|VILLO! STATION NAME||%|
|LA ROUE / HET RAD||98|
|PRINCE DE LIEGE / PRINS VAN LUIK||72|
|CHARLEMAGNE / KAREL DE GROTE||61|
|TRONE / TROON||53|
|CONGRES / CONGRES||45|
Bike sharing networks, such as Villo!, are wonderful opportunities for ad-financed public-private partnerships: citizens get access to an extremely useful service, at little cost to them or to public authorities, thanks to advertizing space being sold on the network's bikes and stations. Disappointingly, Villo!'s usefulness has been tainted by the all too frequent unavailability of bikes and parking spaces. Some stations have turned out to be practically unusable, as highlighted in the scores tables.
Where's My Villo? pulls real-time data from Villo!'s servers in order to rate each Villo! station according to its availability in bikes and parking spaces. Our aim is to bring the magnitude of these bike allocation problems to the attention of users and political decision-makers.
And given (1) the public-private nature of the network in Brussels, (2) the monopolistic character of the bike-sharing market, and (3) the fact that Villo! is a source of revenue for JCDecaux through the sale of advertizing space on displays at stations and on bikes, JCDecaux have a special responsibility to insure the service is run more efficiently than it is today. For more on this point, see Where's My Villo?'s guest article for the Open Knowledge Foundation: Open data in public private partnerships: how citizens can become true watchdogs.
The bike allocation problems, along with users' dissatisfaction, have been featured in recent press articles and on the news. Even more poignant are the numerous tweets from people around Brussels, who have either struggled to find a bike when really wanting one, or reluctantly had to bike around to find a parking space to leave their Villo:
|Messieurs de chez #Villo, c'est pas super cool de ne pas avoir de Villo disponible à Legrand à 7h30 du mat'...|
|heeft wééral een half uur moeten rondrijden om zijn #villo te parkeren... #notamused|
|La répartition des vélos reste le gros point noir du système je trouve. #villo|
|So first I miss my bus. Then took a villo. Next couldn't find a station with open spots left|
(1) JCDecaux to drastically improve the availibility of bikes and parking spaces, through better reallocation of bikes
Update: shortly after Where's My Villo's launch, JCDecaux announced nightly reshuffling of bikes.We suggest some ways of doing this below, but please suggest your own by emailing us.
And secondly, we call for:
(2) JCDecaux to commit to transparent and easily verifiable service levels
While statistics on this website focus on the share of the day during which no bikes or parking spaces are available, one form of service level commitment that may be legitimately expected from JCDecaux could take the form of: "no station shall remain empty or completely full for more than 60 consecutive minutes". This would allow JCDecaux, Villo!'s operator, to make commitments in the form of response times and plan its teams accordingly.
Finally, we call for:
(3) the committee in charge of evaluating Villo! to include a group of users
Update: in May 2012, the newly set-up evaluation committee, which includes cycling associations and Villo! users, held its very first meeting.
Naturally, this website wouldn't be possible without open access to real-time data. This is great, and open data should be promoted for all public-private partnerships. We call for this transparency to be extended to contractual commitments with respect to Villo!'s quality of service. As far as we know, JCDecaux's contract with the Brussels Region remains entirely inaccessible to the public and to Brussels Parliamentarians.
We're a group of Villo!-using friends, with no vested interested in Villo! aside from the fact we love using them, and would like to use them more often ;) We're reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org. Where's My Villo? was built by Jonathan Van Parys.
Bikes are currently reallocated by Villo! trucks, though how often, or when, this happens is not clear; nor is a consistent pattern in how Villo! decides to schedule its trucks. The frequency of this reshuffling could be increased, or an alert-system could be set up to schedule the replenishement of empty or full stations during the day. A major drawback is the eco-unfriendliness of this solution, so why not switch to electricity-powered buses?
Eco-friendliness: Bad | Efficiency: Good | Overall score: Medium
Update: buses now run at night and are allowed to use the bus lanes.
Why not hire students to replace (or complement) these trucks. They would bike around Brussels, taking bikes from full to empty stations.
Eco-friendliness: Good | Efficiency: Good | Overall score: Good
Some cities have used incentive mechanisms to encourage users to take bikes from full to empty stations, mostly in the form of additional free time (in Brussels, the first half-hour is free for yearly subscribers). Whether this type of incentive would work in Brussels, where empty stations tend to be at the top of hills, and full ones at the bottom, is questionable. An additional weakness of this solution is that it requires a sufficient flow of Villo! users between right areas at the right time of day.
Eco-friendliness: Good | Efficiency: Medium | Overall score: Medium
Update: In November 2012, Villo! announced 10 extra free minutes for people taking bikes uphill.
Increase capacity of busy stations
Some stations may simply not have sufficient capacity to cope with the natural demand for bikes or parking spaces in the area they are situated in. Some busy stations could therefore be expanded to accommodate additional spaces. This would also reduce strain on the reallocation of bikes during the daytime.
Eco-friendliness: Good | Efficiency: Good | Overall score: Good
Improved reporting system of broken bikes
Computer screens at the stations should provide an easy way for Villo users to report broken bikes so that they can be picked up by the repair teams. Users should also be able to take out a new bike immediately after realizing the one they just retrieved is broken.
Update: Villo! is now on Twitter, which is one way of reporting issues easily.
Electric bikes (suggested by Mart Parve)
If the problem is that bikes "flow" downhill, then one solution would be to convert the bikes to electric ones, and supplement the stations with chargers. Of course it would be very costly but I wouldn't throw the idea out of the window just so quickly. The usage rate would probably go up massively, and the subscription price could be raised as well, so it's a matter of viability analysis.
Do you have other ideas, or comments about the solutions suggested above? Send us an email: email@example.com
All scores are based on the retrieval of Villo! stations status data from their internet servers at 5 minutes intervals. The accuracy of the scores is therefore contingent on the reliability of Villo!'s data feeds, and the scores assume that any activity taking place within the 5 minute intervals would not alter results significantly.
The bike and parking unavailibility scores represent the percentage of time over the previous 7 days during which the listed station had at most one bike or one parking space available. The higher the score, the worse a station performed. The reason we do not only count stations when they are completely empty is that more often than not, if a single bike remains in the station for a lengthy period, it tends to be broken. The scores exclude the period between midnight and 6am in order not to penalize stations for performing badly during the nighttime. The worst time of day and day of week results, on the other hand, are computed by taking into account all days and all hours over the previous week.Feel free to contact us if you have any questions relating to the data or scores.