A Disappointing Nice Ride Experience

Nice Ride Midtown

Nice Ride Midtown

In my last post, I mentioned that I was able to spend a rainy Saturday hanging out in North MPLS.  Since it was raining at 8:00 AM when I had to show up in the morning, I had decided not to ride my bike.  So Mel dropped me off.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to get home at the end of the day since Mel had other plans.

By about 3:00 when we had finished working for the day, however, the sun had come out and it was shaping up to be a nice afternoon. It occurred to me that I could use Nice Ride, the local bike sharing program to get home! Huzzah!

Luckily, I had previously downloaded the Nice Ride app for Android, which is a handy tool that shows you on a Google map exactly where you are, where the Nice Ride stations are, and the status of that station.

I was pretty deep into North MPLS, a little beyond the Nice Ride service area, so the nearest station was about 0.8 miles away. It was a pretty easy 15 minute walk, which gave me plenty of time to ruminate on the subject of bike sharing and transit.

As a side note:

In my case, I thought it was interesting that I greatly preferred to use the bike sharing system over taking transit, and I am decidedly pro-transit.  Despite the fact that I was walking along Lyndale Avenue in North MPLS, which I assume is a heavily traveled bus route. I know that parts of North MPLS have some of the best bus service in the metro area.  Still, there were too many unknowns for transit to be an attractive option: how long until the next bus arrives? Which route do I want? Where will that bus take me? How many transfers will I have to make? How long will the trip take?  None of that info is readily available to potential transit users in Minneapolis that haven’t planned ahead. I know there are 800 numbers you can call, and probably an Android App to download that would tell me that, but that was still enough of a hurdle that it wasn’t an attractive option.  Nice Ride, on the other hand, put me in complete control of my route and my timing.  For me, Nice Ride was the obvious choice. Or maybe I just like bikes. I dunno.

Unfortunately, Nice Ride was not as convenient as I had hoped it would be. When I arrived at the Nice Ride station at 26th Avenue N and Lyndale Avenue, I found the station to be entirely out of commission. It was powered on, with the touchscreen encouraging me to “touch here to start.” But no amount of touching yielded any results. I was just out-of-luck.

I called customer service, but after waiting on hold for several minutes, I decided I should just start walking to the next station on Broadway Avenue, about 0.6 miles away. I managed to complete most of the 0.6 mile walk while I was still on hold. Eventually, a service representative answered and thanked me for reporting the problem, but did not provide the apology I felt I deserved at the time for the inconvenience.

Luckily, the Broadway Avenue Station was fully functional, and my ride from North MPLS to my home in Powderhorn was relatively uneventful.

The point of this rambling post is as follows: I really want Nice Ride to be successful, but this type of technical malfunction is unacceptable. I’ve only tried using Nice Ride twice now, but both of my experiences with the system have involved calls to customer service because some aspect of the system wasn’t working correctly. All I can say is that I hope the regular users of the system are having much better luck with the system than I have had.

Have you experienced similar technical problems with Nice Ride, or am I just lucky?

14 comments to A Disappointing Nice Ride Experience

  • Interesting. I agree on being pro-transit but more pro-bike for the exact same reasons you cite. After a little misadventure getting on the wrong bus, I would have given my left arm for a NIce Ride station on Marshal and Snelling, too. As far as I can tell, Metro Transit has no apps for a phone at all, so the questions about how long will I wait and how many transfers do I have to make would probably have remained mysteries nonetheless.

  • “how long until the next bus arrives? Which route do I want? Where will that bus take me? How many transfers will I have to make? How long will the trip take? None of that info is readily available to potential transit users in Minneapolis that haven’t planned ahead.”

    I use Google Maps (on my phone) for that info at least a few times a week. It hasn’t failed me yet and works far better than the Metro Transit Trip Planner.

  • marla

    maybe i’m missing the point of this story, but i find it rather funny that mel had other plans.
    😉

    i’d like to try the bike thing … just because they look cool.

    ps they should give you a free bike for your troubles.

  • Moe

    I’ve only used Nice Ride once and didn’t have any issues so hopefully you just have bad luck :)

    If you have a smart phone you are good to go with Metro Transit, but otherwise you really are kinda out of luck unless you planned ahead. What I’d love to see is a pocket NYC Subway style map for city buses. It might not have times, but at least you’d be able to tell where a bus goes. Heck, make it color coded and simplify some lines.

  • Melanie

    @marla- Yea, Reuben makes it sound like I had some sneaky “other plans” – like I sat around twirling my evil moustache and thinking of ways to leave him stranded. Lol. Next time I’ll get him!!!

  • Reuben,
    I apologize for the troubles. I agree with everything you say, the system needs to operate a the same level of reliability as other transit to be successful. I’m on my way to 26th and Lyndale N to get it straightened out. I’m also aware that our customer service needs improvement. The wait time is unacceptable and you certainly should have been provided with and explanation and/or apology. I will follow up on that as well. Thanks for the article, I appreciate you support.

    Mitch Vars
    Nice Ride Minnesota

  • @Joey – I’ve never used that Google Maps functionality. Maybe I’ll check it out sometime.

    @Melanie – Yes, evil mustache indeed. I’m just hoping that after the baby comes, you will get back to your normal grooming habits.

  • @Reuben, I’ve used it in other cities too (DC, San Diego, and New York). In New York it worked especially well because it pulled together info from multiple transit operations. I often use it from my computer but when I’m on the go, it uses GPS to find where I am and all I need to enter is my destination. It’s nifty!

    @Mitch, thanks for not making excuses. There’s nothing more frustrating than an organization refusing to acknowledge problems that exist. I live in Burnsville so I haven’t used Nice Ride yet but I’d love to see it succeed and expand.

  • Interesting, I’ve used Nice Ride over a dozen times since it launched, and other than occasionally having trouble getting a bike out of the rack I haven’t had any problems. I actually bought a year membership this year because I wanted it as an option when plans take me places where I may want to use alternative forms of transit than a bike later in the evening.

  • Jimmy

    A little late to the party, but I’ll second what Joey recommended. Google Maps, either the plain-Jane Android app (I assume iOS, too) or on the main website, is a great tool to overcome the unknowns about public transit. It allows you to enter a destination and a starting point (or use GPS to locate yourself like Joey suggested) and gives you numerous options, alternate routes, etc. WAY better than the MT online tools or packing around a bus schedule (although I also keep several of them in PDF form on my Android for my usual routes).

    On another topic, I now have concerns about how a proposed light-rail to EP would affect existing bus services… oh, change.

  • @Mitch – I second what Joey has said. Thanks for not making excuses. I really have high hopes for the system. Like a lot of folks, I’m still trying to figure out exactly how the system is useful to people like me that already have a garage full of bikes. I’m glad I found myself a little stranded in an unfamiliar neighborhood this weekend because it gave me the opportunity to try Nice Ride again. Other than the station being out of order, I was completely satisfied. Keep up the good work, and best of luck with the technical issues.

  • Ren

    I used NiceRide twice last year and expect I’ll use it again this year at least a couple times when I have out of towners visiting. My only issue was a “user error” I won’t even go into cuz it was such a “duh” moment.

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