Evanston and Chicago Applying for Federal Funds to Expand Divvy North

Proposed Evanston Divvy stations in Blue
Blue pins are locations proposed by Evanston city staff. Other colors are ##https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=203521461534479763793.0004e3b8690dac8aa295c&msa=0##locations designated by Hugh Bartling##.

The Evanston City Council on Monday approved a proposal to apply for federal funds through the Transportation Alternatives program to pay for a minimum of seven Divvy bike sharing stations (map) in the adjacent suburb. A staff memo to the council [PDF] recommended that Evanston make an agreement with the City of Chicago to collect revenues and maintain the system on behalf of Evanston using the existing contract between Chicago and Alta Bicycle Share. Evanston would pay Chicago if there were any shortfalls in covering operating costs.

The staff memo also said that Evanston staff are talking to Chicago Department of Transportation staff about Chicago joining Evanston on the application for federal funds (which must first be selected by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning) to build up the network of Divvy stations in Chicago to better link to Evanston. Currently, the farthest Divvy station proposed for the north side is at the Loyola Red Line station, which is four miles by bike to the nearest proposed Divvy station in Evanston. To connect the two cities’ Divvy systems, infill stations would be needed.

Evanston Public Library

The staff memo identifies short-term bonds or the Parking Fund as sources to provide the 20 percent local match required of all federally-funded projects. CMAP will tell TA applicants in January if their request for $378,000 is approved. “For the fiscal year 2013-2014, CMAP plans to fund bicycle and pedestrian facilities totaling $17.5 million under the TAP,” the memo said. Evanston is also talking to Northwestern University, Rotary International, and Northshore University System-Evanston Hospital to arrange sponsorships for additional stations.

Hugh Bartling said that the proposal may increase to more than 7 stations because aldermen whose wards weren’t covered by those seven also want them. Bartling, an associate professor of public policy at DePaul University, wrote on his blog that “using funds generated from managing cars – which extract a disproportionate social cost than other forms of mobility – to subsidize a cheaper, lower impact form of mobility is smart” and noted that the Parking Fund has a cash balance of $16 million.

Oak Park is also seeking to be a co-applicant with Chicago and Evanston and the Oak Park Village Board will discuss this in their August 19th meeting.

Where would you propose a Divvy station in Evanston and north Chicago?

  • jared.kachelmeyer

    Northwestern Campus would be the obvious answer along with the downtown area and Metra/CTA stations.

  • BlueFairlane

    I had a sad Divvy experience today. I tried it for the first time a few days ago on whim and thought it was okay. (The bikes are geared way too low and steer as if they’re the bicycle version of a 1973 Buick Electra, but it served its purpose.) I had to run an errand downtown today, though, so I thought I’d give it another try. The ride down was fine, though the Thompson Center station was full when I got there, forcing me to go to Chase Plaza and walk back up.

    When I finished my state business, I went back to the Thompson Center station, and for a second I thought I’d struck gold. It was the Red Divvy! Right there, waiting for me like fate. I rushed to get my little number code before some VIP type with a magic key grabbed it, punched in the code, and had the red bike all to myself. The problem with this moment of glory, though, is that the Red Divvy appears to be broken. The chain kept slipping, casting me into a fit of depression. I only went a block, so I walked the Red Divvy back to the Thompson Center (I had two different people stop me so they could take a picture of it), plugged it in, and went back to get another code. They wouldn’t give me another code, though. I got an error message: “You have accessed the maximum number of bicycles you are allowed with your Pass.” (I don’t know why Pass is capitalized.) It gave me a number to call, but I didn’t have my phone with me, so I chalked it up to $7 wasted and hopped on the Blue Line.

  • mhls

    Steve, any word on the cost per station? I’ve been looking and can’t find a number.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience.
    The red unicorn is pure marketing gold. It does not cost Divvy anything extra, they get some freebies from restaurants to give away, and it generates a good buzz.

  • You accessed the maximum number of 1 bicycles. Maybe it takes a few minutes for the bike to register the return before your Pass can issue you another code.

    The Daley Plaza station is closer.

    I’d call Divvy and ask for a replacement pass.

  • “Equipment for 7 bicycle share stations:
    70 3-speed bicycles, Station Kiosk, Back Lit Map Frame, Docks, Technical Platform, Customer Keys, Shipping and Customs, Alta Bicycle Share Handling Fee” = $62,000 per station.

