Chart of the Day: Nice Ride MN Total Trips by Year

crowdsource-logoNote: I’ll be putting up charts and graphs about Nice Ride all week long, as part of our ongoing Crowdsource Bike Share Planning efforts. If you’d like to participate in this project, and earn a free Nice Ride membership and some Nice Ride MN swag. If interested, please email me at and/or read this post.

Here’s a chart from the presentation by planning consultant Antonio Rosell during last week’s Nice Ride Crowdsource Kickoff, showing system usage over the past five years.

Here are the cumulative numbers:



As you can see, there’s a steady pattern of trips growing throughout the summer season. It’s what you’d expect.

But there’s one interesting detail about this chart. For the first few years, the growth in system usage was matched by a corresponding growth in the number of Nice Ride stations. But the last year, due to a change in the bicycle vendor, Nice Ride didn’t add any new stations to its system.

Despite that, bike share usage continued to grow, adding almost 100,000 new trips.

So, here’s the mystery: What explains the increasing usage in spite of the static number of stations?

That’s a great question, and you should go ahead and answer it yourself. Feel free to dig into the Nice Ride data and explore a bit.

Any theories? If you wanted to add 100,000 new trips next year, what lessons could you draw from these numbers?

21 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Nice Ride MN Total Trips by Year

  1. Zack

    While certainly not accounting for all of the increase, I think Nice Ride’s use of drop stations at big events is a fantastic idea. Instead of 10 people being able to ride somewhere and fill a dock, you can increase capacity. But not to the tune of 100,000 more rides. I’m guessing they’re getting to a point with station density that it’s more convenient to find and return a bike, so that’s easier. Didn’t they introduce monthly memberships at the beginning of last year, too?

  2. Mary Jean Mulherin

    As a NiceRide volunteer I’d venture a guess that it was the reduced rate 30 day passes we have handed out at events throughout the Twin Cities. I know my sister, brother-in-law and neighbor all were introduced to NiceRideMN that way and now continue on as members. My brother-in-law, who lives in Bloomington, works for the State of MN and rides on his lunch hour thanks to stations in the downtown St Paul area. My neighbor is carless and rides between stations which connect her to her job in Minneapolis and the LRT system in Minneapolis. It helps to have enthusiastic members promoting NiceRideMN.

    More of us would ride in St Paul, if we didn’t have to take long walks to get to the closest station. Just sayin’…..

  3. eric

    That is awesome.

    Would be nice to look at year over year % growth like retail companies do.

    2011 represented a 116% increase in total trips over 2010!
    2012 25%
    2013 13%
    2014 32%

    And change in trips/station

    2010 1570 trips/station
    2011 1896
    2012 1890
    2013 1823
    2014 2402

    If I were going to treat these like retail locations for a growing company, I’d have two types of categories for locations. I’d break out “new” and “existing” stations, and I’d also break apart newer stations which were in new territory vs “infill” stations which were new but in areas that already had a lot of trips/brand recognition. Without looking at the sub-data, it appears that the median station takes a year or two to really hit its stride, so I’m not surprised that trips/year shot up in 2014 with no new stations to weigh the average down. However I don’t think that is reason to stop adding stations if there are appropriate locations because it appears that in general the growth has been successful even if it takes a new station a while to get up to speed with the rest. Interesting stuff.

  4. eric

    Or to answer Bill’s question with way fewer words-

    New stations take a year or two to build a critical mass of use.
    Past years 2010-2013 the average trips/station were held back by new stations which hadn’t hit that critical mass yet.
    This made 2014 look really good because they system’s numbers were all for “existing” stations which we know have higher trips/station figures.

    I’m so sorry for that first post’s length.

  5. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Mindshare? It takes a while for new ideas to percolate through our brains. Each year Nice Ride gains a bit more mindshare, a few more people who have the thought in their head that riding a bicycle is an option. This appears to also happen a bit each year as ridership still starts quite low and builds throughout the season as people see others riding and the idea occurs to them that they can as well.

    Shoreview has seen this with it’s network of bikeways. Even though they’ve been fairly stagnant for several years there still appears to be year over year growth. This can be seen in traffic on the paths, the number of bikes at local retail, and the number of kids riding to school.

    1. Sam

      My question as well. I know this has been talked about before and (I think?) it’s been considered a nonstarter for now. But it seems like we’re inevitably heading in that direction, right? I’m pretty sure Montreal’s Bixi system closes for winter too, but Chicago’s Divvy operates year-round.

      1. Eric

        I wonder what the hard costs plus extra maintenance/wear costs would be for adding March and November just to start. Are the bikes and pay stations equipped for freeze and snow?

        1. Walker AngellWalker Angell

          I think the bikes and stations can handle it as they do in other winter cities. I’d guess that from a cost standpoint it’d be best to do all or nothing. By going all winter they eliminate the costs of tearing down and rebuilding the network though that might not be a huge savings.

          1. Mitch

            Take a closer look at New York – their revenues went from an average of $250,000 per day in the peak of the season to just $4,000 per day in January. That’s a 98.5% drop in revenue.

  6. Jeff

    A ridership of 408,485 trips divided by 205 days and 1556 bikes works out to an average of 1.28 rides a day for each bike. Clearly there is plenty of capacity for more future riders.

  7. eric

    Need to focus more on peak usage times than average trips/bike/day. The fact that almost all of the bikes are available at 3am in October is of no use to a potential rider on a beautiful summer day. The system absolutely needs to be reliable if we want it to become a consistent part of more people’s lives. And for each rider, reliable means that there is always a bike available when I need one.

    For the record I’m not saying that Nice Ride isn’t reliable now, I’m a light user and have never not been able to find a bike. I’m also super encouraged by the “relocation” trucks I’ve seen around town. They get it. That’s awesome.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I’ve encountered the Government Center station both completely full in the morning and completely empty in the evening, but I also see Nice Ride staff there every day relocating bikes.

      1. eric

        Kind of feels like rather than re-locating they could simply be stored in order to make room at stations for other AM commuters, and then replenished as needed in the PM for the afternoon ride home. Have no idea what the daily demand on the system looks like, but would imagine that there is no need for many/most of those bikes to head from downtown back out to the neighborhoods for the afternoon on a weekday.

        1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

          One of the things that came up at the recent meeting was that downtown rebalancing used to be more difficult than it is now, because all the activity was focused at the IDS center station. They had people with trucks just waiting every day to bring bikes away, but it wasn’t enough.

          Now there are many stations, more densely packed, that same area so it’s a bit easier. Though it’s still a daily challenge to rebalance downtown stations.

          It could be worse, though, if there were hills. Minneapolis doesn’t really have that problem, though Saint Paul might, if — and that’s a big if — anyone actually used the Saint Paul Nice Ride system.

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