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DDOT posts CaBi under- and over-utilized station map

DDOT has posted the presentation they made at the recent meeting on Capital Bikeshare expansion, including a great map of stations which are under-utilized, over-utilized, and "just right."

Map showing under-utilized (red), over-utilized (blue), and adequate (yellow) stations.
Image from DDOT. Click to enlarge (PDF).

This isn't a simple map of which stations get empty and full. Rather, as DDOT's Ralph Burns explained at the recent meeting, DDOT weighed the amount of time it's empty and full, the total traffic, and an estimate of the revenue from that station. Blue stations have high usage and/or revenue and more time empty and full, while red stations are the opposite. Yellow is the "sweet spot" where revenues are good but the station isn't too popular that it's often unavailable.

Red dots in areas near many yellow and blue dots signify potential opportunities to move stations, though with substantial funding for new stations DDOT may be better off just focusing on finding places to add stations rather than move many existing ones quite yet.

The red stations at the periphery do not necessarily mean they should be removed; any station at the edge of a system will see less use because people can only travel one way from that station. Some yellow stations may be in balance because people are traveling from a red station to the yellow one, then others from the yellow one to a blue one.

But two areas seem most ripe for the greatest investment in new stations: the blue zone, where demand is exceeding capacity, and also those edges with yellow or blue stations. If a station near the edge is getting overuse or even adequate use, it's likely that the demand exists for more stations in the unserved areas just beyond.

Arlington is engaged in a similar planning process and is having their public meeting on June 27. They've also posted a map of proposed locations:

Image from Arlington County. Click to enlarge.

Update: Added an explanation of the methodology DDOT used for the dots, based on their explanations at the meeting.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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What does overutilized mean, and how important is it? By this map, both the 18th/Columbia and Dupont North stations are overutilized, but suffer from completely different issues; one always seems to be too empty and the other too full.

by Scoot on Jun 3, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

I'm with Scoot, the evaluation process seems bizarre. The Lincoln Park station is marked as overutilized, and the one at 13th and D NE a few blocks away is marked as underutilized. And yet, they're both often either full or empty. If a station has less usage because it's always empty (or full for that matter), but never redistributed, does that mean it's "underutilized"?

by oboe on Jun 3, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

My home is bathed in yellow circles. I blame my neighbors and Living Social. Living at 16th and U, I'm hoping they find a solution for this.

by Graham Campbell on Jun 3, 2011 2:54 pm • linkreport

If I remember correctly, the stations were evaluated in an index based on three things:

-total time empty or full
-revenue generated from the station
-number of daily uses at the station

I don't know how those factors are weighted, or if those are the exact factors used.

They did mention that performance is relative to size - i.e. an underpeforming station might just mean that the station should lose a few docks, not that it should go away.

by Alex B. on Jun 3, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

Hmm, maybe they tweaked the numbers to make EOTR not look so bad.

Since we know that combined usage of all the stations EOTR is smaller than next one on the list (the secret WH station) that third factor isn't really a marker.

And I somehow doubt that tourists are buying day passes EOTR.

But, magically, they are NEVER empty or full.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 3:09 pm • linkreport

charlie: Where do you get that from? Red is under-utilized.

by David Alpert on Jun 3, 2011 3:12 pm • linkreport

The over-utilized stations are almost all near to other stations. This is to be expected, since station density maps to expected usage. But the other way to see it is that CaBi is a network: the value in a station comes from its proximity to other stations. That doesn't mean build a clump of stations in the middle of nowhere. But under-utilized stations in dense areas could actually increase their usage if there were more stations around. I suspect this might be the case in Cleveland Park.

by Gavin on Jun 3, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

Red is under-utilized.

EOTR just isn't used. You need a separate category for how bad those stations are performing*

* the data series ends in April. But in April, the most used EOTR station (anacostia metro) was used 60 times.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 3:21 pm • linkreport

Charlie, I think we get it that in each Bikeshare post, you're going to argue to move the EOTR stations to the areas with greater usage.

