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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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Using Citi Bike Data to Figure Out Where Cyclists Ride

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O'Brien

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O’Brien

It’s been a week since Citi Bike released a trove of data on bike-share trips, and the public is already using the information to pick out patterns in ridership and glean new details about the demographics of Citi Bike riders.

In addition to identifying the busiest late-night stations to map nightlife hotspots, statistician Ben Wellington at I Quant NY used a neat feature in the data to show which stations attract different types of Citi Bike riders.

Riders in Midtown, for example, tend to be slightly older and overwhelmingly male. The share of female riders is highest in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. When it comes to age, however, those neighborhoods are split: The East Village has some of the system’s youngest average ridership, while users of stations near public housing and co-ops near the Williamsburg Bridge are, on average, among the system’s oldest.

Wellington also used the data to verify what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Casual users who purchase day or week passes are concentrated near popular tourist destinations in Midtown, the Financial District, and along the Hudson River Greenway.

While DOT said before Citi Bike’s launch that the system would map each rider’s route, that data was not included in last week’s release. Instead of tracking actual routes, London-based geographer Oliver O’Brien created an estimate by combining Citi Bike ridership data with a map of bike lanes from OpenStreetMap. O’Brien used starting and ending locations for 5.5 million bike-share trips over eight months to map direct routes for each trip, weighting the route choice towards bike lanes and paths.

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Chuck Schumer Proposes Making Bike-Share Memberships Tax Deductible

If you drive to work, the IRS allows you to pay for parking with pre-tax money. Same goes if you take the train or the bus (though transit commuters can’t claim as much tax-free earnings as car commuters). People who ride their own bikes are also eligible to deduct some associated costs. But if you get to work using Citi Bike, Divvy, Nice Ride, or any of the other bike-share systems sprouting up in American cities, you get no such assistance from Uncle Sam.

Those to use bike share to commute to work may soon be eligible for the same tax benefits everyone else receives. Photo: Steven Vance

People who ride bike-share to work may soon be eligible for tax benefits like other commuters. Photo: Steven Vance

New York Senator Chuck Schumer wants to change that by treating bike-share memberships like other commuting costs. Schumer plans to add an amendment to a Senate package of tax benefit extensions that would specifically list bike-share memberships as an eligible expense for transportation fringe benefits.

“Bike share programs are an efficient, healthy, and clean form of mass transportation, and they should be treated the same way under the tax code as we treat car and mass transit commuters,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The amendment would allow commuters to deduct up to $20 per month in bike-share expenses from their taxable income, the same as regular bike commuters. That would make the entire cost of an annual bike-share membership tax-deductible. Chicago’s Divvy, for instance, is prices at $75 per year, NYC’s Citi Bike costs $95, and at the very high end of the spectrum, Deco Bike in Miami Beach costs $150. For commuters, a low-cost transportation option could become an even better bargain.

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New Citi Bike Data on Individual Trips Shows How Bike-Share Links to Transit

Today, Citi Bike opened up a treasure trove of data on how people are using the system, giving the public access to details of individual trips, featuring information such as starting point, ending point, trip time, bike identification number, and anonymous information about the bike user, including gender, age, and whether the rider was  using a day, week or annual pass.

With today’s news, Citi Bike has joined sister systems in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco in releasing data about individual bike-share trips, not just aggregate data on the total number of trips and members.

The data, from July 2013 to February 2014, gives the public an opportunity to look for patterns in how New Yorkers and tourists use bike-share. To prepare its release, Citi Bike worked with NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, which got a head-start on analyzing the data.

“We got it about three weeks ago,” said Sarah Kaufman of the Rudin Center. “September seemed to be the most interesting [month of data],” she said. “Everyone is going to work and school and the temperature is still temperate enough that people are still interested in biking.”

Kaufman, along with Jeff Ferzoco of linepointpath and data visualization specialist Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, sorted through the data to create maps and animations.

