Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Hidden Fees Leave Indy Bikeshare Riders Disappointed

Indy's new Bikeshare program, dubbed Pacers Bikeshare because of a small donation the Pacers made to kick start the program, has hidden fees that are catching riders by surprise. I first learned about this when one of my Facebook friends complained awhile back for getting stuck with an $80 fee for taking out a bike one morning and returning it later in the day. The Star's Dana Hunsinger says the sticker shock from hidden fees associated with the bike rentals is catching a fair number of bicycle enthusiasts by surprise, who are being hit by daily charges of as much as $194. The problem is the failure of renters to read the fine print. That daily membership fee requires you to dock a bicycle within 30 minutes after checking it out. Failing to do so results in compounding fees.
You can buy a 24-hour pass for $8 as part of Indy's new Pacers Bikeshare program and get unlimited use of a bike for 24 hours.
But there's a catch. If you don't check the bike in every 30 minutes at one of 25 stations dotted along the Cultural Trail, that $8 bill will skyrocket to $194 for 24 hours.
Why? Bikes, even with a 24-hour pass or an $80 annual membership, still must be checked in at a station every 30 minutes. If you don't, there are overage fees of $2 for the first 30 minutes and $4 for each 30 minutes after that . . .
Mary Ellen Mellitz counts herself among the confused.
"I was under the idea that this was a 24-pass," said the Crawfordsville woman. "And that meant I could have the bike for 24 hours."
So Mellitz and her sister came Downtown last month for a leisurely Saturday bike ride. They were out eight hours, stopping for lunch, going to the library and enjoying coffee.
That 8-hour ride — without checking in the bikes in at a station — cost each more than $60.
"They need to make this much much clearer to people," she said . . .
When I started seeing the astronomical revenues the Bikeshare program was generating during its first couple of months of operation, I assumed there must have been a lot of confused bike renters. It was sort of like Mayor Ballard's privatization of the parking meter assets. Instead of getting one $20 ticket for an expired meter, the private company's meter patrols, who are misnamed "parking ambassadors," were writing multiple tickets for the same parking offense in a single day, leaving motorists with parking fines well north of a hundred dollars. According to Hunsinger's story, if you squawk loud enough about the Bikeshare overcharges, you can get a refund. I've only used a Bikeshare once while on vacation in Miami Beach. Their Bikeshare program allowed you to rent a bike in increments of one, two, four or up to 24 hours for a fixed fee without the need to dock the bike every 30 minutes. I was able to rent a bike for 2 hours for a flat $10 fee.

22 comments:

Pete Boggs said...

Fee trapping or slamming people is bad government- we've got too much of that!

Anonymous said...

"Bikes, even with a 24-hour pass or an $80 annual membership, still must be checked in at a station every 30 minutes."

What? Who approved this? What use is a bike you have to "check in" every half hour?

local landlord said...

I thought it was a ridiculous program even when it was cheap. Welcome to Indianapolis, where you can rent a bike for $194 a day.

IndyDem said...

The reason for the 30 min check in is so that the bikes get cycled in and out and everyone can use them. If all the bikes are out and no one is cycling them, then you'd have to have a lot more bikes. I understand why they do it, but 30 min is really not enough time. That's my complaint. It can take about 10 min to walk to a docking station so you lose 10 min just walking to the station. It be more practical if it was an hour. But the program wouldn't work if you could keep the bike all day for a 24 hour pass.

Pete Boggs said...

ID: Emphasis apparently on "program," where value & service are connected, free market ideas; not predatory.

Anonymous said...

IndyDem: LOL! Those people paid their fees to have the bike for the day or the year. The fine print was a theft, or at least a deception, in my opinion.

The program is a FAILURE!!!

How's that electric car thing downtown working out for us? -Same "fine print"???

Outrageous ideas...that are NOT wanted.

Hey Mayor Ballard: Why don't you add more bike lanes in Broad Ripple to make the traffic flow even worse?

Indy Rob said...

The 30 minute check in is bogus. Anyone renting a bike is already paying for the bike rental, getting hit with a fine that is either 6 or 12 times the rental fee is not about making sure that the bike is being used, it is just another way of pumping up revenue.

just flat out greed again, the downtown mafia sets up something that sounds good in a soundbite, yet their buddies make out like moneychangers in a temple.

Anonymous said...

We really need to get rid of the stupid bike lane in Broad Ripple and make 62nd St. four lanes, again.

Have cities become unproductive places where bad liberal/progressivist ideas drive everyone to the suburbs?

No bike lanes in Carmel.

Anonymous said...