    + a $5,500 installation fee per station.

    At 7 stations, this makes a total of $472,500, of which 20% would be funded locally and 80% funded by Transportation Alternatives program.

  • Colin Murphy

    BIG gaps in central/south/west Evanston on that initial map. Beyond all the population and commerce it leaves out, it would be hard to argue that this is a northern extension of the Chicago system rather than a satellite system with its own internal circulation.

    At very least it would make sense to have stations at all the big commerce nodes in town, especially along the train tracks and at the big boxes out west on Howard/Oakton/Main. Those would be natural spots too. (Hugh proposes a lot of these, it looks like.)

  • BlueFairlane

    I waited about five minutes, hoping that was the case, but no deal.

    And calling them for a replacement pass is more trouble than it’s worth. I have a very low tolerance for this type of technological glitch, and an even lower tolerance for telephone customer service people/robots. Divvy probably carries too much potential for hassle for me.

  • BlueFairlane

    I know. I mean, I was downright giddy when I saw it sitting there. I felt sort of like I’d won the lottery. If it hadn’t been busted, I’d have taken it as a sign. Now I’ve taken it as a different sign.

  • Since Chicago is applying to be a co-applicant for another grant, Chicago’s portion of the funds would presumably be used for the infill stations between the northernmost Divvy station in Chicago and the southernmost Divvy station in Evanston.

  • Colin Murphy

    Ah, that makes sense. But I’m not sure who they’re trying to target with these initial stations since they’re all in the northeastern corner of the city. City-hall workers and Northwestern students, I guess.

  • Hugh Bartling

    I wrote my post before the council meeting. Steven is right–the assumption is that the grant will allow Chicago to install stations up to Howard.

    As for who they are trying to target, it boils down to money. They city wants NU and other large employers to kick in funds–not sure whether that’s for operating or capital costs. So conveniently there is a station at Evanston Hospital, NU, and Rotary–among the top employers in town.

    A member of staff told me that Alta (I believe) recommended 20 stations, which makes sense. Instead they are going the “pilot” route. But it is unclear how the pilot will be evaluated.

    My concern is that the decisions on station location and number were made to try and implement something on the cheap. The fear is that ridership numbers will be low and they may nix expansion.

  • And people who commute or travel to Evanston by train.

  • Anonymous

    I spotted the Red Divvy at a station last night while I was riding the bus. Almost pulled the rope to get off immediately and finish the rest of my trip via bike.

  • Colin Murphy

    As long as they’re going to city hall, Northwestern, or Rotary.

    I should stop my grousing. I’m glad Divvy’s coming to town, just bummed there’s not one right at my house and everywhere I shop.

  • I’m curious about the Oak Park end that was rumored; it’s going to be a lot harder for Chicago to join up out there, because the West side is mostly ignored (except down Pilsen way, which isn’t too convenient to Oak Park). There would need to be a LOT of stations along, say, Chicago (which is nice and dense and has lots of small businesses, within 4 blocks of a lot of residential, and a public library) out westward before it would actually be a single or overlapping network.

    Evanston only has to make it from Loyola-ish to Howard, which isn’t so bad (and is full of white people so is a very easy ‘like us’ sell).

  • Anonymous


    Yes, Chicago’s west side should be served. How that works in an area of concentrated poverty is an interesting question. Maybe there’s a foundation willing to support such a venture, not to mention the general receptiveness of federal programs to alternative transportation serving economically disadvantaged populations.

  • Having lived at Cicero and Lake for 5 years, yes, it is a STATISTICALLY very poor tract, and generally has a lot less money per household than, say, the area around the Granville red line station. But a Divvy pass is well within the reach of a lot of the households, and biking for transport (often on third-hand kid-sized bikes) is very much A Thing for adults on the denser parts of the West Side.

    It’s not ‘concentrated poverty’ like a favela, it’s patchworks of 1/3 of a given block being people with steady jobs who’ve owned that house for 30 years and raised all their kids in the neighborhood, 1/3 foreclosed and empty, and the remainder a mix of short-term renters and people of varying economic circumstances. There are a lot of solidly middle-class people all over the West Side, they’re just mixed in cheek-by-jowl with a bunch of OTHER people with whom they share a skin tone, instead of being bunched by economic type as the north side tends to.

