At least, by number of stations:
There’s more good news on the Divvy bike-share front. The Chicago Department of Transportation announced this morning that they scored a $3 million federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant to add 75 more docking stations to the 400 already planned. The system recently reached 300 stations and 3,000 bikes.
While the expansion of Divvy is an exciting development, CDOT’s press release exhibits a bit of Second City syndrome, boasting that with 475 stations Chicago will have the largest bike-sharing system in North America and the fifth largest in the world. While it’s true New York City currently has only 331 stations, and Montreal has 434, NYC has about 6,000 bikes and Montreal has about 5,000. Even if the ITEP funding comes through, we’d only have about 5,500 bikes, so it’s wishful thinking to claim Divvy will be larger in the future than the Citi Bike program is now.
On the other hand, as a Streetsblog reader Dennis Hindman pointed out, New York is about 3.07 times the population of Chicago. We currently have roughly one Divvy bike for every 725 residents, almost twice the service level compared to their ratio of one Citi Bike for every 1390 people. Once we expand to about 4,750 bikes, we’ll have one for every 571 Chicagoans, and with 5,500 bikes there will be one for every 497 citizens, almost three times the bike-share density of NYC. That will be something to brag about.
Also, they've got a deal with Chipotle to give away burritos to members next Tuesday. Cool.
Another packed day, another link roundup:
All for now.
Chicago's bike share program could become the nation's largest, thanks to Federal subsidies:
There are currently 300 Divvy stations up and running around Chicago, with 100 more stations in the works to be installed by next spring. Officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation said Wednesday they’ve secured a $3 million federal grant to build 75 additional stations next year, bringing the total to 475 by next year. The grant comes from the US Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.
So far, the U.S. DOT has provided $25 million dollars in federal grant funding toward the Divvy bike share program.
There’s been some criticism that Divvy stations are concentrated downtown, and don’t serve the south or west sides of the city. CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, speaking to alderman at his department’s city budget hearing Wednesday, said they’ll bring Divvy to Englewood by spring, and with this grant, they’ll be able to expand the program farther in all directions.
Klein also mentioned that Oak Park and Evanston could be joining the system next year.
The so-called "Starpath" is a type of solar-enhanced liquid and aggregate made by Pro-Teq Surfacing, a company headquartered southwest of London near the awesomely titled town of Staines-upon-Thames. It's in the prototype phase, with a test path running 460 feet in a Cambridge park called Christ's Pieces. (The British and their delightful names!) The material works by absorbing UV rays during the day and later releasing them as topaz light. In a weird feature, it can somehow adjust its brightness levels similar to the screen of an iPhone; the path gets dimmer on pitch-black nights "almost like it has a mind of its own," says Pro-Teq's owner, Hamish Scott.
Pro-Teq is hoping that governments will embrace its self-aware, supernatural-looking pathway for its energy-saving elements and the ease in which it goes down. The installation is fairly quick (the Cambridge job took about 4 hours), and because it's a resurfacing technique doesn't involve the burdensome disassembly and disposal of existing pathways. "The main bulk of the U.K. path network is tarmac, where perhaps it's coming toward the end of its useful life," says Pro-Teq pitchman Neil Blackmore in the below video. "We can rejuvenate it with our system, creating not only a practical but a decorative finish that's certainly with the Starpath also very, very unique."
From the company's press release:
This product has recently been sprayed onto the existing pathway that runs through Christ’s Pieces open space, Cambridge between the city centre and the Grafton Centre, and is used by pedestrians and cyclists during the day and night.
The Cambridge pathway measures 150 square metres, took only 30 minutes to spray the material on, and the surface was ready for use less than four hours after the job commenced. This short installation time allowed minimal disruption to the public.
Bike hike to Cambridge, anyone?
If you wondered how often people actually ride Divvy bikes, everyone's Divvy online trip summary page has the answer. They put the trip ID right on the page. My first Divvy trip, on September 18th, was #522105; this morning's was #732089. Assuming they use an ID field that auto-increments by 1 for each ride, that means Divvy users rode about 210,000 times in the past 22 days, or about 9,500 times a day (on average). That rate gives them nearly 3.5 million rides over the next 12 months.
Compare that with the CTA's 314 million bus rides and 231 million train rides, though. The 79th Street bus had 10 million rides last year; the #36 bus (one of five that stop near my house) had 5.8 million; most of the 150-odd routes had over a million. So will Divvy actually eat into CTA ridership? Not for a while.
I'll look for more official sources of Divvy participation, especially on revenue.
Probably not. But Bixi, who manufacture the bikes and stations used here in Chicago, has cash-flow problems:
Montréal’s own Bixi bike-share, the inaugural PBSC venture launched in 2009, was the largest system in North America until Citi Bike launched in New York this summer. (Technically, PBSC is the parent entity and Bixi refers to the bike-systems in Montréal and other cities where PBSC runs operations, although in practice the two names are often used interchangeably.) But according to a letter filed last month by Montréal’s auditor general, the company’s finances are in disarray – the latest chapter in a series of money woes that have plagued PBSC and Bixi, which was founded in 2007 by the City of Montréal's parking authority for the purpose of creating a bike-share system for Montréal and is still under the city's administration.
