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A BIXI case study reveals what Montrealers like and dislike about the bike-sharing service

Concordia researchers analyze customer feedback and offer tips on how the company and those like it can be more popular to users
April 14, 2020
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Anjali Awasthi: “The prime focus of our study was to carry out a quality assessment of the bike-sharing service with an eye on the reliability of the results.” | Photo by Martin Pilote

As housebound Montrealers eagerly await the expected opening this week of the 2020 BIXI season, a new study by Concordia researchers is offering the bike-sharing company tips to improve their already popular service.

The study was published in the International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management and authored by Mukesh Verma, a former Concordia master’s student, and Anjali Awasthi, Concordia University Research Chair in Connected Sustainable Mobility Systems. It is the result of a survey of more than 300 BIXI users around Concordia’s Sir George Williams Campus, which was conducted in August 2016.

Using the standard service quality assessment instrument SERVQUAL, the researchers asked users to rate BIXI in five categories. These were: tangibility, meaning the physical quality of the equipment and facilities; reliability; the company’s responsiveness to customer queries; assurance, meaning how well staff were able to instill trust and confidence in customers; and empathy, measured by how the company demonstrated attentiveness and care.

Anjali Awasthi, associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering. Anjali Awasthi, associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering.

Each category contained several questions on different aspects of the service and asked users to score the company from one to five, one being the lowest quality as compared to expectations and five being the highest.

“It was very easy for us to collect our data — the users’ preferences, whether they were satisfied with the service or not,” says Awasthi, associate professor at the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering. “But the prime focus of our study was to carry out a quality assessment of the bike-sharing service with an eye on the reliability of the results. We did not want to just collect data without having it say anything.”

The survey also contained several open-ended questions where users could write their own assessments or opinions.

“We were able to compare the complaints against BIXI to the compliments,” Awasthi explains. “What are the things they are happy about? What are the things they don't like?”

Mukesh Verma, a former Concordia master’s student. Mukesh Verma, a former Concordia master’s student.

Clearer directions to stations, multilingual instructions and more

It turns out that BIXI users have plenty of ideas on how the service can be improved. The researchers shared the two most common recommendations per category.

Tangibility: Users wanted clearer usage-time notifications during their rides and more information on nearby stations, including directions on getting there.

Reliability: There were concerns about the bike locks and available spaces at docking stations.

Responsiveness: The BIXI baskets could be bigger and closable from the top. Bike stations should also be in appropriate locations.

Assurance: Customers expected staff to respond to complaints immediately and be competent in their work.

Empathy: Customers would like to have personalized service and multilingual operating instructions.

Other suggestions included cup and phone holders, GPS systems, air pumps at docking stations, cleaning machines at stalls — especially relevant during a pandemic — and making membership cards available on the spot. Users also indicated they would like the bikes to be colourful and aesthetically pleasing, have big and bright headlights and increase usage time to one hour or more.

“Montrealers are heavily into bike-sharing, whether with BIXI or some of the other, newer services,” Awasthi says. “So, let’s use it more and make it more environmentally friendly. We can promote the use of bikes, whether they are private bikes, BIXIs, e-bikes or something else, and combine it with different modes of shared or public transportation.”
 

Read the cited paper: “Evaluating bikesharing service quality: a case study for BIXI, Montreal.”



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