Some patterns jumped out as the group began its work. First was the difference between annual members and riders using day or weekly passes. “The casual riders, they’re clearly tourists,” Kaufman said. “They’re concentrated around the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center site, the bottom of Central Park.”

Another pattern that emerged: Late-night bike-share rides, especially on weekends and holidays, often involve pairs of riders going from the same starting place to the same destination within a minute or two of each other. “People are biking together,” Kaufman said. “It’s interesting to see these Citi Bike couples.”

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share use. Image: Rudin Center

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share usage. Image: Rudin Center

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Boston Doctors Now Prescribing Bike-Share Memberships

The newest tool for doctors in the fight against obesity? That’s right: Bike-share.

Doctors in Boston are now prescribing Hubway memberships. Photo: Hubway

Doctors in Boston are now prescribing Hubway memberships. Photo: Hubway

This week in Boston, doctors introduced a program called Prescribe-a-Bike, offering low-income residents struggling with obesity an annual Hubway bike sharing membership for the low price of $5. The program is being administered by Boston Medical Center in partnership with the city of Boston. Qualifying patients will have access to Hubway’s 1,100 bikes at 130 locations. Participants will also receive a free helmet.

“There is no other program like this in the country,” Mayor Marty Walsh told Boston Magazine. “Prescribe-a-Bike makes the link between health and transportation, and ensures that more residents can access the Hubway bike-share system.”

Local officials hope the program will result in about 1,000 additional memberships, according to the Boston Globe.

In the medical community this type of recommendation is known as an exercise prescription, and it is a growing practice. More doctors are prescribing exercise, the CDC says, as “lifestyle diseases” like obesity, heart disease and diabetes have become some of the leading killers in the United States. In addition, police measures like the Affordable Care Act are providing incentives for the healthcare industry shift focus from treatment of disease to the promotion of wellness.

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Should Alta Be Running NYC Bike-Share?

With today’s report in the Daily News that Citi Bike operator Alta Bicycle Share is failing to meet several key performance targets, a short run-down of the current state of bike-share operations in New York City is in order.

What we’ve learned since Citi Bike launched last May is that bike-share works in NYC. It fulfills transportation needs, demand is huge, and people can use it safely in large numbers. Bike-share has tremendous value and could potentially bring a new low-cost, short-distance travel option to many more New Yorkers if it expands beyond the current service area.

The unsettled question is whether the contractors responsible for Citi Bike are cut out to run it in the long term.

One half of this question has already been answered. Bixi, the supplier of the system, had a great bike-share bicycle but messed up royally by ditching their software provider, 8D Technologies. Bixi’s attempts to replace 8D’s platform failed, and Citi Bike performance suffered as a result. When the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, it created an opening that other suppliers (including 8D) can fill. It’s unclear who will furnish NYC bike-share with equipment and technology in the long run, but it won’t be Bixi.

The other half of the question is whether Alta is the right company to run Citi Bike. The city is understandably displeased with Alta’s performance, with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg telling the Daily News she wants to see concrete customer service improvements.

Alta was clearly hobbled to some extent by Bixi’s technology failures, but today’s news that the company’s performance on basic maintenance and operations tasks has actually gotten worse over time doesn’t inspire confidence. Alta, for its part, says it is seeking investors to help it through its current difficulties.

Bike-share in New York has exceeded all projections in terms of membership and usage. If Alta can’t capitalize on that momentum, right the ship, and attract investment, maybe someone else can.

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NYC Subsidizes Lightly-Used Ferries. Why Not Hugely Popular Bike-Share?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Citi Bike is in the red, needing “tens of millions of dollars” to keep running.

The de Blasio administration hopes that private money will be found to rescue Alta Bicycle Share, the company that operates Citi Bike, which is the only large bike-share system in the country not to get public funds.

