In the summer of 2014, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc had just won its second contract to operate the Hubway bike sharing system in the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville in Eastern Massachusetts. Emily Stapleton, Hubway’s General Manager, was engaged in conversations with project managers from each of the four client municipalities about when and where to expand the system. Expansion was on the agenda because Hubway was widely perceived as a success. Nevertheless the system was facing a number of operating challenges, the most important of which was its effort to ensure that bicycles and empty docks were available when and where needed.
The case is designed to be used in a course on operations management to teach the critical fractile method of deciding how much inventory to stock when you can order only once and cannot adjust your order frequency or size in response to the actual rate of inventory depletion. The (A) case describes Hubway and its performance while the (B) case describes in one page the critical fractile method.
The case can also be used in a transportation planning or policy course to support a discussion of the potential role of bicycles in urban transportation. For that use only the (A) case need be assigned.