  • Karen Kaz

    There is a desperate need for Divvy station(s) in the West Ridge/West Rogers Park neighborhood. The area is a great retail destination with all the wonderful Indian, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern restaurants and shops, but it is poorly served by transit and the car traffic is really heavy. If you look at the proposed station map on the Divvy site, it’s a huge missing piece.

    West Rogers Park is too far from either the closest Red Line station (Loyola) or Brown Line station (Western) to walk, so you have to transfer to a slow moving bus (155 Devon or 49B North Western). And neither buses run past about 11:30 or midnight.

    Some Divvy stations in the area could make a huge impact to the quality of life for neighborhood residents as well as be a boon to the retail and restaurant establishments on Devon. I regularly ride my bike to the Loyola station rather than take the Devon bus and it saves a huge chunk of time. Even a slower Divvy bike would be an improvement.

  • Anonymous

    While not a favela, it is nonetheless an area of concentrated poverty by U.S. standards, qualifies as an Economically Disadvantaged Area, and triggers NEPA’s environmental justice provisions on qualifying projects. That’s not to say that it isn’t home to nice buildings and nice people of all types and incomes, but rather that its social and economic status requires non-standard transportation planning and investment, among other unique considerations.

  • I’m not convinced it’s ‘too poor’ for Divvy to work. It’s dense, there are plenty of potential customers who can be shown that $75/yr is a useful transportation bargain, there are several corridors of reasonably-dense retail that could also serve as wells of residential demand for a bike to take them to the train for commuting.

    Are you saying that only the very richest whitest neighborhoods qualify for ‘standard’ transportation planning??

  • Divvy/CDOT have yet to publicly announce a detailed program on how they are going to reach the unbanked. They’ve merely acknowledged they will do so. I’m preparing a story on this soon.

    I think you and Coolebra are making the same point, but in a bit different ways. The question I think you’re both asking is “how?” not “should we?”.

  • Anonymous

    I think that you are misunderstanding what I’m writing – by a wide margin – as well as not taking into consideration a rather lengthy history as to whether and to what extent what I casually labeled “standard transportation planning” has adversely impacted persons of limited economic means and the communities within which they live – largely pockets of low-to-moderate income persons and families, and communities of color. It isn’t a matter of “qualifying” for standard transportation planning as much as it is having one’s needs marginalized by it in the associated processes, as well as being victimized by its outcomes.

    We’re drifting pretty far afield, here, for an article discussing Divvy deployment – a non-traditional transportation project that can actually benefit low-to-moderate income persons. I think we both agree that Divvy can and should serve all populations. How that happens requires deliberate thought and creative, i.e., non-traditional, thinking.

    I’ll leave it at that and have no intention of replying to whatever you post in response – you can have the last word.

    Go Divvy.

  • CL

    Northwestern brings a huge number of cars to Evanston, since tons of faculty, staff, and grad students live in Chicago. Parking anywhere near campus is very hard to find, especially if you need to stay for more than 2 hours. These stations are likely to reduce the number of Chicago cars that are parked in Evanston all day, and I imagine that’s why NU has been prioritized. Stations in other parts of Evanston are probably more likely to be used by people who already live in Evanston.

  • And an awful lot of the west side is NOT unbanked, just so you know. Even in neighborhoods with a lot of unbanked too.

  • Go Divvy. :-> And also, I don’t think much more ‘special’ planning is needed for the West and South sides other than “put it in the denser parts, ” “put it near businesses,” and “make sure some passes are available even to unbanked people,” while not assuming everyone on the West and South sides is poor and unbanked (because they’re not).

  • Anonymous


  • In the next inside-the-city expansion (which would need a new round of grants), beyond where the current Yellow Splats are on Divvy’s map, they’d be nuts if Devon’s restaurant strip weren’t included. It’s a slam-dunk for the kind of neighborhood that is most eminently Divvy-able, like the Milwaukee strip they’re already firehosing stations all over.

  • Anonymous

    I love how Divvy is now being expanded to suburbs (and putting in even MORE stations on the far north side) before even attempting to cover the south side. not that i am surprised.

  • Anonymous

    Downright giddy? Steer as if they’re the bicycle version of a 1973 Buick Electra?

    U r killin’ me, man.


  • BlueFairlane

    I was actually being serious with the “giddy” statement. That sort of thing tends to get me unreasonably excited.