My question is, how do you know when to add any EOTR without that data?

by Graham on Jun 3, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

Another thing that would increase utilization as well as useful is having more stations instead of bigger stations. Having two sets of five docks a block or two apart is more useful than having one set of ten docks. It reduces the average distance to a station, making the system more useful.

For instance, if there's a station halfway between your origin and your destination, it's useless. Instead, the ideal is a station exactly at your origin and another exactly at your destination. So more smaller stations is better than fewer larger stations.

The downside is the hassle of siting a station (removing public space, finding adequate lighting, etc.) and maintaining it. But that's the cost of improving the system.

by Gavin on Jun 3, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

Gavin: Agreed. Also, there's a fixed cost per station for the kiosk and so on, so 2 stations of 10 docks each cost more than 1 station of 20 docks.

by David Alpert on Jun 3, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

@ Graham; not sure if I understand your second point:

ADDING stations EOTR would be a huge mistake right now.

Taking those existing 8 stations and moving them to Columbia Heights/Dupont would be a good first step.

I doubt an emergency infusion of 8 stations would relieve capacity issues there. But it would help. A lot.

Go back to EOTR once you've demonstrated the ability of CABI to achieve high cost recovery, and you've gotten a certain number of EOTR residents to sign up -- more than the 40 or so that currently exist.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

I use a few of the Dupont/Logan stations and the 14th & R station has empty/full problems just as much as the others. My personal experience is it's worse than 14th & V.

Nice to see the one behind the District Building shares our problem. Means they hear about the problem daily.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 3, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: "Go back to EOTR once you've demonstrated the ability of CABI to achieve high cost recovery, and you've gotten a certain number of EOTR residents to sign up -- more than the 40 or so that currently exist."

So you advocate REMOVING all the EOTR stations, and only going back when membership EOTR INCREASES? In that situation, wouldn't membership decrease? Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I second Graham's suggestion - can we all agree that you have a standing objection to CaBi stations EOTR at this point? Besides the fact that it's politically unfeasible, it does get tiersome hearing you reiterate (and then defend, in multiple follow-up posts) the same point over and over again every time someone mentions CaBi.

by dcd on Jun 3, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

I agree. They aren't going to completely remove the stations EOTR and they aren't going to move any stations until September, so you're really just browbeating us at this point. Whatever salient points you may have are kind of overwhelmed by the constant drumbeat.

by David C on Jun 3, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

@ dcd; in terms of membership, you don't have to use the stations where you live. Arlington had over 1000 members, and the majority of those did not live in Crystal City.

The membership thing is key. Although I don't want to speculate of WHY EOTR is such a failure-- I think Ms. V does a much better job at that -- the $100 deposit on day membership and the requirement for a debit/credit card is probably a major reason.

If CABI announced tomorrow, hey, we've got 8 more stations for hipsters, GGW would be the first to applaud. Well, maybe washcycle but it gets updated in my RSS much slower.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

@ Gavin,

I'm not so sure about more smaller stations. they cost more per station, and for people without smart phones, the possibility of shopping around several blocks for a bike or dock increases. Certainly there's a middle ground though.

And I do think that smaller, more numerous stations in some instances is best, just not as a blanket policy.

by CJ on Jun 3, 2011 4:03 pm • linkreport

If CABI announced tomorrow, hey, we've got 8 more stations for hipsters, GGW would be the first to applaud.

If they pulled 8 out of nowhere, yes. But if they pulled them from EOTR I'd have mixed feelings about it and definitely would not applaud. I'd wait for the backlash and hope for the best.

by David C on Jun 3, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

I would also not applaud moving the 8 EOTR stations to Dupont. Making CaBi into a thing that only serves one type of resident while giving up on 1/4 of the city would be a terrible idea.

by David Alpert on Jun 3, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

Somehow, I suspect if you offered the local ANC $500,000 (cost of the stations + 1 year) for transit improvements you wouldn't be spending it on bikeshare.

