because each one of our stops requires expensive infrastructure that limits the amount that we’re able to put out there, the bus agencies are able to put a pole with a, with a little sign on it and call that a bus stop, but that doesn’t work for us. Right? But dockless systems, same way, you know, they don’t even have to bother with the sign a dockless system, the scooter or the bike can be anywhere and you know, whether that’s good or bad, they can be anywhere. And so for us, we are not able to be everywhere like people do want us to be.
Jacob Graham (26m 13s):
And like the statistic you cited, Jeff, 50% think we have decent coverage for our stations. And in some ways to me, I, I’m almost glad that’s not higher because I know that there are lots of places that we don’t have bike share. And so if that number was 80%, that would almost be bad news for us because that would show that there’s not that much more demand out there. But we know there’s that much more demand out there. We know that so many people want more bike share and more, more places. Whereas with the bus, the bus is already going to the vast majority of places that people wanna go. For them it’s more about the service reliability and frequency.
Jeff Wood (26m 53s):
I feel like familiarity is like a barrier to any new experience, you know, whether it’s getting people on the bus or even a bike share system. And it’s hard sometimes for people, including myself to try out new things though. I I have been in bike share and scooter share and all kinds of stuff in different cities and even here in the Bay area. But what’s the key to getting people more familiar and more comfortable with, with a system that would ultimately be useful to them?
Jacob Graham (27m 14s):
Man, Jeff, I think every micro ability operator, that’s the million dollar question. So Mogo certainly, but all of us have slightly different ways that you can access equipment and we all try and learn from each other and are always trying to improve the messaging that we give people, which is maybe the easiest to iterate on, but also the, the hard mechanics of how things work. So for example, MO used to have a pass called 24-hour pass. The problem with it is people think that they get to check the bike out for that whole period of time and when they see that name, and they’re not familiar with how bike share might work or how public transit might work, right?
Jacob Graham (27m 58s):
Which is different than private transportation means it’s different than a car rental or a bike rental at a bike shop, a 24 hour pass for us when, when we launched meant unlimited 30 minute trips for a 24 hour period. And so that was a huge, huge problem for us. And we would get call after call after call of people thinking that they could ride their bike for, not usually for 24 hours, but for a long period of time, right? And then they look at their credit card and they have all these overage charges. And so we’ve attacked that in two ways. One, we’ve, we’ve moved away from the time based titles, so like we have like a weekend pass right now, but what we call it the explore the city pass.
Jacob Graham (28m 45s):
And so hopefully, and I say hopefully, but we’ve, we have found that people are doing better with that now. But the other major change that we made, and that I think has been much more impactful is that those rides instead of being 30 minute rides are 60 minute rides now. And so that longer ride time, that double ride time length means that there’s a lot more wiggle room in the system and people are naturally ending their rides before that. So we are getting significantly less customer service issues now than we were when we launched because we took that feedback and we changed our past structure. And so talking about the ease of use of the system for a bus system, sometimes I go to a different city and I have no idea how to use their bus system.
Jacob Graham (29m 33s):
Detroit has a very simple pass structure. I think every, every ride on the fix route bus is $2. Maybe some of the commuter like park and ride buses are more, but it’s very straightforward and in some cities it can be very complex. I’m sure you, you’ve seen that even like subways you usually pay for how far you’re going, right? And so that can be a big shock to people who just don’t know how to use the system. Of course you use the subway every day, no big deal. You know that you just put money on your card and you budget. But yeah, you don’t put exact change, right? You don’t put exact change on your card. And so for Mogo users there is absolutely a learning curve.
Jacob Graham (30m 13s):
And so of course we are looking at the problem from a marketing side. How can we do better stickers on our bikes? How can we have better signage at the kiosk? How can we do better social media? You know, we have YouTube videos that explain how our system works. Another important component to that is we offer classes for people who wanna learn how to ride a bike at all. We have that the absolute intro level, learn how to ride a bike. We also have higher level classes that are for people who wanna learn how to use a bike in a bike lane. What are the rules of the road, let’s say for bikes versus cars in Michigan? There’s not a lot of difference. In some states there’s more difference there. Certainly there’s some small differences, but a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of people, you know, might think bikes have to be on the sidewalk or something like that.
Jacob Graham (30m 60s):
And so a lot of the instruction about bike share, you have the barrier of using the system, but the first barrier is just using a bike. And a lot of people don’t know how to have a fun, safe ride in the city or, or anywhere, especially outside of their neighborhood, let’s say, because they don’t have that familiarity with infrastructure. And, and we talked a little bit about infrastructure at the beginning, you know, cities do all kinds of different street scape designs with bike lanes and sidewalks and trees and right turns and left turns and all kinds of signalization things that can be very complex. And so something we, we try and do with our street skills classes is anybody who’s interested, we teach them how to use the bike infrastructure near wherever that class is and the class of courses is located near several stations so that people are more safely using the infrastructure around our stations.
