Service and Operations Management

Bicing: Bike-Sharing in Barcelona

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Monday mornings were tough for Toni Roig. During the months of June and July, he had received phone calls from the mayor¿s office every other Monday. The topic was always the same: ¿Did you read the newspapers?¿ In the second summer since the introduction of the Barcelona bike-sharing system, Bicing, which was managed by his department at BSM, the week-end press carried dozens of readers¿ letters and opinion articles criticizing Bicing. This seemed ironical: the wide acceptance of the system made Bicing a clear success story- more than 40,000 people were using the bikes every day. But the recurrent operational problems had actually created the opposite perception: bikes had flat tires, missing lights and broken seats, stations did not release the bikes properly, and last but not least, stations had no available bikes or no empty slots to drop the bikes. From city hall, there was increasing pressure on Toni to discipline the Bicing operator, Clear Channel, so as to provide adequate service.
Bibliographic citation: Martínez de Albéniz, Victor, "Bicing: Bike-Sharing in Barcelona", IESE, P-1164-E, 09/2017
Date: 05/09/2017
Author(s): Martínez de Albéniz, Victor
Document type: Case
Department: Production, Technology and Operations Management
Sector: Public transport
Languages: English
Geographic area: Spain

Learning objective The case discusses the design and launch of a shared transportation system. It can be used in several ways: 1. To analyze capacity design decisions, so that bikes, parking spots and delivery vans are appropriately balanced. One of the flaws of the system is that vans are the bottleneck and the management of the system is not recognizing this. Exploiting the bottleneck is another aspect that should be discussed, because the replenishment strategy is not even defined. 2. To set service priorities. When there are not enough resources to offer great service to everyone, who should be served first? Which parts of the city should have a higher service level? The difference in treatment is apparent in the Bicing KPIs, and one should consider the cost of improving service levels, which varies by area. 3. To provide data-driven policies for a better management of the system. The high-level discussions explained in points 1 and 2 above can be detailed by analyzing the large amount of complex information obtained from the system (not big data, but close). One can run a workshop where students can use the data to optimize system performance (maximize number of trips, increase service levels). 4. More generally, to discuss the launch of innovative systems. Bicing was one of the first large bike-sharing systems (together with Paris, in 2007) in the world, and there were many uncertainties (technical, behavioral, managerial) on how to run such a system. Experimentation was missing in the project plan. The case can be used to discuss project planning, through a post-mortem exercise.