Pittsburgh Makes Bike Sharing Free With Public Transit Passes

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May. 25 2019, Updated 1:17 a.m. ET

Public transportation in major cities provide one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get around. It eliminates the need to unnecessarily clutter up roads with driving and parking ourselves. Pittsburgh is taking things a step further by granting those with public transit passes the ability to freely use the bike-sharing system.

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When you’re visiting a metropolis like New York, Washington D.C., or Chicago, plenty of railways, trains, and buses provide easy transportation throughout much of the city. It usually costs just a few dollars for a one-way trip. For those that are doing some exploring, it’s worth paying a few dollars more for a full day pass. There’s subscription options for those that live and work near these downtown areas.

Pittsburgh uses a reloadable smart card, called ConnectCard, that makes it easy to pay for fares. They will now have the additional feature of being linked with Healthy Ride, a local bike-sharing service. Every bike will be able to instantly read the card, and these customers will be granted a free 15-minute bike ride.

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This feature will be given a six-month trial run as Healthy Ride monitors consumer reaction and interaction. They’ll be weighing to see if this ultimately gains more riders or ends up losing more money than gaining. However, having a limited free ride could be a permanent feature as the goal is to increase word of mouth of bike sharing and bike usage overall.

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David White, the executive director of Healthy Ride, explains to Fast Company that these bikes provide a bridge between public transportation and arriving at a specific destination: “It’s trying to make that process a lot more seamless and reduce the friction between wanting to go somewhere, not wanting to drive, but not really knowing what to do next.”

This new process does fix two big issues in the bike-sharing industry. Without the ConnectCard pass, anybody that wants to use one of Healthy Ride’s bikes must have a credit or debit card. A ConnectCard can be purchased and refilled with cash in stores and at specific hubs throughout the network they’re featured in. This also provides a direct connection with bike-sharing under the public transportation umbrella.

Bike-sharing systems are continuing to be a growing and attractive option in big cities. No longer do people need to lug around their own bike and they provide the best option to reach places that aren’t right next to a bus stop or subway station. Attaching a free ride to a transit pass is an ideal way to bring people on board to the concept.

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