Friday, April 2, 2010

VeLib, in Paris

Paris has apparently gotten serious about Bike Sharing, and invested a fare amount into the infrastructure.

I wonder if that would work in SLC. Salt Lake has a pretty strong bike culture, especially downtown, and especially during the summer. But I'm not sure there is enough demand, especially given the ferocious hills between 10th and 13th East.

Most interesting is their pricing procedure, for moving vehicles around. Effectively, it provides a bonus for returning bikes. Salt Lake might do well to do Paris one better, and actually PAY for the return of bikes. With fewer bikes, SLC's distribution of bikes, and especially one-way trips, would tend to be lumpy.

As I wrote of earlier, getting more people engaged in the process of managing the metropolitan metabolism, by promoting semi-formal arrangements through market incentives, seems to be the way to go.

Salt Lake had an earlier (failed) experiment with bike-cabs, partially because the local regulations governing cabs (still?) are brutal--there is something like a 50% tax, and until recently, it was illegal to hail a cab. (No, really). The pedal-cab drivers were renting the pedal-cabs and then working for tips, largely to evade the regulatory burden.

But I'm inclined to believe that the same type of people who were working the pedal-cabs would be equally likely to 'work' the bike-return system. There are a lot of factors that go into the VeLib system--the bike non-equilibrium would need to be allowed to emerge on its own because providing immediate subsidies. Doing otherwise might provide unnecessary and distortive subsidies. Doing so effectively, in an easily implementable manner, would be difficult. When you read about the VeLib system, it simply stipulates that some stations will receive the subsidy. All stations receiving the subsidy receive the same subsidy, at all times of the day. Static pricing is much quicker an easier to implement then dynamic pricing, even if it is less efficient.

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