2017 Was Another Record Year for Divvy Ridership

But the system needs to increase ridership on the South and West sides in order to be sustainable.

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

With lows in the negative upper-single digits Fahrenheit recently, we’re probably at the absolute rock bottom of the annual Divvy ridership cycle at the moment (although it’s still a great way to get around, provided you bundle up properly.) But that’s not stopping the bike-share network from celebrating another banner year.

According to Divvy staffers, the system added 5,000 new annual members in 2017, for a total of 37,000. 337,000 day passes were purchased.

3.8 million trips were taken in 2017 — some 200,000 more than were taken in 2016, and a new record – for a total of 7.3 million miles. That’s more than 293 times the circumference of the globe.

“We are grateful to the thousands of Chicago residents and visitors who have worked so hard this year to turn Divvy into a crucial component of our city’s transportation network,” said Divvy general manager Michael Critzon.  “No matter the weather, you hopped on the blue bikes to streamline your commute, to build movement into your daily routine or simply to explore the city.”

Divvy reached another new milestone in 2017 with the busiest day ever. 22,168 rides were taken on July 8, the first Saturday after the Fourth of July. Thirteen other days this summer had over 20,000 trips. 2.5 million rides were taken by Labor Day, which represented an 8 percent increase over the same time in 2016.

Divvy also noted that the top 1 percent of riders in 2017 took more than 535 trips each.

The system currently has 130 employees, and the rebalancing, bike mechanic, and station management jobs are unionized.

That’s not to say that everything was peaches and cream in 2017. In 2016 the Divvy station coverage area was expanded to include Evanston and Oak Park, as well as more Chicago neighborhoods, largely communities of color on the South and West sides. In general these new docks have seen far fewer trips than those in more populated parts of the city, such as downtown and the north lakefront, where better Divvy station density makes using the system more convenient.

Last month the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Wisniewski reported that Divvy’s net income to the city fell from $2.84 million in 2015 to $1.97 million in 2016, largely due to poor ridership numbers for recently installed stations. While the city made a $45,859 profit on operations in 2015, city had an operational loss of $752,011 in 2016, which  was what put a crimp in the overall bottom line.

Divvy deserves kudos for these latest ridership records. But the city is going need to do more promotion of the system in low-ridership areas and come up with new strategies to broaden the appeal of bike-share, such as offering the option of purchasing a single ride, or else find new revenue sources like additional sponsorships, if the system is going to make ends meet in 2018.

  • Courtney

    Pretty sure I am in the top 1 percent of riders. I use Divvy Monday-Friday to ride to and from the train station (provided there’s a bike……). I sometimes hop a bike during my work day to visit the local library. When the temps are warmer I do weekend rides along the Lakefront path or ride from my job to the train station.

    FYI: I think the total miles traveled is definitely wrong. In my one year of Divvy I know I’ve ridden over 7.3 miles so I can’t see how the total mileage for members and day pass users could equal 7.3 miles. =)

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Fixed, thanks.

  • rwy

    One thing I’ve never understood about D4E is that it is only for one year. If someone can’t afford the full priced membership the first year, why would they be expected to afford it the next year?

    Also the bikes need a bigger basket. A handbag is not the only thing someone would want to transport.

  • Kelly Pierce

    “But the city is going need to do more promotion of the
    system in low-ridership areas and come

    up with new strategies to broaden the appeal of bike-share,
    such as offering the option of purchasing a single ride, or else find new
    revenue sources like

    additional sponsorships, if the system is going to make ends
    meet in 2018.”

    Blacks and Hispanics are low Divvy riders. I seriously doubt
    more promotion alone will significantly increase ridership in 12 months in the expansion
    neighborhoods. Low ridership is likely the result of many factors, many of
    which may be out of the control of divvy leadership. As the system expands into
    what turns out to be low ridership neighborhoods, the losses accelerate. It
    seems the system’s expenses will need to be reduced for it to be cash flow
    neutral. To me, this is a signal that other options for these areas should be explored
    more aggressively, such as dockless bike infrastructure and bike libraries. With
    a new generation of bike share technology and ideas, divvy represents a one
    size fits all solution for every community that is popular in some places and ignored
    in others.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Second year as a D4E member is $50 upfront, $60 in monthly installments: https://www.divvybikes.com/d4ememberagreement

    I agree with you on the basket issue: https://chi.streetsblog.org/2017/11/28/reflections-on-dockless-bike-share-after-trying-it-out-in-washington-d-c/

  • rwy

    So for the third year they would be paying full price. Do they need a credit card for the third year of service?

    I don’t get the logic of the way D4E works.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Residents can sign up for D4E at Local Initiatives Support Coalition’s Centers for Working Families at five locations around the city. When they sign up they are invited to participate in the CFW’s financial literacy program, where they can learn strategies for saving money and building credit.

    I believe the third year of a D4E participant’s Divvy membership would be at full price and require a banking card — I’ll double check. The thinking is that, especially if a participant has undergone financial literacy training, paying $10 a month for a regular Divvy membership (paid in monthly installments) won’t be a hardship, especially if the bike-share membership is reducing their overall transportation expenses. CTA ‘L’ fare just went up to $2.50, so a month of Divvy costs the same as two roundtrip train commutes.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Is someone organization paying for the D4E program? Or do they figure the bikes are already out there so they might as well let people use them who otherwise may not.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    D4E was originally funded by a $75K grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Per Divvy, the third year of membership for a D4E participant would be full price, but they could still pay in cash.