Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, April 29, 2019

Expand Citi Bike Now

I continue to free ride on the boundless optimism of tech investors as I cash in on the Citi Bike Angel program. Those gullible capitalists will soon be buying me a coveted white Citi Bike key—which I will get completely gratis when I hit 500 angel points! This is obviously unsustainable, but I intend to take advantage to the hilt while the party lasts. By the time they sober up, the coveted white Citi Bike key will be in my pocket, and I'm not giving it back.

Anyway as a result of my lucrative Citi Bike Angel activities, I've noticed that quite frequently docking stations are completely full or completely empty. This makes them unusable for people who want to drop bikes off or pick bikes up, respectively. Here's an example of what I mean, from late this morning (this is a very typical pattern for a day like today):

(click to expand)

The stations that are entirely green are completely full, the stations that are red are completely empty. Yellow means that a station has 1-3 bikes. (3 bikes is represented by either yellow or green depending on the station, I think.) The pattern here is obvious: Chinatown and the Lower East Side are net exporters of bikes on a weekday morning like this, while the financial district and Tribeca are big net importers. This almost certainly reflects commuting patterns (although bear in mind, the bikes from the LES didn't necessarily go to the financial district and vice versa). No idea what's going on with DUMBO, I've never paid much attention to the stations there.

(By the way, those numbers you see on the stations reflect Angel points ripe for the taking. If you take from a station with a white number on a black background, and drop off at a station with a black number on a white background, you get the sum of the points indicated. You can also pick up or drop off at a neutral station for a smaller point gain. This is what I mean when I say that my lifestyle is financed by the naïve optimism of the investing class—look at all those opportunities to earn 2 or even 4 points in a single trip! And as a reminder, it takes only 500 points to go from the ordinary, undistinguished blue Citi Bike key to the coveted white Citi Bike key.)

Anyway the important thing to note here is that there is almost certainly a lot of unsatisfied demand for both bikes and docks. It's unlikely that everyone on the LES who wanted a bike this morning got one, and it's unlikely that everyone who wanted to dock a bike in the financial district was able to do so. People are having to walk quite a distance to find the nearest bike (or walk quite a distance from the dock to work), and presumably a lot of people who would like to use Citi Bike to commute are unable to do so and are using other transit modes. (Also, anecdotally, when I'm chasing Angel points I often see someone immediately take a bike I just dropped off, or immediately use a dock I just freed up. So in my observation there is definitely unmet demand for those things.)

This is a failure! It's always going to be the case that bikes are relatively numerous in the financial district on weekdays after the commute, and likewise for docks in places like the LES, but if the stations were doubled or tripled in size you would observe a lot fewer stations that were completely full or completely empty. Or if you didn't... it would mean (in rough terms) that 3 times as many people were commuting by bike, which would be great in itself.

The only cost (aside from the docks and bikes themselves, which I assume are not expensive) would be some parking spaces. But bikes are vastly more efficient than cars in terms of the parking space required. The space taken by a single car could easily provide parking space for 8-10 bikes. So trading away those parking spaces should be a big net improvement for mobility in the city, even putting aside the vastly better affordability of Citi Bike. (You could also expand parking for private bicycles, but I think Citi Bike is a superior option for most people and I would favor it over racks for private bikes. But with sufficient political will you could have plenty of room for both.)

Biking is healthy, it's affordable, and it causes far less air pollution and congestion than car travel. The city would reap large benefits by allowing Citi Bike to double or triple the size of stations in high traffic areas.


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