Today’s Headlines

  • G and R Train Tubes to Close for Sandy Repairs (NYTCapNY, News 1, 2, 2nd Avenue Sagas 1, 2, 3)
  • Daily News Hunts Down Sources Who Call 125th Street Bus Lanes an Attack on Harlem’s Essence
  • More Coverage of NYPD Chase Protocol and Teen Driver Who Killed Ariel Russo (NYTWSJ, Post 12)
  • Jason Gay to Bike-Share Doubters: “Just Get on a Bike” (WSJ)
  • Felix Salmon: Citi Bike’s Glitches May Indicate Faulty Software Rewrite (Reuters)
  • Bike-Share Hits 100,000 Rides in First 10 Days (Citi Bike, News)
  • Observer: Brooklyn Heights Anti-Bike-Share Protest Is Simply Trashy
  • “Collaborative Consumption” Isn’t Just Reshaping Bikes, It’s an Old Model With New Applications (NYT)
  • Two Men Arrested for Attempting to Steal Citi Bikes From Station (Post)
  • Young NY Drivers Texting or Talking on Cell Phone Will Get 60-Day Suspension (News, Times Union)
  • The Venn Diagram of Conservative Bike-Share Hate (NY Mag)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Jesse

    Yesterday I got the last citibike at the dock on 6th ave and 45th street. So far the only weakness I’ve seen in the system is that it’s not big enough.

  • carma

    i was riding down broadway near astor place and parked on waverly. noticed that only 3 bikes were available. decided to stop and walk over to modells to grab something quick. within less than 5 minutes of in and out grab and go. all the bikes were gone including the one i just docked except for one that was out of service a flat.

    fortunately stations are plenty and i had to walk a mere 2 block to find another bike.

    but it shows you how popular this system is getting. we need more bikes. there will be shortages. i would love to see most of the city on bicycles. after seeing all the positive change since bike share, i think i would like to see NYC Copenhagenize.

  • carma

    i was riding down broadway near astor place and parked on waverly. noticed that only 3 bikes were available. decided to stop and walk over to modells to grab something quick. within less than 5 minutes of in and out grab and go. all the bikes were gone including the one i just docked except for one that was out of service a flat.

    fortunately stations are plenty and i had to walk a mere 2 block to find another bike.

    but it shows you how popular this system is getting. we need more bikes. there will be shortages. i would love to see most of the city on bicycles. after seeing all the positive change since bike share, i think i would like to see NYC Copenhagenize.

  • Anonymous

    That Reuters article on Citibike software issues is troubling. I’ve only had one issue out of the 18 trips I’ve taken so far, when I tried docking a bike at 3 different stations and none of them would work. When stuff like that happens it is HUGELY frustrating and likely to deter people from using the program. They really need to be on top of this.

  • Anonymous

    I think Felix Salmon might have a point about the station problems. This week I managed to find two stations in a row without any power whatsoever, and I’ve gotten the yellow light of ambiguous destiny half a dozen times since launch. There’s stations with individual docks that don’t work all over the place, and the app and website is frequently inaccurate in reporting bikes and docking spaces available– just this morning the app said there were only 5 bikes available at Houston & Allen St, when there were actually something closer to 15 parked there.

    Then yesterday evening my girlfriend tried to take out a bike, and found her key deactivated. After several attempts, we went to the kiosk to try and query the trip log and account status. The kiosk said it was printing a trip log receipt, but then nothing came out of the machine, presumably because it was out of paper and has no way of knowing that. We went to another station, and after printing a few more receipts figured out what happened:

    – She was taking a bike out and scanner her keyfob, starting trip A. Right as she did this, a tech that was working on the station at the other end pulled the plug on the whole thing and rebooted it, keeping the bike locked into the dock.

    – The tech told her to wait 2-3 minutes for it to reboot then take a bike out.

    – Once the station rebooted, she took another bike out, but in the master computer thing this actually opened a second trip, Trip B, which isn’t something you’re supposed to be able to do. She rode it to work and then docked it and got the green light, and Trip B was marked as closed.

    – Meanwhile, trip A was still open the entire day, despite there never being a bike that ever got unlocked from a dock. We were only to figure this out after tracking down a station that actually had a working printer and stepping through the worlds slowest touch screen system to print out a bunch of trip logs.

