Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Thomas P. LaSalvia

Committee Members

Rui M. Pereira

Ronald D. Smith


This paper analyzes the adoption of bicycle sharing systems (BSSs) in a sample of five U.S. cities including Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland OR, and Washington DC. This paper builds on studies of BSS usage that model usage as a function of city-specific variables. It expands on previous studies by placing the analysis of BSS usage in a product-diffusion context, the range of analysis is a time series spanning the first 36 month of each system’s operation. This analysis seeks to develop a microeconomic model of incentives that predicts city-level usage as the collection of individual product adoption decisions. The adoption decisions are made in the presence of incentives to adopt, stemming from benefits of BSS as a transportation mode and from urban social dynamics. The incentive model is mathematically formulated as a city’s representative agent’s (RA’s) transportation mode choice. The RA’s level of BSS usage, measured as the portion of trips taken with the BSS, is utility-maximizing and is determined with a discrete choice model of transportation. The usage level is modelled as a function of select city-wide variables that correspond to the incentives that potentially influence BSS adoption decisions. This paper’s empirical section tests the incentive model’s predictions with time series regressions for each city over the span of the first 36 months of operation. The econometric model estimates that housing prices have a significant positive effect on BSS adoption, unemployment has an insignificant effect, and the member usage share has a significant negative effect on BSS adoption. The results of this paper identify the direction of factors relevant to BSS adoption in some of the sample cities. They also enable a relative comparison between cities, housing prices in Boston, for example, are predicted to have a relatively large effect on BSS adoption. Finally, the incentive model of urban product adoption developed in this paper can be expanded to carry out a more in-depth study of BSS or applied to help understand the adoption of an entirely different product.

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