Other than user fees, the big chunk of revenue for Citi Bike comes from Citibank, which agreed to pay $41 million over a five-year sponsorship contract. MasterCard kicked in $6.5 million as well. It’s unclear how much of that $47.5 million is left. City Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez intends to introduce legislation forcing Citi Bike to open its books, the Journal reports.

In order to get out of the hole, Alta says that it needs to attract more tourists and expand into new neighborhoods. It also wants to increase the program’s rates.

But a $95 annual membership is already a barrier for many New Yorkers. Even after offering $60 annual passes to NYCHA residents, only a few hundred of the system’s tens of thousands of annual members live in NYCHA housing.

Aside from the cost, Citi Bike stations are mostly in affluent neighborhoods. An expansion model that focuses only on attracting more tourists would mean coverage on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, but no stations for Elmhurst, Corona, or Kingsbridge.

Alta is also seeking additional sponsorships. Some suggest that Citibank should step up its contribution. Arguably Citibank has already gotten sufficient return on its $41 million that it would not be unreasonable to ask for more. But the folks at Citibank may be less chummy with Mayor de Blasio than they were with finance industry veteran Bloomberg.

The Journal reports that Alta isn’t seeking city subsidies, but there is a case to be made for public dollars, especially if they are invested in ways to make the program accessible to more communities.

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Report: NYC’s Density and Transit Set Citi Bike Apart

Did you just get off the subway? Chances are you can easily complete your trip in the Manhattan core on a Citi Bike. Image: NYU Rudin

Bike-share has better links to transit in New York than in Chicago or DC. Image: NYU Rudin

Even when adjusted for its size, Citi Bike’s ridership numbers have quickly surpassed comparable systems. While there are many factors shaping Citi Bike’s success, a new report from NYU argues that the program’s connections to transit could be a key to its strikingly high ridership.

Last week, graduate students at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management issued a report that mapped bike-share stations and metro stations in New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. In New York, frequent subway stops in the Manhattan core and nearby Brooklyn mesh closely with the dense network of Citi Bike stations. The result: One in 10 Citi Bike stations is within 100 feet of a subway stop, more than half are within 750 feet and nearly three-quarters are within a quarter-mile. In the other two cities, both rail transit and bike-share stations are spaced farther apart, and their ridership numbers have lagged behind Citi Bike’s.

In the Citi Bike service area, there are 19.7 bike-share stations per square mile, while there are only 6.8 stations per square mile in Chicago and 4.37 per square mile in DC, with both cities spread over a far larger area than Citi Bike. By concentrating in the transit-heavy core, the report argues, Citi Bike has been able to attain ridership numbers above other systems.

“It was striking how many of the Citi Bike stations are within just a five-minute walk [of the subway],” said report co-author Lily Gordon-Koven. “In New York, it works very well if you get off the subway and you want to make a really short trip.”

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Judge Dismisses Brooklyn NIMBY Bike-Share Suit

Keeping it classy at 150 Joralemon. Photo: New York Post

Keeping it classy at 150 Joralemon. Photo: New York Post

Bike-share NIMBYs have lost another lawsuit.

Owners of 150 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights claimed that the siting of a bike-share station on the sidewalk outside the building was “arbitrary and capricious,” according to court documents, and that DOT exceeded its authority in doing so. They dumped their garbage on the station for good measure.

Judge Leon Ruchelsman dismissed the suit last week. Ruchelsman wrote in his ruling that DOT followed its own guidelines and safety criteria when installing the station, and violated no city rules. Building residents had due notice that the station would be located there, Ruchelsman wrote, as their “complaints [date] as far back as the summer of 2012.” The station was installed in April 2013.

The lawsuit was the only one filed over the siting of a Brooklyn bike-share station. The city prevailed in suits seeking to have bike-share stations removed from Petrosino Square and from the street in front of 99 Bank Street. Only the highly entertaining Plaza Hotel lawsuit remains.

