Taipei City’s YouBike public bicycle system will adopt a progressive pricing scheme and a new regulation barring users from renting bicycles from the same station within 15 minutes of returning them, in an effort to solve the frequently reported problems of bike shortages during peak hours.
Currently, YouBike members can use the bikes for free for the first 30 minutes and pay NT$10 for every subsequent 30 minutes.
The pricing system has created a loophole that sees some users returning their bicycle before the free period expires and then immediately rent the same bike or another one to avoid paying for the service.
The practice has resulted in a shortage of bikes at popular rental stops, particularly those next to busy MRT stations.
Under the new regulations, which are to take effect on Oct. 1, users would have to wait 15 minutes after returning a bike before they can rent from the same station, said the Taipei City Government’s Department of Transportation, which manages the bicycle sharing system.
“However, after considering the possibility that users might have to rent a different bike in the event that the first one is found to be malfunctioning, we will allow them a five-minute window to return it and take another one from the same station,” the department said.
The department said for the first four hours the rental fee would remain NT$10 per half hour, but it would rise to NT$20 between four and eight hours and then jump to NT$30 after that.
After the new pricing system takes effect, users who rent a bicycle for 48 consecutive hours will have to pay NT$3,430, compared with NT$950 under the current system.
According to statistics provided by the department, only 5,600 out of 1.12 million users rented a bike for more than four consecutive hours last month.
The city has established 108 YouBike rental stations and aims raise the number to 173 stations by the end of this year.