Don’t Despair, Evanston & Oak Park May Still Get Divvy Stations

Chicago Divvy Bikes July 2013 (60)
Divvy bikes and rebalancing van. Photo by Pam Broviak via flickr

Last month, it was a bummer when the Illinois Department of Transportation announced $52.7 million in funding for transportation projects, including many bike and pedestrian projects, but the expansion of Divvy into the suburbs wasn’t one of them. However, officials say they’re hopeful money can be found to extend the system past the city limits.

Chicago, Evanston, and Oak Park collaborated on an application for a $3 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to buy 75 more bike-share stations. About 20 of these would have been installed in the two suburbs, and many more would have been placed in Chicago’s Garfield Park, Austin, and Rogers Park communities to connect the suburban stations with the existing network.

While a significant chunk of the federally funded ITEP money went to more than a dozen worthy bikeway, sidewalk and streetscape improvements in the Chicago region, no urban bike projects got funding. In a blog post, Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke celebrated the suburban wins, but expressed disappointment that the Divvy grant was turned down, since Evanston and Oak Park are ideal candidates for bike-share. “Both suburbs have high densities and ample transit stations, which are key ingredients for generating bike share trips that occur solely within each suburb,” he wrote.

Last Thursday, Mayor Emanuel announced that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will be paying $12.5 million to sponsor Divvy, and the money will be used for expanding the system, as well as other cycling improvements. However, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales told me that money won’t be used for suburban bike-share stations. “Evanston and Oak Park will be responsible for the costs of their stations and operations, and we will be working with them to find other funds for the expansion,” he said.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell attributed the failure of the Divvy ITEP grant proposal to an extremely competitive application process, estimating that two-thirds of the applications didn’t get approved. “[Bike-share] is a concept we’re enthusiastically behind,” he told me. “Anything that encourages more bike use is something we wholeheartedly endorse. It’s just a matter of finding a funding option that fits.”

Tridgell said IDOT is currently in talks with CDOT, Evanston and Oak Park about funding options. The tab for Divvy’s first 475 stations, 300 of which are already installed, plus various startup costs, is $30.5 million. These expenses have been bankrolled by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grants and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery funds, plus a 20-percent local match. The state awards ITEP grants roughly once per year, so that’s another future possibility, Tridgell said.

  • Evanston

    The total budget for Evanston’s part of the project was $472,000. Their parking fund currently has $14.2 million of cash on hand.

  • Eton

    It might be just as well if they don’t get bike share since they apparently are planning on prohibiting bikes on most of the commercial streets in town: http://dailynorthwestern.com/2014/05/03/city/residents-weigh-in-on-preliminary-bike-plan/

  • SP_Disqus

    This is just a preliminary plan put together by a consulting firm and it sounds like it’s by far the most controversial part of the plan so there will likely be some alterations or even just elimination of those provisions. Also, the streets they mention are mainly east-west streets and it seems likely that the main focus of bike share in Evanston will be downtown and around the Northwestern campus which is all on the east side of town.

  • Christine Price

    I would LOVE it if Divvy expanded to Oak Park. It would be a nice place to escape from the city for a day of walking/bicycling/shopping/eating. And I would have an excuse to get to Penzey’s Spices

  • CHICAGO VELOCIPEDE

    3 million dollars is pocket change for a move that will redefine both cities. I will go there more often and spend some Chicago $ around town if they put in bikeshare.

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