The strategic work to reduce drive-alone commutes in Downtown Durham began in 2018 after collaborating with Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight to compete as one of 35 Champion Cities in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge. An original grant of $100,000 funded the testing of strategies to reduce drive-alone commuting into Downtown Durham. The tested interventions, personalized routes, and a bus lottery system provided a 9% reduction in drive-alone employee commuting. Thanks to this success, the City of Durham was declared a 2018 Mayors Challenge Winner and received a $1 million grant to test drive-alone commute reduction strategies further.

Bull E-Bike Pilot:

In 2021, the journey of the Bull E-Bike Pilot began. The team developed a partnership with SharedStreets, a non-profit organization that focuses on building digital transportation infrastructure. The partnership will allow the City of Durham to use hundreds of e-bikes acquired from a private micro-mobility company resulting in the creation of the Bull E-Bike Pilot. SharedStreets is designing new hardware and software to allow the available e-bikes to be usable again. This opportunity has also provided the city with the ability to use this infrastructure as part of its Bloomberg Mayors Challenge work. The project will use advanced technology, a focus on human thought, and outreach strategies to learn the transportation needs of downtown shift workers. It is essential to note shift workers have been historically left out of the transportation demand management (TDM) research field.

Where We Are Now:

The team continues developing a bridge of trust with community members by learning their specific transportation needs. The team has contacted Downtown Durham businesses virtually and in-person to recruit potential paid interviewees. As of late February, the team has interviewed four individuals (Downtown employees and a business owner) who provided insight into the advancement of the Bull-E-Bike Pilot. The quotes featured below are from one of the workers we were fortunate to interview.

Last month, the team had the opportunity to present all of our Bloomberg Mayors Challenge projects to our new Mayor, Elaine O’Neal. It was a pleasure to share the history of our program, the accomplishments, and our goals as we continue developing the Bull E-Bike Pilot. We look forward to working closely with her and her team in the coming months.

E-Bike employee quote

Next Steps: 

We will continue conducting exploratory interviews with employees who work in Downtown Durham. As the project grows, so will our team. We are searching for a bike mechanic and local experts on equity-centered community outreach.