Dark purple is current Divvy coverage area; light purple is a rough estimate of future coverage area, based on a list of neighborhoods from CDOT. Map: ITDP, Steven Vance, Daniel Ronan
Last month, I won a digital silver medal in the Divvy Winter Olympics, a challenge put on by the bike-share service to encourage cold-weather ridership. I was one of 3,444 Divvy members who won medals during the promotion. Taking five or more trips between December 1 and February 16 got you a bronze medal, 25 or more trips earned you a bronze, and 50 or more garnered you a gold.
The untold Olympic story here is that I had an unfair advantage, and it’s not because I doped. There are roughly 15 Divvy stations within a half-mile of my house. It’s hard for me to walk more than a couple blocks without running across an available bike. A three-minute trip on Divvy is faster and more convenient than a ten-minute walk in the cold, so taking lots of trips was a no-brainer for me.
The planners at Divvy and the Chicago Department of Transportation are well aware of the importance of station placement. The system currently has 300 docking stations, and they’ve been working to site 175 additional stations, slated to come online this summer.
Of these new stations, about 20 percent will be “infill,” reducing the space between stations, and 80 percent will be “expansion,” increasing Divvy’s reach into new areas. As Steven Vance previously reported, total bike-share ridership, as well as rides per capita, increase as the distance between stations decreases. The areas targeted for expansion include parts of Albany Park, Avondale, Bronzeville, Canaryville, Douglas Park, Downtown, East Garfield Park, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Rogers Park, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Washington Park, and Woodlawn.
“We are excited to be expanding and serving new areas of the city,” said Assistant CDOT Commissioner Sean Wiedel. He noted that the website for suggesting station locations has received 19,000 clicks and 2,400 comments, suggesting 2,247 locations, which shows Chicagoans are keenly interested in the system’s growth.
When siting a new Divvy station, the planners seek to incorporate this feedback while also taking a more technical approach that factors in ridership and maintenance considerations. For example, it would be inefficient for Divvy crews to maintain new stations installed far from existing ones. On the other hand, stations clustered too closely together wouldn’t do much to increase ridership. Keeping in mind other factors like land use, sun exposure — necessary for recharging the solar-powered batteries — as well as seemingly trivial details like the locations of manholes, the Divvy team wants to site stations that will function well and won’t have to be relocated in the future.
The hundreds of station installations since the system launched last summer included a few sites that were shifted after the initial implementation. After moving stations after locations were deemed unsafe after-the-fact, or in response to objections from property owners, this year the planners are trying to avoid the additional expense of relocations by making sure they get the placements right the first time.