Likewise, David, spending $12M a year on Circulator routes that ignore EOTR is fine?

It's bikesharing -- not social justice.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

Let me clarify: since everybody here thinks, well, I want to take bikes away EOTR because "they don't like the cold" or something like that, my point about 8 stations showing up in Dupont is the need is there. I didn't say where those stations would come from.

I'd agree that there would be some soul searching if those stations came from EOTR -- and there should be.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

You seem to be making it clear EXACTLY what you think.

With each post, you dig deeper.

We get it, we do.

Now, please-- Move on. Next case!

by phil on Jun 3, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

And that might be fine - to ask the ward and ANC leadership "would you rather keep CaBi or have other transit improvements."could defuse the political backlash, but as others have pointed out looking at use alone is an incomplete look at the metrics. The stations may someday serve an advertising role and that brings a different metric into the equation (where will they be seen?). The stations themselves are advertisements for biking and CaBi. There is a political value to having them there - and you can ignore that or brush it away, but it is a real value. It may be that uptake is just slower, but given time it will catch up. It may be that while few trips are taken, they almost all replace car trips or carry other benefits that we don't understand yet.

Which is not to mention that DDOT has hardly exhausted all options for making the system work, such as moving stations with EOTR, devising other ways to pay for memberships that don't involve credit cards, outreach etc...

That ridership is low is unquestionable.
That moving stations WOTR might result in them being used more is likely.
That that is enough of a reason to do so is greatly in debate and is a point you never address.

by David C on Jun 3, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

No Charlie, your point has consistently been that there isn't enough usage of EOTR stations to justify its existence. I don't think anyone misunderstands that.

BTW, I'm not familiar with ANC's. But do they actually receive money from the government to implement policies germane to their respective wards? Moreover, you're advancing the idea of giving them 500k. So that's 500k divided between 60-70 people.

There are two wards EOTR you know. We do NOT all reside in the same wards with the same anc's.

by HogWash on Jun 3, 2011 4:49 pm • linkreport

@David C ; well, for once we agree.

That is the central issue: would having the 8 stations and 30+ bikes moved to high-use areas make a meaningful difference? I would say yes. Now, once you got the additional locations added later this year that difference might level out.

In terms of you other points:

1) ANC/Ward leadership: my position was more hypothetical, as if "if you 100 pennies, how would you divide it up." As far as I can tell the ANC/Wards aren't being consulted anywhere on where bikeshare stations end up.

2) Advertising role: as you noted on your blog -- empty stations are better than full -- and unused stations worst of all.

3) Political value: yep. very real. I'm sure Marion Barry loves bikeshare more for having some stuff in his ward.

4) uptake slower: so what pace? Ms. V has outlined that almost all the current EOTR station placements are sub-optimal. At what point do you declare failure? Or just start moving stations around inside EOTR?

5) credit cards, outreach, etc: great. More money being wasted....

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

@ HogWash; look at Phil's comment.

Correct, and as I said to David C, I don't think ANCs are having much influence on bikestation placement at all. IF those groups had a voice about where to spend 500K of transit money, would CABI be on that list?

The positive side of bike investments is they are cheap, so I doubt 500K would buy you much. Streetlights? 1/2 a bus line? I don't know.

by charlie on Jun 3, 2011 4:58 pm • linkreport

The three stations clustered around Brookland are stupidly placed. If you spread them out, leaving one at the metro entrance you would give Ward 5 users somewhere to bike to.

There should be fourth criterion for station placement: common sense.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jun 3, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

I would also not applaud moving the 8 EOTR stations to Dupont. Making CaBi into a thing that only serves one type of resident while giving up on 1/4 of the city would be a terrible idea.

I suspect there's a bit of White Guilt that's factoring into the pro-CaBi-EoTR argument. Wards 7 and 8 ("EoTR" as most would consider it). And, on the other hand, it's highly debatable what role "social justice" should take when planning a transportation system. By all means, transportation can make or break a community (look at what happened to Columbia Heights after they got a metro station, or the Southwest freeway's effects on its surrounding environs).