First, let it be clear that this writer is an avid bicyclist and endorses the use of bikes and access to bikes. However, the real scam is the way the bike share program has been described, particularly in conjuction with the cultural trail, i.e. rent a bike, enjoy the trail. Who in their right mind would knowlingly rent a bike for 29:59 minutes, turn it in, ride another 29:59 minutes and so on. Even if you understand the "pricing", which I defy anyone to read one or two times and completley understand, who would bring the family, say a family of 5, downtown for an outing along the trail or other sites. (this has to be the market focus, certainly on weekends when the downtown business persons would not use the bikes and there is little market for business persons to use the bike during the week) First you must pay $8 to simply access a bike ( 5 x$8 = 40) and then tell the wife and kids, you have to turn the bike in before 29:59 minutes elaspes and get another bike. When I contacted the program, I was bluntly told that the program is not a bike rental program, just a bike share program. Why market the program in conjunction with the cultural trail, unless the intention is to dupe, even the most astute, into paying $8 simply to access the bike for an intial 29:59 minutes and don't use it for more that 29:59 without checking it in an back out or pay a hefty additional amount. How impractical and frankly deceptive. But I will bet a large sum nothing will change, the program will will dodge the concerns, say it is run like other bike share programs in big cities and suggest that its the riders fault as he or she did not read the "pricing", which is nearly incomphrehensible

j . j . said...

Your blog post is a bait and switch. The fees aren't hidden. I have a yearly membership, and I am well aware of the "catch" as you call it. It's just the way the system works.

How many commenters have used bikeshare? It works really well for what it is - a way to head from place to place on short trips without worrying about how you're going to get back or parking or driving or whatever. It isn't supposed to be a rental program where you can take the bike home for a day. If that's what you're after, go buy a $20 garage sale bike (it disposable at that price!) and go to town riding all over! Heck, for that price you don't even have to lock it up!

I love the bike share, the idea of it, and there's no use condemning it because people can't or don't take the time and effort to understand what it is. This post should have been focused on how people need to be more responsible for their own actions.

j . j . said...

I just walked by the bike share kiosk in Fountain Square. It is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR how the program works by reading two simple sentences. There is even an example of how it works and how much it would cost in the example.

On the argument about the program's parameters and its partnership with the cultural trail, the trail isn't a bike-only experience. I don't see what is wrong with encouraging people to bike from one point to another, then to continue their exploration on foot. Or if you want to continue biking, check in an out and you're on your way. There are a ton of share points along the way.

I just don't see how this is a scam. The rules are clearly stated, the concept is clearly stated (whether you agree with it or not), and the stations are generously planted along the cultural trail. If folks want more than that, perhaps they *should* rent a bike for a day (not sure that we have that program here) or better yet, BYO!

Anonymous said...

"It's just the way the system works". The system is already broken.

Anonymous said...

Its so "ABSOLUTELY CLEAR" that refunds are being given by the program; users are willingly incurring $150.00 in charges and depsite the pricing being so "ABSOLUTELY CLEAR".

Anonymous said...

"I am well aware of the "catch" as you call it. It's just the way the system works."

That's not a "system;" it's a scam and needs to be shut down immediately by Curry as fraud. If the scam has a license with the City, City Legal should cancel it.

Plain language controls in contracts. When you rent a bike for an hour, that's plain language, and no further qualification is allowed.

This is a scam, and these fraudulent profits need to be disgorged.

Indy Rob said...

I can also see another problem with this lame-o check the bike in every 30 minutes. You rent a bike for three hours since you plan to go to fountain square to have dinner and a beverage with friends. You ride 4 miles on your rented bike, put it in the rack to check it in, eat dinner, then come outside and discover that every available bike was rented leaving you stuck 4 miles from your starting point.

Anonymous said...

I'd compare this scam to the "Buy Here-Pay Here" car lots that also have fine print that "your weekly payment is due by Friday at 4:00 p.m. and no late payments are accepted. If not paid by 4:00 p.m. in our office, you lose all money paid for the car and it is repossessed and sold" over and over again.

j . j . said...

4 miles!?! Jesus, where are you riding into fountain square from? The circle is 1.5 miles from fountain square. There are at least 4 share stations in that general direction, providing at least 25 - 30 bikes on average at any given time within that stretch. Fir the first time in 3 months for me tonight, there were no mikes in FS. DARN, I has to walk to the hinge to get a bike...actuall, that's where I was going anyway. Quick check, there are 9 bikes waiting on me to leave. You guys are grievance mongers. Go volunteer your time for a good cause instead if spending it here.

tryexcept said...

Boy, if there were only a way to know how much this cost that was posted where the rider can see it...
http://imgur.com/xQ5Go4p

Pete Boggs said...

JJ: Only in a crime syndicate would this predatory scheme be considered a "best practice."

It's sleazy business; the stuff we ask AG's to investigate when phone companies do it.

j . j . said...

I figured it out "tryexcept" - the critics simply cannot read!

Gary R. Welsh said...

Let's see how much longer the 30-minute rule stays in effect. I'll lay odds that the pricing structure will be changed real soon based upon the negative feedback the pricing structure is getting.

Brent said...

The structure is going to stay as it works great for what they are trying to provide. I've used these in both Denver and DC and if your downtown trying to get from mass ave to fountain square it's much cheaper and easier then a cab or walking or trying to find parking etc.