    On a similar note, here’s a thought. Divvy should consider numbering their bikes. I know I tend to anthropomorphize the bicycles I ride, and I found it kind of sad when I docked the bike that worked to know I’d never see it again, or at least wouldn’t know I’d seen it. Numbering them would kind of expand what they’re doing with the red bike, allowing people to follow certain bikes. When we saw a number we liked, it might make us smile a little know it’s still trucking along.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe individual bike sponsors could get a decal on the bike and offering premiums for anyone photographed on their ad bike at random points in the day.

  • How does divvy funding work? Is it a PPP where the city owns the bikes and Alta is the operator?

  • Christine Price

    This is a grant for future expansion. By the time all the details are hammered out I’m sure that the rest of the planned Chicago stations will be in.

  • Christine Price

    Have you ever tried calling them? I’ve called twice (once to activate my fob, and the other because I saw a divvy bike locked up with a chain as if it had been stolen, and I wanted to report it) and both times I was connected quickly to a human, rather than being routed through a hellish numberpad maze.

  • Anonymous

    I hope you are right, but I won’t hold my breath. Even if they do follow through on the “coming soon” stations, there will be 0 south of 63rd – and none west of halsted on the south side

  • “none west of Halsted on the south side”

    This depends on what you define as the South Side. There are already two handfuls of stations installed in Pilsen, Little Village, and Bridgeport, west of Halsted (going all the way to 2100 S Western).

  • The stuff north of 55 is usually considered West Side, not South Side proper (partly because it’s more Latino than black).

  • Yes, the City owns all of the hardware and pays Alta to operate it.

  • Anonymous

    well, not to beat this to death or split hairs too closely, but i guess i do consider pilsen and little village west side since they are west and north of the river

    and i did make a mistake, there is one planned station at 31st and morgan, which is obviously a couple blocks west of halsted

    but i do not think it is arguable that the number and distribution of stations on the south side has been very inequitable

    and i actually like the planned expansion here, the bigger divvy gets, the better in my book and i am sure these stations will get a lot of use

    but to expand even further on the north side and to the suburbs while a gigantic swath of the city of chicago remains completely unserved is crazy to me

    not unexpected, but crazy nonetheless

  • Anonymous

    not sure it has that much to do with latino/black, more just geography. i am pretty sure pilsen was always considered to be the west side, even back when it was all czech

  • “Full of white people” as opposed to none at all? Rogers Park, where you speak of, is the most diverse neighborhood in the city. To say “full of white people” equates to Lincoln Park or Lakeview, this neighborhood is not even close to that.

  • Don’t be surprised if Participatory Budget wards end up with Divvy growing in their ward faster than other areas. Unless something has changed, it is now known that the PB process can fund installing a new station, the cost is roughly $60,000.

  • Evanston is very white, and so is the neighborhood around Loyola (the south end of the range I mentioned). And I hope you’re not going to argue that Divvy’s current layout is NOT excessively focussed on primarily-white neighborhoods? Serving Rogers Park would help redress that, partially, but so would actually going south or west.

  • Anonymous

    Keep in mind that the City of Chicago is not expanding Divvy into the burbs – it is the burbs themselves doing it.

  • Demographics 2010[1]
    • White 39.31%
    • Black 26.3%
    • Hispanic 24.43%
    • Asian 6.41%
    • Other 3.56%

    These are Rogers Park’s demographic numbers from the last census. Loyola is included in those numbers, Devon north to Evanston is RP and Loyola is included. If you’re talking about Edgewater, that maybe a different story.

    Divvy’s layout currently supports neighborhoods that were likely viewed to have the highest ridership, membership and basically “most use.” It just so happens, whether it should be or not, those neighborhoods are also high in white demographic. Not ALL neighborhoods Divvy will serve with high numbers of stations are like that. The roll out of neighborhoods definitely displayed that though.

    I believe Oak Park and Evanston pursuing stations in their city will help alleviate the issue of lack of access by driving Divvy to expand in those directions. Oak Park being the most difficult since there’s already quite a gap. Even UofC is served better surrounding its campus than Loyola, that might have to do with infrastructure in place in that area while Loyola does not.

  • Aaron M. Renn

    Would definitely be nice to see an intergrated system across city and suburb. That’s good thinking.


Evanston City Council Advances Key Projects From Bike Plan

On Monday night, Evanston’s City Council held a special meeting solely to address four bike infrastructure or policy measures, all of which will implement pieces of the city’s recently adopted Bike Plan. The council advanced new protected bike lanes along Sheridan Road and along Dodge Avenue, in spite of considerable opposition over the latter, while deferring […]

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

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. […]