Data Analytics Informs the Metro Bike Program
By PAMELA J. SCHMIDT, PhD.
PARTNERING WITH WASHBURN: HIGH IMPACT COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PRACTICE (HICEP)
In late Fall 2016, Dr. Pamela Schmidt’s Washburn University School of Business students began a pilot project to analyze Topeka Metro Bike (TMB) ridership data. Working on the data analysis educational case in the summer of 2017, students gained support of the Washburn’s Transformational Experience program. This unique, signature program that provides an opportunity for students to enhance their learning through direct interaction with faculty while engaging in experiences outside the classroom.
Since its inception, TMB data analysis has been performed by two to four student teams each semester at the Washburn School of Business. Student findings have been presented three times to TMB board members, continuing to inform the operations and evolution of the Metro Bike system in Topeka.
DATA ANALYSIS BY WASHBURN BUSINESS STUDENTS To start this project, Karl Fundenberger, director of TMB, posed several key business questions:
When are the peak days of bike usage?
How does weather affect usage?
Do customers have a bike color/style preference?
Can bike “hold” data be analyzed to determine placement for new bike racks?
Can we determine the purpose of various rides? (i.e. determine characteristics to categorize rides as transportation versus recreation?)
The students performed analysis of one full year of ride data spanning April 2016 to the end of March 2017. Students used Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access, and visualizations were later created using the data visualization tool Tableau and PowerBI.
DATA ANALYTICS IMPACT ON METRO BIKE PROGRAM This interaction between Topeka Metro and Washburn business students has provided benefits to the community by sharing insights gained from analysis of bike share data. These analyses have informed the Topeka Metro organization to help guide the evolution of the Topeka’s bike share service. In addition, this project has provided expansive and motivating real-world problem-solving opportunities to Washburn University students.
Insights from the TMB data analysis include:
Growing a better understanding of the riding habits of TMB members
Geographic analysis of stops, starts and bike holds to help with planning future placement of new bike racks (especially to address areas where holds and out-of-market bikes are often locked).
Characteristics of transportation rides versus recreation rides.The Washburn Campus and downtown Topeka were found to be the most popular transportation ride start/stop locations while the Lake Shawnee and the Shunga Trail areas were shown to be the most popular areas for recreational riding.
In conclusion, the relationship between the Topeka Metro Bike organization and the Washburn School of Business exceeded expectations. What started as a real-world data analysis pilot learning opportunity has blossomed into an on-going partnership.