Divvy Releases Odd-Looking New Service Area Map, Announces New Initiatives

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The new Divvy coverage areas are shown in Red. Click to Enlarge.

These are exciting times for Divvy bike-share users as the city begins its second major expansion during the system’s three-year history. At the same time, Divvy is rolling out a bunch of new features and services, which they say will make the network function better than ever.

The expansion will add 85 more stations on the South, Southwest, West, Northwest, and Far North sides of the city, as well as 10 stations in Evanston and 13 in Oak Park. After the installations are completed, the system will include 584 stations and almost 6,000 bikes, maintaining its title as one of the largest in North America in terms of stations and cycles. The new coverage area is spread across 100 square miles, so Divvy will continue to be (as the city is fond of pointing out) the largest system on the continent in terms of service area.

The city released the new coverage area map last week, and a few interesting aspects spring to mind. As with last year’s expansion, the new areas generally get half-mile station spacing, as opposed to the quarter-mile spacing that was implemented downtown, and in dense, affluent North Lakefront neighborhoods, during the original 2013 rollout. The system is more convenient to use in areas with a higher station density, since it’s more likely there will be a station within a short walk of your trip’s origin and destination.

On the other hand, the new expansion helps make the system more equitable because most of the new Chicago neighborhoods served are low-to-moderate-income communities of color. The new communities include Burnside, Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, Brighton Park, Englewood, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park and Austin.

The Divvy service area has previously expanded outward from the Loop in a fairly logical manner, with a roughly equal amount of coverage north and south of Madison Street, although the service area didn’t expand nearly as far west. However, the new expansion map is a little odd, with panhandles of service stretching west to Oak Park and north to Evanston.

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This station in Englewood was installed during the 2015 expansion. Photo: John Greenfield

Since the two suburbs were willing to apply for state funding to pay for their stations, as well as chipping in the required 20 percent local match, it makes sense for the Chicago-owned system to expand in their directions. Although the city of Chicago doesn’t have to spend any money for those 23 suburban stations, their presence makes the system more useful for Chicagoans. For example, it will make it easier for West Side residents to access jobs in Oak Park.

But it would be understandable if residents of neighborhoods closer to downtown, but just outside of the panhandles, such as Lawndale, West Humboldt Park, and West Rogers Park, are upset because they got passed over this round in favor of the ‘burbs. The Chicago Department of Transportation would be wise to spread the word that no Chicago funding is being spent on the Oak Park and Evanston Stations.

There’s an odd little node of four new stations being installed on the Northwest Side in the 45th and 39th Wards this round. That’s likely because the local residents and aldermen have been strongly advocating to get stations.

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Why are there a zillion stations in Rogers Park near Howard Street but zero in southwest Evanston?

45th Ward chief of Staff Owen Brugh says Alderman John Arena originally offered to spend tens of thousands of dollars in ward money to purchase stations. But in the end the ward only had to pay a few thousand dollars to build a concrete pad for a Divvy station by one of the local Metra stops. “We think there is a developing bike culture in this area, and if Divvies are there, people will use them,” Brugh said.

The Far North coverage is also a little weird. There’s a dense cluster of stations near Howard Street – two stations near the Howard Red Line stop are barely a block away from each other.

But the ten Evanston stations are mostly concentrated in the northern half of the city, and the locations don’t follow the typical grid pattern used in Chicago and Oak Park. This means there will be a “Divvy desert” in the heart of Evanston. For example, if you’re unlucky enough to live near Main Street and Asbury Avenue (the equivalent of Chicago’s Western Avenue), you’ve got a deal-breaking ten-minute walk to the nearest bike-share location.

This morning Divvy announced a number of new initiatives designed to make the system more convenient and pleasant to use. Over the past year they became the first major bike-share network in the country to use special “dynamic” rebalancing software. This new tool is intended to help Divvy staffers do a better job of redistributing the bikes, so that there are always available bikes and docks at your local station, or at least a short walk away.

This year Divvy is expanding its popular valet service, in which employees staff popular stations and check bikes into a corral area, to ensure you’ll be able to drop off your cycle. Previously this has been done downtown during rush hours and at special events. This year valet service will also be offered at popular neighborhood stations on weekdays, and at more summer festivals and events.

