Divvy Lowers Long-term Cost of D4E Memberships, Relaxes Membership Rules

A Divvy for Everyone outreach ride. Photo: Divvy
A Divvy for Everyone outreach ride. Photo: Divvy

The Divvy for Everyone (D4E) program was already a great deal, but the city just made it more affordable Chicagoans who try bike-share via the $5 one-time annual memberships to sign up for additional years if they find the service to be beneficial. The discounted memberships are available to individuals who make less that $35,310 a year and, unlike standard memberships, no credit card is needed to participate.

Previously the second year of a D4E membership cost $50 and the third year was the full $99 price, which is still a good value (compared to $1,260 for a year of CTA passes), but could represent a major expense for a person on a fixed income. Under the new pricing scheme the first year of a D4E membership is $5, the second year is $25, the third is $50, and the fourth is $75, and the price is supposed to never go up after that.

Divvy is also expanding the options for qualifying for the program. Previously a check stub or zero-income affidavit was required to prove eligibility. Under the new rules recipients of SNAP, WIC, LIHEAP, or public housing are also automatically eligible to join. According to Divvy, the pricing and eligibility changes were made based on feedback from residents collected by Divvy’s community outreach team.

The D4E program has been funded by a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership, as well as sponsorship revenue from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. As such, no taxpayer money has been used to pay for the subsidized memberships.

D4E is a good example of how public transportation costs should function. When people of all income levels pay the same price, lower-income residents wind up paying a much higher percentage of their income than affluent people. Since better transportation access makes it easier to get to work and educational opportunities, raising a person’s earning potential, it’s likely a net win for society when the cost is reduced for those who may struggle to make ends meet. It would be great to see a similar approach taken with local transit fares.

Since Divvy for Everyone launched in 2015, more than 3,500 residents have signed up, with more than 250,000 rides taken. And while, according to a 2017 survey, about 84 percent of regular Divvy members are white, 72 percent of D4E members are people of color. According to Divvy, participation in D4E is highest on the South and West sides.

That’s not to say that the program is perfect. As Streetsblog readers have pointed out, the rules require people to sign up in person at one of five LISC Financial Opportunity Centers, and none of them are north of Armitage. Moreover, residents can only enroll on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between noon and 5 p.m. — a mere 15 hours a week — which is challenging for folks who work 9-to-5. Still, the new pricing and eligibility rule is a step in the right direction for making D4E more accessible.

  • CIAC

    “D4E is a good example of how public transportation costs should function. When people of all income levels pay the same price, lower-income residents wind up paying a much higher percentage of their income than affluent people.”

    A person who rides the CTA to work five days a week each way will pay either $90 for the full month (if they take a bus each way), $100 (if they pay $2.50 for a fare each way) or $105 (if they use a monthly pass). Someone who makes the city’s current minimum wage and who works 40 hours a week (160 a month) will make $1,920 a month. The most this person will pay is about 5.5% of their income. And it could be as low as 4.6% if they only pay the regular one way bus fare rather than uses a monthly pass. Someone who makes, on the other hand, around $120,000 a year will make $12,000 a month (I think this salary would probably be among the top 10% or so of Chicago residents). This person will pay just under 1% of their income in CTA fares. I really wouldn’t describe the difference between 5.5% (or 5.2% or 4.6%) and 1% to be “a much higher percentage”. It’s slightly higher.

    “Since better transportation access makes it easier to get to work and educational opportunities, raising a person’s earning potential, it’s likely a net win for society when the cost is reduced for those who may struggle to make ends meet. It would be great to see a similar approach taken with local transit fares.”

    That’s pie in the sky rhetoric I don’t think there’s very many people, if there is anybody, who can’t afford to pay for a $2.25 or $2.50 fare to get to work and for that reason doesn’t have a job or doesn’t continue their education. These individuals simply do not exist. So your idea would not have the effects you claim. I tend to believe that people should pay for what they consume at an equal rate. Variations to that sometimes make sense based on how they effect the entire market (and Divvy may be an example of where there is some merit to the idea, since they are targeting demographics that are reluctant to use the service and the ridership gains from the offer may have positive effects in the future) and overall revenue. But they shouldn’t be based on need. That’s patronizing. And the fact is people get what they pay for. If public transit that primarily served low income people were less expensive than public transit that primarily served middle or higher income people it means that the transit agency receives less money for providing service to lower income individuals even if there are the same amount of passengers.. And so they will have to spend comparatively more resources to passengers who have higher incomes. That doesn’t make sense, especially if you think that public transit is important for those towards the bottom of the economic scale.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    My article: 479 words.
    Your comment: 505 words.
    Suggestion: Make your comments more concise and people will be more likely to read them.

