Go to Citi Bike’s “Station Map” and you’ll find a sea of 330 yellow pins covering Lower Manhattan and spilling into Brooklyn. Each one of these pins is a soon-to-be-operating Citi Bike station. This map of tightly packed yellow icons got us thinking: a program is often only judged by the number of bikes and stations it has–station density and siting are usually overlooked despite being vital factors to meeting trip demand. The more well-sited stations in an urban area, the more opportunities to get to more destinations.
But how does Citi Bike’s station density compare to popular programs around the world? The infographic below takes a closer look.
Upon its launch, Citi Bike will follow a European station density model and surpass both DecoBike and Bixi Montreal as the densest program in North America. Given that New York’s population density is more comparable to cities like Paris and London and its urban core is entirely built out, following the European model is reasonable.
Bike share planning guidelines suggest that, depending on population density, build out, and other factors, stations should be between 650 and 1,300 feet apart (200 to 400 meters). Planners have found that placing stations this far apart allows a user to locate a bike within walking distance and easily return it somewhere nearby his or her destination. And sufficient density of stations makes short distance rides more convenient, which attracts more casual riders, increasing overall revenue.
Another reason why the European model works well is because a lower station density can cause rebalancing issues, such as dockblocking–arriving at a dock station that is entirely full or empty–which increases operational costs. One solution to this problem is have an adequate proportion of available bikes and bicycles; for every bike there should be at least two docking spaces.
Every city’s built environment is structured differently and population densities vary dramatically. While number of bikes and stations is a good way to understand the scale of a program, station density is integral to understanding a program’s ability to meet trip demand. A densely packed set of stations, like those to be installed in New York, strategically placed close to transit, office, retail, and recreational attractions will maximize ridership by meeting daily trip demands.