Bike-sharing systems: AIT optimises location planning

Not least the entry of large Asian rental bike providers into the Austrian market triggered very controversial discussions of bike-sharing over the last months, particularly in Vienna. As part of the PlanBiSS project, researchers at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology developed a tool taking into account demand, re-distribution and maintenance of rental bikes. This can help with the main challenges faced by bike-sharing systems.

Advantages of easily accessible rental bikes are a reduction of the inner city car traffic and the positive health aspects of cycling. There were mainly two points of criticism in the public debate of the new bike-sharing systems from China which have no stations: the collection and processing of localised user data and the obstruction of pedestrians by wrongly parked bikes. Now, experts from the AIT Center for Mobility Systems AIT Center for Mobility Systems joint forces with partners from FH Oberösterreich, Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) and the Cycle Competence member Rosinak & Partner ZT GmbH.  Together they developed a system allowing a forward-looking location planning for a bike-sharing system with fixed stations. It follows an integrated approach to estimate potential demand and plan locations based on the expected re-distribution logistics.

Optimised bike-sharing systems via PlanBiSS

The planning process in detail: To begin with planners define the planning zone, acquire demographic and other data as well as information on the location of public transport stations. They also define the framework such as the available budget or prices of bike-sharing system providers.

Visualization of different variables for cells: (a) population, (b) number of entrances to underground (and suburban train) stations, (c) number of POIs (all types combined), (d) demand of bikes going to the cell, i.e. demand of free slots to return a bike.

Afterwards they are drawing up scenarios, for example for different planning zones, budgets or bike-sharing providers. For each scenario a proposal for the optimal placement of stations is calculated with the PlanBiSS tool. Each proposal not only includes a rough positioning of stations but also performance indicators for easier comparison of the scenarios.

Exemplary planning process of a BSS: (a) the visualization of the demand of bikes, (b) for each planned station a 300m radius helps seeing uncovered areas, (c) predicted trips between the stations, (d) the stations on a map

Based on this planners can adapt the scenarios and continuously refine them. For the actual realisation of the bike-sharing system it is necessary to conduct the detailed planning in the actual public street space after a scenario was chosen. This further planning stage depends very much on local conditions and is therefore taken on by planners with the necessary local knowledge.

Finally the PlanBiSS-tool suggests locations for a bike-sharing system in Vienna

PlanBiSS working with novel methods

The PlanBiSS tool consists of three components developed in the project:

  1. a method for disaggregation of the planning zone into cells, if possible with a crossing at their centre allowing a rough but still clear location proposal
  2. a statistic demand model estimating the expected user behaviour of the bike-sharing system
  3. an optimisation algorithm based on the other two components automatically calculating optimal location proposals

Markus Straub, researcher at the AIT Center for Mobility Systems, sums up: “Which coverage area for a bike-sharing system is plausible for a given budget? What is the demand for bike-sharing rides at a certain location? At which locations are there gaps in an existing system? These and other complex questions from daily planning routine can be answered with the help of PlanBiSS.”

AIT Austrian Institute of Technology researches future mobility

The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is Austria’s largest extramural research institute. With its eight centres the AIT defines itself as highly specialised research and development partner for the industry. At the Center for Mobility Systems around 100 employees lead by DI Arno Klamminger are researching solutions for future mobility. Following a holistic approach personal mobility, goods logistics and transport infrastructure are covered focussing on efficiency, safety and ecological sustainability. Comprehensive system know-how, scientific excellence and long-term international experience allow the AIT experts to answer the most burning questions in the area of mobility providing industry and society with tomorrow’s solutions today.

Download: research report

The project was sponsored by FFG and the Austrian ministry for traffic, innovation and technology (bmvit) as part of the 4th tender of the Future Mobility Programme (Personal Mobility).


Posted on January 19, 2018