Bublr bike share to offer single ride and monthly pass only

by April Corbin, PeopleForBikes equity writer

Looking to improve price transparency, Bublr in Milwaukee is moving away from the traditional payment structure of bike share systems.

The nonprofit bike share system announced yesterday that it will no longer offer day passes or a season-long option. It’s a shift operators believe will make the system more attractive to residents of all income levels.

Bublr launched in August of 2014 with a pricing structure similar to those of most existing bike share systems. Rates started at $7 for a day pass, which gave a person unlimited access to the bikes for 30 minutes at a time. If they exceeded that window, they were charged late fees. Users were also able to sign up for a $20 monthly pass or a pass that covered the entire season, which ran from August to early December.

“We saw very directly that people didn’t understand this,” says Kevin Hardman, the executive director of Bublr. “We got plenty of feedback last year that people were confused. They thought they were being deceived. We ended up refunding a bunch of money because of it.”

In response, this year, the bike share will only offer two options: a $3 single-ride that covers 30 minutes (with each additional 30-minutes costing another $3) and a 30-day recurring pass for $15 that covers unlimited 60-minute trips. There will be no option for an annual pass.

Hardman says his staff spent much of the off-season doing grassroots market research—talking to various groups about this new payment structure. He says the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, “There was a dramatic difference in understanding.”

He believes this new pricing structure will lower some of the barriers that exist for potential users of bike share and help the nonprofit bike share system’s mission of improving transportation access for all Milwaukeeans. Bublr wants to work with various community organizations to offer discounted rates.

“The whole essence of bike share is that it should be easy and simple and convenient,” says Hardman. “The pricing, first and foremost, has to be reflective of that.”

Bublr is not the only bike share system embracing a new model for payment. The City of Philadelphia announced earlier this year that it will not offer an annual pass for its forthcoming bike share, Indego, which is expected to launch this spring. However, specific details on what options will be available, as well as the rates will be, have not yet been announced.

The Better Bike Share Partnership is a JPB Foundation-funded collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write april@peopleforbikes.org