Balancing a Bike Share System

Bicycle Transit Systems is a Philadelphia-based business that specializes in bike share launch, operations, and management. Comprised of the most experienced bike share operations team in the industry, Bicycle Transit Systems manages all operational elements of Indego, including bike and station maintenance, marketing, and customer service.

In this interview, we examine one of the core responsibilities of any bike share system: balancing! At Indego, the operations team consists of dispatchers and the field team (drivers and mechanics). A dispatcher will observe the Indego system from a bird’s eye view and tell the driver what station needs rebalancing. To dig a little deeper, we interviewed the Indego Dispatch Supervisor, Kristen Engman.  

Introduce yourself and briefly describe what it is you do at Indego.

My name is Kristen Engman and I am the Dispatch Supervisor at Indego and have been working with the company for a little over a year now. Basically, I am the eyes in the sky. I can see what is going on with dock, bike availability and power management at the stations. I direct the drivers and field technicians to address any stations that need attention. I keep the system up!  No one really thinks about us because we are behind the scenes, on the computer, but we’re always there and always in contact with the field team. We predict the needs of the system. It’s a fun job.

Explain what ‘balancing’ is in terms of bike share.  

We redistribute bikes along morning and evening commuter rush hour patterns to keep the system balanced, ensuring bikes and docks are available to the best of our ability.

Our drivers not only pick up and move bikes, but they troubleshoot station issues. They also pick up bikes that need repair and bring them back to the warehouse. A lot goes into making sure that if you want a bike, there are available bikes.  

What are some of the factors that make balancing tricky?

Traffic. Safety is the main priority and if the streets are packed, it can be difficult for our drivers to navigate the bikes and get to the stations. Also, weather. Drivers are out there in all weather, snowy, sunny, rain or shine!  

Weekend patterns are less predictable. You can try to guess the needs of the system by looking at events that will be going on in the city. Even though we collect a lot of data sometimes something throws you for a loop. Many times, we find out about events just by looking at the bike patterns.  

What do you like about working for Indego?

I like our team and workplace environment.  But I think working for a company which does something positive for the community is what I like best.

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