Divvy Expanding to 475, Possibly 550, Docking Stations

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Riding Divvy bikes on the lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

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.

“Chicagoans have thoroughly embraced Divvy and the idea of bike sharing as part of their everyday commutes,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “These additional resources will allow us to extend the system at no expense to Chicagoans.” That’s not exactly true, since CMAQ and other federal infrastructure grants require that local funds pay for 20 percent of the cost of a project and, of course, Chicago residents pay federal taxes as well, but the grant is still a great boon to our local bike network.

The $27.5 million cost of launching the first 400 stations was bankrolled by $18 million in CMAQ money and $4 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery funds, plus $5.5 million in local dollars. In four months of operation, the system has racked up some 650,000 trips and 1.5 million mile, with 125,000 daily passes and 11,000 annual memberships sold.

CDOT also announced that it has applied for a $3 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant for another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. 20 of these would be used to expand the system into Evanston and Oak Park, according to Deputy Commissioner Sean Weidel, who said the suburban stations would be interoperable with ones within the city limits.

380 of the 400 planned docking station locations. View in a larger map.

The initial 400 station sites were chosen with an emphasis on locations with high population density, as well as access to transit stations, retail, employment centers and other trip generators. While the coverage area is fairly evenly distributed between the North and South Sides, it generally extends only a few miles west of the lakefront.

CDOT’s quest for density, which officials said was necessary to make the system financially solvent in it’s early days, also resulted in a disproportionate number of stations being sited in largely white, relatively affluent neighborhoods. A number of low-income communities of color on the South Side neighborhoods have also received Divvy bikes, but at a lower station density, and most West Side neighborhoods have not gotten bikes yet. Weidel promised the new funding will be used to add more stations to less Divvy-dense areas currently in the planned coverage area, as well as expanding the system to new areas, including more low-income communities.

Another issue that has limited Divvy access has been the challenge of making memberships available to unbanked Chicagoans, since a daily pass or membership requires using a credit card to ensure the $1,200 bike replacement fee will be covered in case of loss or theft. CDOT has talked to community organizations and churches about splitting the financial liability for memberships for their clients and parishioners, but so far interest has been light.

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Riding on Douglas Boulevard in Lawndale. Photo: John Greenfield

“We have an outreach meeting this afternoon to discuss this issue,” Weidel said today. “After numerous conversations over the last few months, we think it’s equally important to work with the banked in diverse communities to increase active transportation use, including Divvy. We’ll be working with trusted community partners on this and the unbanked issue over the next few months.” One such outreach project is the Go Bronzeville transportation demand management program, which we’ll be reporting on in the near future.

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.

  • Tyler

    The best news!

  • Anonymous

    Plenty of room to expand on the NW side, too. I’m curious about all the Divvy ads on bus shelters up this way.

    “Divvy: You can’t ride one anywhere near here, but if you’re ever closer to the lake, try it out!”

  • Roland Solinski

    This is kind of a side point, but I’m kind of tired of the “at no expense to taxpayers” meme.

    If the Mayor really believes the benefits of Divvy are so great, then he should be making the case for why Chicago taxpayers should support the system financially. Anything else is a recipe for financial disaster as Federal or state funding will inevitably go away over time. The ongoing costs of running Divvy are peanuts compared to what the city spends on roads and transit service, so it’s not like we couldn’t find the funds locally.

  • Jakub Muszynski

    I see those all the time, maybe less frequently now. Still is a little funny to see the ads and the nearest bike is a few miles away. Let Go NW side, expand here even if it is less dense.

  • Mateo

    We’ve got the bus shelter ads on the SW side too, with the closest Divvy station about 2 or 3 miles away.

  • Bruce

    Good news!

    Comparing to NYC and Montreal made me wonder about Paris. Before they downsized earlier this year, Velib had 20,000 bikes at 1230 stations for a city of 2.2 million residents (living in about a fifth the area of Chicago). This comes out to one bike for every 110 residents.

    Chicago should keep striving.

  • Anonymous

    The federal funds are being used to install the new stations and not for operational costs. The goal is that the system will become self-sufficient with memberships and day passes paying for operations. With the great service already provided by Alta bikeshare, the number of members and day passes already being sold, and the high level of satisfaction from current members Divvy is definitely off to a great start.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I bet the South Side has it even worse. Love to be at a bus stop near, say, Pullman. I bet they have the ads there, too.

  • Hey, a Divvy membership can be very useful even if you don’t live anywhere near the current coverage area. Lots of people who live in Pullman take Metra to work. Divvy is the perfect way to get from the downtown station to your workplace, and run errands during your workday.