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Council Members Say DOT Needs Funds for Vision Zero, Bike-Share Expansion

City Council members today expressed strong support for Vision Zero, bike-share expansion, and other safe streets initiatives, but it’s not clear how they will be funded.

At a transportation committee budget hearing, council members heard from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the MTA, and DOT. Among other issues, reps from each agency were asked how they planned to help reduce traffic injuries and deaths.

“Vision Zero is already underway at DOT,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. Among other projects, work on the Brooklyn Greenway and new public plazas in Bushwick and Washington Heights are on the agenda for FY 2015.

In response to questions about the Vision Zero time frame from chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Jimmy Van Bramer, Trottenberg said DOT is planning a series of borough town hall meetings, followed by more localized forums, to gather citizen input. Still, she said, “Our goal is 50 projects per year,” in keeping with Mayor de Blasio’s pledge for citywide pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure improvements.

Van Bramer, of Queens, and Brooklyn rep Brad Lander asked Trottenberg about bike-share expansion. Lander said he would like to see a “full build-out” of the system, with city funds if needed. While DOT is “very keen” to develop a long-term expansion plan, Trottenberg said, “We’re not there yet.” On a couple of occasions Trottenberg referred to issues caused by the Bixi bankruptcy as one obstacle to overcome. “We’re going to get there as quickly as we can,” she said.

When Van Bramer asked if DOT could more quickly respond to requests for stop signs and speed bumps, which he said can take years to address, Trottenberg said the agency doesn’t have the funds to process all requests at once.

Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose complained about through traffic on Canal Street, with Rose citing the Sam Schwartz fair toll plan as a potential solution. Chin also asked if DOT could deploy “pedestrian managers” as an antidote to NYPD TEA agents, who tend to prioritize vehicle throughput over pedestrian safety.

In addition to supporting bike-share, Lander said the city should come up with funds for DOT to devote to Vision Zero initiatives in general. Steve Levin, of Brooklyn, asked if more money is needed for Slow Zones. More resources are always helpful, Trottenberg said.

While it was generally agreed that it will take additional funds to carry out Vision Zero, no specific figures were discussed.

We’ll have more on the hearing tomorrow.

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Study: Bike-Share Has Boosted the Share of Female Riders in Manhattan

Bicycling in Manhattan has long been a male-dominated mode of transportation, but a new study says bike-share is helping improve the gender balance in the borough’s bike lanes. Another change since the blue bikes hit the streets last summer: Manhattan bike riders are far more likely to follow the rules of the road.

Photo: NY Daily News

Photo: Daily News

The Hunter College study [PDF], culled from observations of more than 4,000 cyclists at locations below 86th Street in Manhattan, showed that women account for 31.1 percent of Citi Bike riders, but comprised only 23.6 percent of other non-delivery cyclists. That’s still below the national average: In North America, about 43 percent of bike-share users are female, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Another key finding verified what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Citi Bike riders make up a larger share of bike ridership on avenues with protected bike lanes than on streets without them. Bike-share riders, the study says, are 32 percent of riders in protected bike lanes, but only 18.1 percent of cyclists on streets without a bike lane at all.

The study found that delivery cyclists made up 18.4 percent of cyclists on the road, while Citi Bike riders comprised 23.2 percent of all riders. All other types of recreational or transportation riders added up to 56.2 percent of people on bikes. (The survey takers could not classify 2.2 percent of cyclists.) The share of Citi Bike riders is slightly below a DOT count of the Citi Bike service area in August, which put the number at 29 percent.

The report comes from professors Peter Tuckel, a sociologist, and William Milczarski, an urban planner. (A previous study they authored on cyclist-on-pedestrian injuries drew fire from fellow Hunter College academics.) For this study, the professors had students observe 4,316 bicyclists age 14 and over at 98 different locations in Manhattan below 86th Street. Counts were performed between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. from June 10 to November 1, though nearly three-quarters of the data was gathered in the final three weeks of October.

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