According to numbers released late last month by the City of Montréal, the company is $42 million in debt, with a $6.5 million deficit and $5 million in outstanding payments.
Will PBSC’s ongoing cash-flow problems affect system users in the multiple U.S. cities that use its bikes and docking stations? Mia Birk, vice president of Alta Bicycle Share, insists that the answer is no. Alta is the exclusive operator of Bixi systems in the United States, managing in a total of eight U.S. programs as well as the one in Melbourne, Australia, and acting as the contractor between municipal departments of transportation and PBSC.
Divvy is getting a huge amount of use. I'm interested what will happen in the winter, but regardless, I think the bike-sharing service is popular enough that the Chicago Transportation Dept. would step in if something happened to Bixi.
I hope so, anyway.
Sullivan has a scathing piece about the Republicans shutting down the government again. And closer to home, apparently Chicago has phantom El trains that drive themselves right into other trains.
But yesterday's Atlantic Cities piece on bike-share etiquette is much more enjoyable to think about than either of those:
The central ethos is built into the name. "The whole point of it is it’s bike share, it’s not bike rental," says Kim Reynolds, the office and administrative manager in Washington for Alta Bicycle Share, which operates Capital Bikeshare. In Chicago, the network is called Divvy, which literally means "to divide and share." In Minneapolis and St. Paul, their system is called Nice Ride, a play on the notion that bike-share requires a certain quality that Minnesotans in particular possess.
Bad behavior is technically harder to achieve on a bike. You can’t leave trash in it. The bikes themselves are relatively difficult to damage. And penalties for hogging them are built into the price structure: So you want to take that bike and lock it up outside your office all day? That’s fine. You’ll pay $75 or so in most cities for the right. (Here’s how nice they are in Minnesota: If you do this without understanding the system with Nice Ride, customer service will call you up, gently explain they want their bike back, forgive you, and refund the charge the first time.)
See? Much more pleasant than the rest of the day's news. Or giant, deadly hornets. Better than those, too.
Now 10 days into the Divvy experiment, I have some data. Since receiving my Divvy key on the 17th, I've taken 17 Divvy trips of between 6 and 46 minutes. (The 46 minutes included waiting 15 minutes at a station for a space to open up.)
A Divvy subscription costs $75 per year. The 17 trips I've taken just the past two weeks would have cost $38.25 on public transit. Or, since my average trip is around 14 minutes, it could be the equivalent of about $73-80 in cab fares.
Obviously, I've taken Divvy instead of walking a couple of times. And just as obviously, I wouldn't have taken cabs on most of those occasions as one can reasonably say that any weather appropriate for biking is also fine for waiting for a bus or train.
The biggest value, however, comes from my morning commute. On Divvy, it's 25 minutes door to door. On the LaSalle bus (the second-fastest way) it takes 45 minutes. That gives me 20 extra minutes in my day, which at my billing rate more than makes up for the annual fee.
Divvy is absolutely brilliant. I'm absolutely going to try the local equivalents next time I visit London or New York. Or other cities with similar systems: Montreal Bixi (the first in North America), Paris Velib' (the largest public bike share outside China), or someday Melbourne (helmet vending machines available as well).
My experiment with Divvy—the ugliest form of transportation in Chicago—continues. Yesterday I took, I think, five Divvy rides of varying length, and ran into a problem that will always exist in their model.
It wasn't weather. In fact, on reflection I believe that being able to park and forget the bikes means not caring at all about whether it's going to rain later. If it does, all one needs to do is take another way home.
No, yesterday I encountered a supply problem at the remotest Divvy station on the north side. After a 7 km ride, I got to Logan Square, only to find the Divvy rack was full. I had nowhere to put the bike.
First thing to do in this situation is ask for more time. The kiosks have a "station full" button that gives you 15 extra minutes to find another station. Only, in this case, I felt a little put out, because the station map said the full rack I was staring at actually had two free spots. It continued to say this for an hour, until, like a stuck clock right twice a day, there were finally two open spots.
Fine, the map at Logan Square showed a station only 800 m away. Only, my phone didn't. I went to investigate anyway and discovered, nope, no station, but a spot where they intend to put the station "soon."
I wound up parking the bike at California and Milwaukee, about 1500 m from my original destination, and the weather was gorgeous so walking didn't really bother me that much. But it put me on notice: when a remote station shows nearly-full, don't believe it.
I'm also going to download the developer's tools to find out how often the data get updated. I'll post when I find out.
Well, I've signed up for Divvy, Chicago's bike-sharing program. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I think I'll be able to commute by Divvy without arriving at the office a sweaty mess.
Long-time readers know I used to bike a lot, until my knees decided it was time to stop. Divvy bikes should be a lot easier on my knees than my Felt.
If I use it just a few times rather than taking cabs—for example, tonight, from pub trivia—the sign-up fee will be worth it.
More as events warrant.