  • Anonymous

    They have the ads on bus shelters on Austin Avenue on the boarder of Park and Austin as well. In a way, though, it makes sense. People in the farther out neighborhoods are some of the most likely candidates to find themselves in the loop/lake area without access to a bike outside of the Divvy system.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree. One task of the federal government is to make policy decisions and provide grant money to implement those decisions. So this kind of CMAQ spending is fitting, if your policy is to reduce congestion, improve air quality, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Ironic, isn’t it? Making the distinction between local and national taxpayers.

    Taxpayers are still paying for it, they just found a way to spread it out amongst a larger group.

  • Bryan

    The complaints about the south side low income neighborhoods being under-served is a bit tiresome. Bike share works best in densely populated areas. Many of the south and west neighborhoods don’t fit that bill. Do you want a system that works and is financial viable or do you want a system that fails but evenly serves all neighborhoods and avoids having the race card pulled?

    Like it or not, the low income neighborhoods on the South and West sides will be where the Divvys go to die. That’s where the majority of Divvys will be slashed and trashed. That’s where the lowest usage is/will be. But you can’t say that. You’ll (I’ll) be called racist and insensitive.

    Anyhow, I’m glad Divvy at least started in the Loop and northside neighborhoods to show the system can work. I hope it doesn’t face the same fate as the Paris bike share system.

  • I’m sympathetic to CDOT’s argument that their first priority is keeping the system afloat financially. Divvy isn’t going to benefit low-income Chicagoans if it doesn’t exist. On the other hand, we don’t want to replicate Denver’s experience where, in a city that is about 50 percent people of color, surveys show that about 90 percent of the people who use it are non-Hispanic whites. That would be analogous to having a CTA system, subsidized by taxpayers, where almost all of the riders were Caucasian.

    There are already dozens of Divvy stations in low-income Chicago neighborhoods, and I have heard zero reports of theft or major vandalism in these areas. As for Paris, they have had a lot of experience with these problems, but a 2012 report said that these issues have recently dropped significantly. Overall, the Paris program has been highly successful, so I hope Divvy does face the same fate.

  • Fred

    Even in your stock photo of people on Divvy bikes on the lakefront one of them is on a cell phone.

  • Bryan

    errr let’s not be like Paris…

    “Paris’ bike-share system, Vélib’, is reportedly set to significantly reduce its fleet due to rampant theft and vandalism, with 9,000 bikes reported mangled or missing in 2012 alone.”

    http://www.france24.com/en/20130920-france-theft-vandalism-paris-bike-share-system-velib
    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/09/paris-thefts-and-vandalism-could-force-bike-share-shrink/7014/

    From a quick read it seems the Paris bikes aren’t equipped with GPS and have a weaker locking mechanism than Divvy, so they may have served as a guinea pig for some of the newer systems.

  • Brian
  • Anonymous

    The Tribune article reports the same thing that is in this article: “CDOT also announced that it has applied for a $3 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant for another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. 20 of these would be used to expand the system into Evanston and Oak Park…” Let’s hope the state comes through.

  • Anne A

    I was riding my bike recently on 115th St. just west of Pullman. There was a Divvy ad on a bus stop. I’ve also seen lots of them along 95th St. and in other south side locations that are miles from the nearest Divvy station.

    On the positive side, on weekends when I want to use a bike downtown or on the north side and trains are crowded (or it’s a Metra bike blackout weekend), I don’t have to worry about taking my bike on the train. I can use Divvy instead.

  • Fred

    Are Oak Park and Evanston getting bike share, or are they getting Divvy?

  • Both.

  • Anonymous

    If the ITEP grant is approved . . .and it would be the Divvy form of bike sharing.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the Trib piece is worded a bit awkwardly, but reading it again it does say there’s a separate grant being pursued that has not yet been awarded – the ITEP grant that would fund the Chicago, Evanston, and Oak Park expansion.

  • Anonymous

    I understand that. But there are many people who live in the area who do not take the train downtown. It’d be really nice for people to be able to head to Jefferson Park and ride Divvy down to Logan Square on Milwaukee (after they finish the construction). And it’s kinda cruel to have the fact dangled in front of them that there’s this cool, gleaming service that is completely absent anywhere near them.

    South side included. Divvy is the perfect service for things like grocery trips, etc, and entire swaths of the city are not only ignored, but there isn’t even talk of “if we get funding, we expect to expand there in N years” talk.

    I just moved to Portage Park from Edgewater, and the differences couldn’t be more stark for a *5* mile distance. It’s shocking to me (infrastructure differences, attitudes by drivers), and I don’t quite understand. I started riding in the early 2000s when you could ride thru Rogers Park and barely see anyone. Now it’s different, and I just don’t understand why those changes that happened on the east side are not being brought to the NW/South sides, that’s all.

