Once Again, DNAinfo Lowballs Ridership for a New South Side Divvy Station

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The station at 76th and Jeffery in South Shore. Photo: John Greenfield

I appreciate DNAinfo’s efforts in crunching Divvy ridership data to produce a series on usage patterns in neighborhoods like Uptown, Logan Square, and Lakeview. However, their method has resulted in a couple of articles that dramatically underreported the number of rides taken to and from new South Side stations.

On Friday morning, DNA ran a piece by Andrea V. Watson that initially claimed Englewood’s five bike-share stations have only been used a total of 267 times since they opened this spring. The station at 56th Street and Halsted has seen a mere 22 trips, Watson reported.

After I double checked the numbers with Divvy management and the Chicago Department of Transportation, it became clear that the DNA numbers only accounted for rides taken by June 30. That’s the latest date for which ridership data is available for download on the bike-share system’s website.

However, more recent data was readily available from CDOT and Divvy, if DNA had asked  for it. It turns out that the five stations were actually used a total of 798 times by September 30, about three times what DNA reported. The station at 56th and Halsted has actually seen 107 trips this year.

Old Divvy
The station at 76th and Jeffery is one of the southernmost in the system. The fact that it’s on the outskirts of the coverage area helps explain its low ridership numbers.

While it’s true the Englewood ridership numbers are low, they’re not nearly as dismal as what Watkins originally stated. DNA eventually edited the piece to note that their initial numbers only covered the roughly 2.5-month period between station installment and June 30, and they updated the article with the more recent numbers.

This morning, DNA made the same mistake again. An article by Sam Cholke about Divvy use in South Shore included the interesting observation that most local residents are using the bikes within the neighborhood, or to get to the lakefront or Hyde Park.

However, the piece stated that a station at Jeffery Boulevard and 76th Street, one of the southernmost in the system, has gotten little use, “with 70 rides so far this year.” “Perhaps downtown is just too much of a slog from Jeffery Boulevard and 76th Street,” the author theorized, noting that the station is mostly used for trips to or from seven stations in or near Jackson Park.

That figure also seemed suspiciously low, so I checked it with Divvy general manager Elliot Greenberger. Again, it turns out that DNA only used numbers for trips taken by June 30. Since the 76th and Jeffery station debuted on April 23, what Cholke called “so far this year” was really only about nine weeks. Here are the more recent figures for the station:

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With 195 trips taken to or from the station this year, ridership is – once again – nearly three times what DNA reported. It’s low, but it’s not that low.

As with the Englewood article, analyzing ridership data for a roughly two-month period after a station debuts isn’t very useful. And when an article suggests state that those numbers represent the entire year, that’s misinformation.

That said, CDOT and Divvy could help prevent this problem in the future by releasing ridership numbers more frequently. Currently, Chicago bike-share data is only released to the public twice a year, so only the first two quarters of 2015 are currently available on the Divvy site.

Instead, they should release the data each quarter, at a minimum. Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare and New York’s Citi Bike are both operated by Motivate, the same parent company as Divvy, and they release data more frequently than Divvy. In D.C., it’s released every quarter, and in NYC it’s released each month.

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