Jacob Graham (31m 56s):
For example, we have some new sidewalk level bike lanes. Not sure Jeff, if you’ve ever ridden a bike on a sidewalk level bike lane. Yep. It’s cool, right? It’s completely different than riding in the road and you just, yeah, to be up on the sidewalk, but to also not be impeding on people walking or using wheelchairs and the sidewalk is, is a really cool thing. And people are really excited for that infrastructure in the city and we’re really excited that our bikes are, are near it. And so teaching people how to use our system to understand the pricing structure, to understand the timing of it, to understand just the mechanics of how the bike goes in and, and comes out of the dock.
Jacob Graham (32m 38s):
Of course there also needs to be, be education around then how to ride the bike and fixer out bus transit has the same kinds of issues, you know, of course getting on the bus, paying for the bus, that’s an important thing that not everyone knows how to do. But when your bus stop is not very well marked, people have a hard time finding that bus stop and knowing, you know, a lot of systems you need to wave the bus down to get the bus to stop. Buses don’t necessarily stop at every, every stop, maybe like a train does. And not everybody realizes that kind of thing or how to get off of a bus, right? You have to pull a cord usually on a bus, whereas you don’t have to do that on the subway. Subway’s gonna stop at every station. And so there are intricacies with, with all kinds of public transit systems, I think bike share is, is relatively newer.
Jacob Graham (33m 21s):
I don’t think of us as a very new system, especially not a new type of system anymore, but we are certainly newer than buses. And so people have had a lot of time to work out that messaging and of course just to learn it. And there are definitely still a lot of people out there who don’t know how to use bike share and bikes. And we have a lot of room to grow for that. And, and of course it’s not just us, it’s scooters and bike share all across the, the world
Jeff Wood (33m 47s):
To put together a report. You also, you know, worked with a bunch of other agencies. I’m wondering how maybe the connections between the folks that work in the same space generally improved during the process of doing this research and work.
Jacob Graham (33m 60s):
Yes, we’ve been really happy with our, our partnerships with the Detroit Department of Transportation, DDOT Smart, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, the rta, the Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan, the city of Detroit’s Office of Mobility and Innovation, Wayne State University and the, and NuMo, the New Urban Mobility Alliance is a, is a national think tank organization. All of our local partners and some national partners. It’s been really great to get people in the same room usually virtually, which has is a lot easier nowadays. Virtual meetings are really great for making commuting to meetings easier, so that’s helped.
Jacob Graham (34m 44s):
But there are still a lot of things to be worked out. As I said, being the, the younger agency in the room means that a lot of those other systems don’t quite know how we work. And so that can limit quick connections that we can make. And so a big piece of this component is just talking to each other and helping to each agency to, to learn more about how the other agencies work so that we might be able to better coordinate our services.
Jeff Wood (35m 13s):
Could other agencies around the country do similar survey? And and is there anything unique to Detroit that couldn’t be replicated from what you all put together?
Jacob Graham (35m 21s):
Oh, no, I don’t, I don’t think so. I I think this would be, this is a great exercise for anyone, anyone to do. Of course, ours was led by the bike share agency mobile in other cities. You know, there, there are other cities that, you know, we try and stay top of who else is doing stuff like this. And so there are some other cities that maybe it’s city led. Some, a lot of cities have more municipal control over their bike share system. Detroit’s is an independent nonprofit. MO was an independent nonprofit. So that puts our seat at the table a little bit differently than a system where the bus agency is the operator for the bike share, which, you know, that maybe is easier for them to have a meeting right when they, when their offices are in the same building or something.
Jacob Graham (36m 7s):
Right. But yes, I, I think that a lot of cities would benefit from bringing their transportation providers together more often. And of course including all types of micro mobility that are, that are interested. And of course the providers that have been around for a really long time, like I said, it can be hard to introduce a new type of travel to anybody, someone on the street or the director of a bus agency. And so it just takes time and, and exposure and having someone get to take a bike for a ride can really open a lot of eyes.
Jeff Wood (36m 39s):
Speaking of new technologies for travel, you all have e-bikes?
Jacob Graham (36m 44s):
Yes, we do. So the last few years we’ve been adding e-bikes to our system. We’re up to about 90 e-bikes, I think. So we’re still a relatively small part of our fleet. Of course they cost more. And as a nonprofit, we, we don’t have a lot of turnover. We pride ourselves on maintaining the bikes that we have. So we don’t have a, a huge turnover in our system year to year. But we are primarily purchasing e-bikes now when we buy new bikes, the e-bikes tend to see more ridership per bike than the traditional bikes. Usually up to three times more. They’re ridden three times more than the traditional bike.
