Citi Bike NYC: the first and last mile quantified

The NYC Department of Transportation revealed last week where they’d like to place 400 or so bike share stations in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens, as the next step in the city’s new bikeshare program starting this summer.  (By next spring the city plans to locate a total of 600 bike share kiosks for 10,000 bikes.)

Several blogs and news reports have criticized the cost of the program as too expensive for relatively long bike trips (more than 45 minutes). But the program is really designed primarily for the “first and last mile” of local commutes and tourist trips to and from their destinations.  Now that the city’s map is out, we can evaluate how likely it is that the locations will meet this goal.

Subway and bus proximity

Last year I examined the thousands of bike share kiosks suggested by “the crowd” to see how closely they were located to subway entrances.  I determined that, as of late September 2011 based on almost 6,000 suggestions, one-third of the suggested sites were within 500 feet (actually, if I had used 750 feet — the average distance between avenues in Manhattan — it would’ve been 45% of the suggested sites located that distance or closer to a subway entrance).  You can still see the crowdsourced locations here.

So about half of “the crowd’s” suggestions were close to public transit, and the other half further away.  That seems reasonable — perhaps half the suggesters were thinking of how to link bike share with the subway system, and the other half was thinking about linking bike share to destination sites further away from mass transit.

Here’s my map from last year of the subway entrances symbolized based on the ratings of the closest suggested bike share kiosks.  This map says, “If you want to put bikeshare stations near subway entrances, these are the entrances you’d pick based on the average rating of the closest stations suggested by the crowd”:

I had suggested this as a way of prioritizing the bikeshare station siting process.  These subway entrances are the ones you’d likely start with, based on the preferences of the (bike)riding public who contributed to the DOT/OpenPlans map.

But now that the bikeshare station siting process is pretty much done, I’ve examined whether the proposed kiosks are close enough to subway and bus stops to actually facilitate their use by the intended audiences.

How do the actual proposed locations measure up?

For me, the city’s proposed bike share program is a great deal — if the kiosks are near my home and my office.  I live on Manhattan’s west side and work in midtown.  Since I live near my office I’m lucky to have a pretty easy commute.  But usually that involves a good amount of walking: my trip uptown is just one subway stop, and then going crosstown involves either a bus (luckily the M34 Select Bus is pretty reliable) or a schlep walk of several avenues.  Don’t get me wrong — walking is great exercise.  But if I could shorten the walk and save money, I’m all in.

According to DOT’s map [PDF], there’s a bike share kiosk proposed down the block from my apartment, and another one a block from my office.  Nice!  I could actually replace the subway/bus combo with a bike ride for a fraction of the cost.  But what about the rest of the Phase 1 area?  Are the kiosk locations designed to easily extend subway and bus trips for the “last mile”?

Here’s what I found: most of the proposed bikeshare locations are relatively close to subway entrances, and even more are closer to bus stops.  At least regarding the locations, the system seems right on track to meet its goals of facilitating New York’s commuter and tourist trips.

Here’s what I measured

The DOT bike share website displays the proposed kiosks on a Google Map.  But a separate URL lists the lat/lons of each site (in JSON format).  There are 414 bike share lat/lons at this URL (not the 420 that all the news accounts referenced), and one location has a lat/lon of zero (ID 12405), so I deleted it leaving me with 413 locations.  (I used Google Refine to convert the JSON file to CSV and imported it to ArcGIS to analyze the locations.)

But this data just shows the locations. It omits information about each site (such as “North side of East 47th Street near Madison Avenue “), and the number of bike “docks” at each proposed kiosk.  Separately, Brian Abelson wrote a script to access this information from DOT’s website, based on a URL that looks like this:

http://a841-tfpweb.nyc.gov/bikeshare/get_point_info?point=12127

(His R script is here: https://gist.github.com/2690803 .  With this data I was able to map the kiosks based on number of docks at each one; see map below.  Big thanks to Brian!)

Here’s an interactive version (thanks to cartoDB), and here are links if you’d like to download the file in GIS format:

Proximity to subways

Here’s the map of proposed kiosks in relation to the closest subway entrances (based on the latest data from MTA on subway entrances/exits); I used ArcGIS’s “Near” function to calculate the distance:

Here are the stats:

  • 89 locations (22%) between 14 and 250 feet (length of a typical Manhattan block);
  • 117 kiosks (28%) between 250 and 750 feet (the average distance between Manhattan avenues);
  • 97 kiosks (24%) between 750 and 1,320 ft (a quarter mile);
  • 89 kiosks (22%) between 1,320 and 2,640 ft (a half mile); and
  • 21 kiosks (5%) further than 2,640  feet.

(The percentages do not equal 100% due to rounding.)

