August 11, 2010

Bike sharing service design

I just got back from a trip to Montreal were I was attending a management conference. We stayed at an apartment about 10 km from the conference so most days I took the metro, but on the last day I tried out the bike sharing system called bixi. I was impressed: it was easy, cheap, and fun.  Since I hang out with a bunch of operations management folks at the conference, we discussed how it must not be real easy to resuffle the bikes to make sure they are placed the were the demand is high at the right time - quite a operations research problem.

I read a related article today (here)  and thought the idea was worth noting.  The setup costs look lower, but the standardization of the bikes doesn't seem to exist which may mean higher ongoing cost (think Southwest Airlines has all the same type of place leads to lower fixing costs).  Also, I'm not sure about the suffling around of the bikes that happen in cities like Montreal that ensures a bike is where the demand is.  Still, an interesting service design:

The Social Bicycle System from Ryan Rzepecki on Vimeo.

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