  • 神隠し

    $105 for someone making minimum wage is a ton of money. Its an amount that allows them to purchase nutritious groceries for the month instead of just eating top ramen. You can’t just look at a percentage alone.

  • Ben W

    “I really wouldn’t describe the difference between 5.5% (or 5.2% or 4.6%)
    and 1% to be ‘a much higher percentage’. It’s slightly higher.”

    Do you object to the choice of descriptor for the difference in percentages or do you not consider the 3% to 4% difference significant? If it is the former, seems a bit pedantic, but ok. You certainly could have gotten by without showing your back of the napkin math unless someone asked.

    And if it is the latter argument, I would respond that 3% to 4% of someone’s income can be very significant. Take for example, taxes. Would you not say a 4% raise in income tax is significant?

    “That’s pie in the sky rhetoric. I don’t think there’s very many people,
    if there is anybody, who can’t afford to pay for a $2.25 or $2.50 fare
    to get to work and for that reason doesn’t have a job or doesn’t
    continue their education.”

    False.

    https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2016/04/how-can-the-working-poor-afford-new-york-city-transit-half-price-metrocards/477762/

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/stranded-how-americas-failing-public-transportation-increases-inequality/393419/

    http://www.vtpi.org/affordability.pdf

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    On the other hand its about $2.00 a week, or about ten minutes of work.

  • Jeremy

    $105 is a monthly fee, so approximately $25 a week.

  • Courtney

    Admittedly I haven’t taken a look at the D4E centers in a while but I thought the Jane Addams Center near Irving Park “certified” people for the program. I wish the Howard Area Community center was a place folks could go and become D4E members. I have told at least 10 people about the D4E program in the past year. I love it when folks approach me when I’m getting on and off Divvy. It’s great news that the program is becoming more affordable. I agree it would be great if the CTA had income-based fares or at the very least provided a more affordable monthly pass for folks with low-income or folks on a fixed income,

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    I was thinking of the DIvvy membership, not CTA. And on that note Divvy is a bargin.

  • Tom

    CIAC, you don’t account for the fact that many wealthy people pay for their transit pass with pre-tax earnings, as opposed to poorer folks who are less likely to. That makes transit even cheaper for wealthy people (especially those with incomes at the top tax brackets).

  • CIAC

    I also don’t account for several things that go the other way. For example, the wealthy are more likely to use cars or cabs or ride-share for a major proportion of their transportation. These things are more expensive. Someone who’s really poor could usually, if they live and work in or near the city, use the CTA for all their transportation needs if they wanted to. So higher income people generally pay a much higher portion of their transportation costs than the 1% listed, since it really is unlikely that they’ll only use the CTA. And since you mention taxes, it’s worth remembering that someone who makes $120,000 will pay a much higher income tax percentage than someone making minimum wage. Typically, a minimum wage worker will pay nothing or almost nothing in income taxes. So that also brings the 5.2% or so percentage for the $120,000 earner down considerably when you actually look at take home pay. And if you look at someone making $60,000 a year, which probably is about average, even before you take the other things into account you’ll get a percentage of about 2.7% of their income spent on transit if they use the CTA exclusively. That certainly isn’t a significntly higher percentage. I can see, though I disagree with, how some people might say that 5.2% in the context could be significantly higher than 1%. But 2.7% is another story.

  • johnaustingreenfield
  • Kelly Pierce

    I like this Divvy plan a lot. I have always been against
    discounts based on status, such as being a senior citizen or a person with a
    disability. Income should be the determining factor. As mentioned, well-paid
    professionals often pay a discount because they pay for their transit with tax
    free earnings, saving more than 20 percent. I doubt though that this restructuring
    will boost membership and usage much in the south and west sides. On a
    financial basis, Divvy needs to move low-usage docking stations to areas with
    higher levels of usage and densify the parts of the system showing promising results
    and leaving areas where the Divvy expansion has been a failure.

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