Closest/furthest:

  • The proposed kiosk closest to a subway entrance is in lower Manhattan, on the west side of Greenwich St near Rector St (ID 12364), 14 feet from the Rector St entrance to the 1 train.
  • The kiosk furthest from a subway entrance is on Manhattan’s west side, in the Hudson River Greenway near West 40th Street (at the West Midtown Ferry Terminal; ID 12092), almost three-quarters of a mile (3,742 feet) from the 40th St entrance to the 42nd St/Port Authority Bus Terminal station.

In other words, half of the proposed kiosks are within an avenue of a subway entrance, one-quarter are within two avenues, and the rest are further away.

So I guess it depends on your level of optimism (glass half full or half empty), and/or how far you’re willing to walk between your destination and a bike rack to participate in the Citi Bike program.  But in general it seems that the proposed kiosks match the overall location patterns of the crowdsourced suggestions, and also support the goal of facilitating first/last mile transportation.

Proximity to buses

Here’s the map of proposed kiosks in relation to the closest bus stops (based on the latest data from MTA / ZIP file).  Note that I didn’t differentiate between local, limited, or express bus stops.  As with subway entrances, I used ArcGIS’s “Near” function to calculate the distance:

For bus riders, the bike share locations are even better suited than subway riders to help them go the last mile:

  • 55 proposed kiosks (13%) between 27 and 100 feet (less than a typical Manhattan block);
  • a whopping 199 kiosks (48%) between 100 and 250 feet (length of a typical block);
  • 139 kiosks (34%) between 250 and 750 ft  (typical distance between Manhattan avenues);
  • 16 kiosks (4%) between 750 and 1,320 ft (quarter mile); and
  • only 4 kiosks (1%) further than 1,320 ft — and none further than 1,652 feet away (about a third of a mile);

So for bus riders, almost two-thirds of the proposed kiosks are within a block of a bus stop, and almost all of them (95%) are within an avenue.  Pretty good odds that bus riders will have extremely convenient access to the Citi Bike program.

I was skeptical of the program at first (and I’m still a bit wary of so many more bikes on the road all of a sudden — I walk in fear when I cross a city street, because of cars and bikes).  But now that the Citi Bike program is moving closer to reality and the numbers look so good, I’m looking forward to trying it out.

12 Responses

  1. [...] a post on his Spatiality blog, Romalewski uses GIS to analyze the 413 bike-share stations posted on DOT’s website so far. [...]

  2. Don’t the first mile/last mile users need to have (half of the) kiosks located further AWAY from subway/bus stops? The benefit of the bike is realized when their ultimate destination (office, home, store) is not near a subway or bus stop – the point is they NEED the bike to take them the last leg of their trip – and accordingly they need to have a place to dock the bike when they get there! If most of the kiosks were near subway/bus stops, then the user would just stay on the subway/bus until that stop.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree, though I don’t think the split between near/far has to be exactly half. Indeed, the stats in my post show that between half and three-quarters of the bike stations are close to subway entrances (depending how you define close), and the rest are further away. As I note, this roughly matches what had been suggested to DOT via their online suggestion map, and seems to be a good distribution of kiosks to both extend the subway system and to facilitate short trips by bike.

      Also, as someone pointed out in a comment at Streetsblog, some of the farther away bikeshare sites are actually close to other transit options such as ferries.

      Perhaps DOT could shed some light on the details of their siting decisions. The map was the result of an extensive public input process (one which i think is a great model for other city agencies to follow). It’d be interesting to learn more about why certain locations were picked over others. There may be very good – but perhaps not obvious – reasons for some of the siting choices. Hopefully we’ll learn more as the process continues.

    • That’s a good point, but consider that not every bus stops at every bus stop. Bike share can help condense a multiple-bus trip into a single bike ride.

      Also, one way to think about the data as presented is that bus stops in particular are good proxy points for activity. There’s a bus stop near most homes and job sites; it may not be the bus that’s near your home or office, but there’s usually a bus stop there. Siting the bike share kiosks near bus stops takes advantage of that latent demand.

  3. [...] Awesome A nerdtastic breakdown of NYC’s bikeshare locations – Spatiality [...]

  4. [...] spatialityblog.com – Tagged: awesome View on Counterparties.com → Amazon.com Widgets var [...]

  5. [...] spatialityblog.com – Tagged: awesome View on Counterparties.com [...]

  6. [...] Awesome A nerdtastic breakdown of NYC’s bikeshare locations – Spatiality [...]

  7. [...] bike-share stations posted on DOT’s website and built the maps which he then shared on his Spatiality Blog. At a quick glance you can see a bounty of information about the different kiosks across the city, [...]

  8. [...] also offered up the following commentary: Here are the [...]

  9. [...] “I was skeptical of the program at first,” Romalewski writes in a post on his blog. [...]

  10. [...] have docks for the bikes, locks and local maps. Steven Romalewski of Spatiality Blog did a great GIS analysis of the proximity of bike kiosks to mass transit [...]

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