    The only thing I can figure is that the expressway barrier really is that large of a break for cycling that it’s night & day. And Divvy seems to be the perfect way to jumpstart cycling in areas that could use the improvement, so I guess I don’t understand why the “if you build it they will come” attitude doesn’t apply to areas that could use it.

  • Once they have enough ‘spare’ stations available, one step I’d like to see taken that would help spread them out through the city is a commitment to have a Divvy station within two blocks of every Chicago Public Library branch. Not only can libraries drive trips (since “I have to return a book/use a computer for 20min” is an ideal low-cargo bike trip), but they often end up being somewhat nodal for neighborhood activity, so knowing you can just go to the library and ‘check out’ a bike would be great. It might help people learn what the nearest next couple of libraries to them are, too — and what is near them that can help trip-chain on bicycle errand running.

    Of course, then they’d also have to be sure that each of those library stations had at least two other Divvy stations within a half-hour casual riding distance. :->

  • Anonymous

    Another great use, indeed. And for the linking, I’d think you would have major bike routes where the Divvy stations are put. Milwaukee seems to be a prime candidate, as Jefferson Park has bike lanes going almost all the way up to the North Branch. Spoke off of that with CPL locations, and now you’ve got something.

  • Anonymous

    I know you’ve moved from north to south side, Anne, so I’m sure you know what it’s like. And I’m pretty sure when you started riding in Rogers Park, there weren’t many others. And I’m sure you’re leading by example riding more on the south side. That’s all I figure I can do at this point…get out there and be visible so people see that riding in these areas is possible.

  • Fred

    My question was not meant to imply that Divvy is not bike sharing. My question was whether it will be Divvy or branded differently with different fees and memberships required. Divvy is a City of Chicago program, not a regional program, so I didn’t know. Them being Divvy is a good thing!

  • I’d blame urban form, particularly on the NW side in regards to commercial development. Much of it is auto-oriented which encourages NW siders to drive. Up where I live in Jefferson Park, Milwaukee Ave. is a 5 lane STROAD (with bike lanes!) and feels dangerous to ride on. Much of the retail activity is in strip malls, big box or on-street with plentiful parking.

    This being said, the City needs to find a way to extend Divvy to all parts of the city. Fine, build the market in downtown and the near neighborhoods, but for equity reasons it needs to provide Divvy in the outlying neighborhoods in strategic locations.

  • Anne A

    You got it right. Leading by example is what I’ve been trying to do with my Vincennes bike train effort (back again in the spring), community outreach for Streets for Cycling, various south side rides, work on the Major Taylor Trail, etc. Little by little I’m seeing more people riding for transportation in far south side neighborhoods.

    When I started bike commuting from Rogers Park in 1997, I saw very few others doing it. I know only a few people who commute downtown from anywhere south of 83rd St. I’m hoping to encourage a few more by continuing to get out there, be visible and have conversations. I hope you do, too.

  • Anne A

    Portage Park vs. Edgewater – different worlds for sure. You have as big a barrier in the Kennedy as we do with I-57 and I-94.

  • R

    Growing up in Jeff Park, you are exactly right about the auto oriented development, I mean just look at the ACTUAL 6 corners (probably one of the most dangerous crossings for peds/bikes in the city). As per Milwaukee, Ald Arena has said that they are trying to get sharrows and markings between Addison to Foster, and from Foster to Devon North Branch trail (where it is 70’+ wide) will be actual PROTECTED BIKE LANES!!! (though im nervous about the feedback from residents)

  • Leslie

    I wonder why there isn’t a Divvy Dock Station planned for the intersection of Chicago and Western. This seems to be an obvious location for one as the #66 Chicago bus and #49 Western bus are both in the top 5 bus routes in the city with greatest number of ridership. Furthermore, this neighborhood is growing rapidly (Ukrainian Village/West Town) and I’m sure many residents would benefit from not having to wait for those two buses all the time on a sunny day when riding a bike can be an option. Divvy is losing some serious $$$ by not having a dock at this intersection.

  • Alex

    You can suggest locations for divvy stations here. Also ‘thumbs up’ your favorite locations already suggested.

    http://share.chicagobikes.org

  • Leslie

    Hey thanks, Alex! Very helpful site. Hopefully it’ll actually make a difference.

  • Neil Clingerman

    Speaking of the northwest side, I’m actually surprised at how sparse coverage is in Logan Square, given the demographics of that neighborhood.

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