Nobody's complaining about the lack of stations in Takoma Park, the low utilization of the far-flung stations in Cleveland Park and Tenleytown, or the comparatively low number of Bikeshare stations in Wards 3, 4, and 5. The success of Bikeshare depends on far more variables than income or race.

Wards 7 and 8 will never have 100% bikeshare coverage for the same reason that the outer reaches of 3, 4, and 5 never will, even though those areas are very white and affluent. There's not enough density of housing and bikeable roads/destinations to justify the cost of installing a high density of bikeshare stations.

On the other hand, it's far more conceivable to imagine a bikeshare station on every block in Wards 1, 2, and parts of 6, simply because there are far more people working and living there, and destinations located within a reasonable distance of most residents homes.

by andrew on Jun 3, 2011 5:49 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately currently there is no station between branch and Pennsylvania ave. So that makes me question how reliable this map is. How can you rate a station that was in place for 2 months at the start of th Cabi stations and then removed due to construction.

by Matt P on Jun 3, 2011 6:13 pm • linkreport

...though with substantial funding for new stations DDOT may be better off just focusing on finding places to add stations rather than move many existing ones quite yet.

Completely agree. Moving all of the EOTR stations is petty and would only marginally help certain areas in the city. While you are at it, just cut all of the stations up in NW that are under-utilized too. The stations on the outskirts will naturally under-perform those in the center due to the fewer number of tourists and usage patterns. They are simply one piece of a larger system. For now, CaBi should use their new funds to expand in areas that have clear demand like Dupont.

by Nicoli on Jun 3, 2011 7:57 pm • linkreport

Picking up on Gavin's post.
Looking at the pattern, not only would more stations help, it would also be beneficial to group them into "source" stations and "sinks".
Source stations would be located near where people live or get their bike like residential areas or metro stations.
Sinks would be where they need to go, such as businesses, cultural activities, etc...
Source stations would be smaller but fully stocked with bikes. Sinks would have larger capacity but have fewer bikes of their own.
The key missing data in the map is there's two possible definitions of overutilized: too many arriving bikes with insufficient spaces, or insufficient bikes to support local demand. Perhaps DDOT can provide this data in future versions. What would also be helpful is a time sequence showing the traffic flow.

by Smoke_Jaguar4 on Jun 3, 2011 11:56 pm • linkreport

Andrew at 5:49 is spot on regarding the CaBi EoTR stations. I think most acknowledge that some stations need to be there mostly to score short and maybe longer-term political points.

If it catches on there, great, but let's not pretend this is a build-it-and-they-will-come proposition. There are structural factors similar to those that affect parts of Ward 3 and other less dense areas that will continue to make those stations less useful to the vast majority of the system's users.

More importantly for the functionality of the still-young system, where can DDOT place the new stations to best support users?

by d on Jun 4, 2011 2:00 am • linkreport


The spotcycle site has 24 hour usage data graphed to show dock status over the last 24 hours. It would be nice if this data was open-sourced to allow wider analysis of the usage patterns.

Source and Sink stations should be identified, and also linked to the re-stocking runs that are made to adjust the source/sink sites for their flow. There is a rush-hour adjustment between the two over-utilized stations on Capitol Hill (E. Mkt Metro and Lincoln Park). Figuring out a way to optimally rebalance these stations to adjust for directional flows in morning and evening is key.

by fred on Jun 5, 2011 8:27 am • linkreport

@ charlie: I don't think ANCs are having much influence on bikestation placement at all.

Except that the Georgetown ANC succesfully blocked a CaBi station at the Carbarn in Georgetown and slowed down the station at Georgetown U. They had a good reason however: They were worried about the noise caused by people circling blocks trying to find a parking spot before transferring to the CaBike.

So, in conclusion: ANCs can have an influence. If they want to. Regardless of reason.

by Jasper on Jun 5, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

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