Divvy says they’ve worked with their supplier to replace bike parts with lower-maintenance components. They also say they’ve fine-tuned their bike maintenance protocols to reduce the number of cycles that are out of service at a given time.

Divvy Station Dock
Currently the insides of the Divvy docks are prone to peeling (not shown in this image). Divvy plans to fix that. Photo: Kevin Zolkiewicz.

A pet peeve of mine has been how slow the process of signing up for a day pass or getting a new ride code at a station has been –the kiosks changes screens change at a snail’s pace. In May, Divvy partly solved that problem by introducing a new app that allows you to sign up for a membership and get a ride code via smartphone, without having to stand in line at a kiosk. Now they say they’re introducing a new kiosk interface this month that will be faster and easier to use.

Last but not least, Divvy is tackling the aesthetic issue of nasty-looking, peeling docks. They’re replacing those docks with more durable materials to help keep the stations from being an eyesore.

One more initiative I’d like to see that Divvy is not yet talking about is single-ride fares, a payment option that Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare launched last week, which is also being tried in other cities. CaBi allows you to purchase a 30-minute ride for $2, plus any accrued late fees. It’s a good option for people who want to try the system without committing to a 24-hour pass or annual membership, or just want to use the bikes once in a while to replace transit or cab trips.

Divvy should definitely explore this idea. for many people, a $2 single ride would be a welcome alternative to a $9.95 day pass.

  • Ideally one should be able to use one’s Ventra card. Ideally Divvy should be an extension of a unified transit system CTA/METRA/PACE/DIVVY.

    Is no one discussing bike share network theory? Isn’t the technology old enough that there are some pretty clear ideas of what works where and why?

    And finally, just as I advocate in transit, wouldn’t separating the budgets into coverage and ridership be a useful paradigm? I mean it appears that we are now forced into a kind of “political correctness” overspending on coverage at the expense of ridership. Since no one talks network theory I have no idea if all the really good ridership locations are being sufficiently served. If so then it is appropriate that most of the budget would go to coverage. But we don’t know because no one from Divvy is laying it out for us.

  • Southern and western Evanston are ignored in the Divvy expansion for the same reason the schools there are crappy: the population is browner and not as affluent.

  • Three Green Kashira

    minor pet peeve w/ that official CDOT Divvy map – they still show the station at Augusta & California that was moved into the south end of Humboldt Park.

  • Frank Kotter

    Yes x 1 million! Especially as they are already RFID enabled and can be linked to a bank ID, there should be nothing standing in the way. However, I use bike shares all over the world and I have yet to see this implemented. A truly user-centric and not mode-centric system still seems a ways off. Even various transport apps, which would and should at least give a veneer of intercompatibility are totally siloed.

  • blipsman

    Would LOVE a $2 single ride… there have been times I’d be tempted to ride home from work, but I’m not going to spring $10 for a 24-hour pass to do so.

    Also, I am surprised by the lack of new Divvy racks along the 606. From map, looks like there are only racks at the beginning and end. Would be nice to have near all or most entrances.

  • rohmen

    I’m not familiar enough with Evanston outside of NU’s campus and downtown to compare, but the thing that always helps Oak Park, both in terms of diversity and (hopefully) Divvy going forward, is that outside of the far north parts north of Augusta the neighborhoods are a decent mix of SFH, small to large apartments buildings and two-flats. It’s hard to find a block in OP in the parts south of August that do not have 10 to 20% renters living there. That brings in a healthy mix of incomes, races, etc., and I think more areas could benefit from embracing mixed-residential development planning, rather than having areas where everything is a SFH or a large building with no in between.

  • That development pattern in Oak Park is in no way an accident.

    When Mayor Daley (the First)’s explicitly racist and segregationist policies got really overt (like when he dropped the Dan Ryan down a line between the “black slums” and Bridgeport, where he was from, to keep better-off residents of color from buying houses over the border), Oak Park’s government at the time took a deep breath and said, “Ok, THAT? We’re not like that,” and took a strong stance against their own well-off white residents (who were eyeing Austin and having similar NIMBY, white-flight-inducing fears) to implement deliberately integrationist, mixed-income, SFH-and-rental policies.

