Indego, Philadelphia’s bike-share system, is ramping up for imminent expansion, with plans to more than double the program and add hundreds of its popular e-bikes to its fleet over the next five years.
The announcement from the Independence Blue Cross-sponsored system, launched in 2015 and now boasting 1,400 bikes and more than 140 stations, came Monday as the city turns maintenance and expansion efforts over to Bicycle Transit Systems, a private, Philadelphia-based company, through a 10-year concession agreement that begins in January.
Next year will be spent densifying parts of the system and growing Indego into West and South Philadelphia, targeting neighborhoods like Cedar Park and Grays Ferry, said Aaron Ritz, transportation programs manager at the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability. While Indego is looking to add service in those areas by late summer, its goal is to more than double the entire program to 350 stations throughout the city, including in parts of North and Northwest Philadelphia by 2026. Indego is soliciting feedback as it grows, asking riders where they would like to see a new station through an online form.
“We should be really clear it’s not a suggest a station, get a station,” Ritz said. “It’s a tool for helping us understand kind of an aggregate community desire, and when we have a spot that really rises to the top, that’s someplace we can kind of dig in via an engagement.”
Indego is also bringing on a handful of “expansion liaisons,” or advisers who have “strong connections” in places where the system is expected to grow.
Future stations will look a little different moving forward, with Indego planning to add more “energy-saving stations,” or freestanding docks that are easier to install than the bulkier blue stations seen around the city. There are energy-saving stations already at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad and Carpenter Streets.
Riders can count on more electric bikes, introduced to the system last year. In the next five years, Indego is aiming to boost its fleet to 3,500 bikes, half of which would be e-bikes, according to the bike-share’s announcement this week. About 300 more electric bikes will hit the ground next year, said Kristin Gavin-Wisniewski, Indego general manager. There are currently about 250, she said.
“E-bikes get used a lot more,” Gavin-Wisniewski said. “We’ve seen that continue to play out over the past year. So I think that as the network grows, and we have e-bikes in the system, people are going to be willing and able to make long trips on those bikes.”
The bike industry saw a major boom over the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are watching the virus’ impacts on traffic congestion as some forgo public transportation for private vehicles, perceived as a safer option during the pandemic. This year also has been a “horrific” year for traffic deaths, seen as a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic with emptier roads encouraging deadlier speeds.
Traffic volumes and SEPTA ridership remain below pre-pandemic levels, though Indego ridership has been essentially untouched, Gavin-Wisniewski said. While fewer commuter trips are happening with many working from home, riders are continuing to hop on Indego for recreational purposes.
“We want to make sure that Indego is a reliable option for people to get around in the future,” Ritz said. “… We know we’ve been able to serve people during the pandemic. We want to be able to serve people when we recover.”