Jacob Graham (37m 26s):
The difficulty for us, because we are a system that has added e-bikes later, is that we don’t have charging capability at all of our stations. So systems that are even newer than ours who have launched in a post e-bike world tend to have charging at all of their stations, which we don’t. And so that does require our mechanic balancing teams to do some charging of the bikes. So driving around with our mechanic vans and, and doing some charging that way. But people love e-bikes and they’re so great for accessibility. Detroit is a pretty flat place. I assume Oakland is hilly.
Jacob Graham (38m 7s):
I know San Francisco is well known for
Jeff Wood (38m 9s):
That. I’m in San Francisco, I worked in Oakland. But yeah, San Francisco is pretty hilly, but you know, it’s, there’s roots throughout the city where there are flat or that are relatively flat where you can get places, you just have to know where to go. There’s a route called the wiggle where you have to go left, right, left, right, left right to go through the middle of two hills. So
Jacob Graham (38m 23s):
Jeff Wood (38m 24s):
It’s understandable, but I think e-bikes have really kind of changed the game around here too because yes, it allows people to get to a number of different places they might not have gone otherwise.
Jacob Graham (38m 32s):
Yes. And yeah, Detroit does not quite have that same geography
Jeff Wood (38m 36s):
Even better for e-bikes, right? Oh,
Jacob Graham (38m 38s):
Exactly. In Detroit, you know, now the e-bike just helps you get started faster at intersection, helps you going into the wind. We’re, we’re on the water and so we have lots of wind and it’s also different than the bike some might have at home, which I think is, is something that really helps to give bike share users an an additional reason to ride bike share is to offer that capability that their bike in the garage might not have is that e assist motor. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (39m 6s):
You all have several findings at the end of the report, kind of low cost solutions to get things going in the same direction that you have them already. I’m wondering what some of those findings were and what are the next steps to kind of putting those to work?
Jacob Graham (39m 17s):
So our survey involved an open ended component. And so in the open ended component, one of the biggest requests that we got was for more stations and more places, which is kind of the story of, of transit in the United States, right? And so that was good. It’s, it’s always good to get the answer that you might be expecting. So that I would say is our highest cost treatment is buying more stations. So we are first evaluating how we can best place our existing stations. And so moving a station is relatively inexpensive. We budget for moving several stations a year, like I said, for construction or a street scape design change.
Jacob Graham (39m 58s):
You know, there’s a parking change or something like that that we need to make a permanent relocation of a station. And so we’re undergoing a a station analysis right now for optimizing our stations both from an equity lens and from specifically a transit lens. And then of course this is our first big analysis of our station location since we launched in 2017. So this is kind of a, a post covid realignment as well.
Jeff Wood (40m 26s):
I noticed wayfinding was in there. Yes. What’s the importance of wayfinding and, and how can you improve it?
Jacob Graham (40m 31s):
So wayfinding is definitely our least expensive treatment that we’re working on. So we think of way finding as signage to get people to and from the bus stop, but it’s also about the signage on our stations, making sure that people understand how to use the bike and then where to go. We use the transit app as our primary way that people find mobile stations and bypasses for them as well. And so we work really hard to make sure that our station signage aligns well with the transit app. Of course, digitally we’re able to iterate on that a little bit more. And so as part of this project we’re updating some of our station stickers to help people get bikes more smoothly.
Jacob Graham (41m 18s):
Because like anything, what’s simple to me when I know how to do it is not necessarily simple to someone who walks up and is experiencing a new service.
Jeff Wood (41m 27s):
Right? That’s always fun to try to learn something new, but when you learn it and you know it, then it’s easy to explain to other people.
Jacob Graham (41m 32s):
Yes, bus riders, you know, like, like we saw in our survey, they tend to stick to their mode more than bike share users. And so we’re really hoping that we can continue to find advocates who are bus riders and bike share riders and can help us spread the message that they work well together. Yeah.
Jeff Wood (41m 51s):
Well, where can folks find out more about the report and maybe learn more about MoCo?
Jacob Graham (41m 55s):
So our website is mogo detroit.org. On our website you can find a map of our stations mo detroit.org/map/system map. You can find the report under programs. The direct URL is mogo detroit.org/mogo for all slash connected. Of course, some of our other programs that you might wanna take a look at are our street sales classes as well as our adaptive cycling options where we have tandems and tricycles and hand cycles in two locations. One downtown at the river walk and one in Southern Oakland County in Ferndale, where people are able to rent those more accessible equipment.
Jacob Graham (42m 39s):
People have all different abilities and that system works a little bit differently than our tool system. So you can find more information about that on the website as well. We do also have all the social media that you might expect, Facebook and Instagram and even TikTok and Twitter.
Jeff Wood (42m 57s):
Nice. I hope folks get to check it out. Jacob, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.
Jacob Graham (43m 1s):
Thank you, Jeff. Thank you so much for having me.