  • rohmen

    I agree 100% that Oak Park’s actions are what saved the village from going down the white-flight path (especially where I live, which is blocks from Austin and south of Madison Street), though the mix of housing stock that has allowed OP to maintain diversity has also continued to help (and all of that stock is around 100 years old, so some of it roots back to just continuing to embrace the idea of keeping mixed residential blocks rather than allowing people to buy lots, bulldoze a small apartment building, and put up two huge houses, which unfortunately is often the norm in building nowadays).

    The fact that OP essentially will not allow anything to be torn down, which has kept balanced communities by keeping density, I think has helped keep the diversity out here when compared to an area like Evanston, which has divided into essentially two separate cities apparently. I think keeping a mix of developments is something more areas should follow, especially in Logan Square and the like. As we’ve seen, it’s hard to inject density back in when you’ve allowed it to be stripped out in the first place.

    That said, OP has its issues, and it did dead-end a lot of streets that use to follow into the grid in Austin back in the 60s, which some claim is what lead to a much faster decline for Austin itself in the end.

  • Paris allows one to associate one’s Navigo Metro/etc card to the their bike share system.

  • BlueFairlane

    Unrelated side note: We’re neighbors. I just moved from the burgeoning horror of Logan Square to within blocks of you.

  • rohmen

    Welcome. We made a similar move from Ukrainian Village to Oak Park 3 years ago. It’s a good balance, and this end of town has a more city feel that you’ll probably like.

  • Get an annual!

  • blipsman

    I want to spend $2, not $10… and your answer is to spend $100??? I’ve never even used it, so how do I know if I’ll want to do regularly?

  • Christopher Bailey

    Actually, given what blipsman said, here’s an interesting idea: adding single rides in addition to the daily pass. Augment it with congestion pricing, (e.g. F-F 7-9 am and 4-6 pm single rides cost $5, all other times $3). Actually, I’m surprised someone hadn’t thought of the idea already.

  • Christopher Bailey

    I understand the map isn’t yours, but I need to point something out I’m pretty sure is factually incorrect:

    In the initial roll out, there was a station at the entrance to the Riverwalk on the northeast corner of State and Wacker. It was removed after a single season of service. This map shows a station on the opposite side of Wacker. I freely admit I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s one there either. Who can map edits be suggested to?

  • what_eva

    These “service” maps also have repeatedly shown two stations near North Avenue Beach. One exists at North Ave and Inner LSD (by the tunnel), the other appears to be near the pedestrian bridge, but has never existed.

  • what_eva

    Another thing with Evanston’s map (besides what Elliott already pointed out about race/income) is that all 10 stations are “destinations”. None of them are “sources”. ie, they’re near places people would want to get to from their houses, but there are no stations in purely residential areas.

    Looking at the map, stations are:
    Central St Metra
    Central St L / Evanston Hospital
    NU – Tech Institute
    NU – Norris
    NU – Arch
    Davis St Metra/L
    ETHS
    Main St Metra/L
    St Francis Hospital

    Dempster/Dodge, which is a totally auto-oriented area, bunch of drive-thrus and a big strip mall with some grocery store (goog – Valli Produce)

    There’s a few routes I see making sense, but they seem to be a lot of helping Metra commuters (Central Metra to Evanston Hospital or NU, Davis Metra to NU or ETHS, Main Metra to St Francis). There are often closer L stations for Purple Line riders (Foster/Noyes to NU, South Blvd to St Francis). There aren’t stations in residential areas to make those Metra/L stations more useful to Evanston residents.

    The Dempster/Dodge one makes little sense as most of the other stations have closer shopping than that. That one would make more sense with a few stations in more residential areas nearby. eg if you add stations at the four corners of Main/Dodge/Oakton/Asbury, you’d have similar half-mile spacing to what the city has in less dense neighborhoods and then have stations near homes where people would want to go to the shopping or to the transit.

    Just seems like an odd layout.

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