    Worse, when we tried to call customer service, their phone system is still not functioning correctly. She literally had to hang up and redial 10 or 15 times before it even rang through to something other than an error tone. Once you’re in, you have to step through a three level voice menu and then wait on hold for 20 minutes to even talk to someone. After doing all this, the customer service people manually cleared the trip, reversed the charges, and she was finally able to take a bike out almost an hour later.

    I don’t know what the hell happened with 8D, but Alta clearly didn’t finish this software in time, even after an additional year. NYC and Chatanooga were the two systems on their new homebrew system, and both have had many, many problems compared to other cities. It doesn’t have basic things like data integrity, thorough testing, and a functioning customer service system. Too many problems like this early after a launch are very likely to put off people from a bikeshare system altogether.

    edit: Forgot to mention commute this morning was fine, but now the trip isn’t showing up on my trip log. Did it register my trip correctly or is it still in open limbo? You don’t know! Sacrifice a goat and pray to the bike gods!

  • Anonymous

    Yah, I’ve been having tons of issues. It simply isn’t reliable.

    This morning, I pulled up to Grand Central Station at about 9.15am. BOTH Giant stations weren’t working. One, didn’t even register a light whatsoever (I think it didn’t have power — though it’d make a weak magnetic connection) and the other station would only show yellow and a weak connection. Everyone was pissed. Luckily I was able to go to the station on Vanderbilt just around the corner. But there’s simply no excuse for these types of errors. This is more than just “teething pains.” I think Felix’s article is 100% spot on and there should be some investigative journalism into the real reason they fired 8D. There’s no reason we should suffer when functioning software already existed.

  • Anonymous

    Only one out of 18. You’re lucky dude. I’m at about 50-50.

  • carma

    i guess im lucky as well. out of maybe 20+ trips, ive only had an issue with one. calling customer service took 20 minutes. but im still not too pissed given the success so far

  • Anonymous

    Speaking from Boston, I shoudl point out that when the outer shell of the credit card machine is loose, the printer will sometimes push its printings INTO the box. You have to see if the box will open more, and look for your receipt/code/triplog.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve made about a dozen trips and only encountered a couple of glitches. Once, I couldn’t seem to dock the bike in a certain dock, so I tried the next one and it worked. Another time it was the opposite: I couldn’t take out a certain bike but the next one was OK. One time I also encountered a station that was temporarily offline while workers were docking bikes from a van.

    I’ve been working with the station data dump to look at some trends, and while this is not yet automated or complete enough to post formally (I might do that next week if I have some time), what I’ve observed is that usually there are 3-15 empty stations (a little under 5%) and 2-8 full stations. It depends on the time of day, of course. The total number of available bikes is around 4000, give or take a couple of hundred. So perhaps there are up to 300 bikes or so roaming the streets at once.

    I’ve also been looking at histograms of how full stations are. In the early morning, it tends to look more closer to a normal distribution, perhaps due to overnight rebalancing efforts, but it gets more skewed during the day. Usually at least 80% of stations are in the 10%-90% occupancy range.

    One interesting thing that I observed in the data is that the number of available bikes in a given station plus the number of available docks is often not equal to the total number of docks. That probably accounts for the possibility that some docks (with or without bikes in them) might be disabled.

    Another fun factoid: I’ve computed the “center of mass” of all the available bikes, because I was wondering if it moved significantly over the course of the day. What I’ve seen so far is that it moves very little, and always seems to be within a block or so of Katz Delicatessen on Houston Street.

  • Daphna

    Some stations are full. Re-balancing needs to be done more effectively, routinely, promptly. Midtown in the 40’s has station after station that are out of bikes. carma was able to walk 2 blocks to a different station when one was out of bikes, but in midtown she would have walked blocks and blocks and each station would have been out. I want this system to succeed! I do hope the re-balancing can help with this problem. Hopefully Alta has enough experience in other cities to know that re-balancing is something that needs to be done constantly and hopefully they know how to do it and will get in gear with it in NYC.

  • tyler

    Rebalancing will become more and more effective… however, this is the SECOND week of the system. There simply can’t be enough data yet to understand patterns. It will never be “perfect” but over time the managers of the system will learn how to make adjustments during the day or for special events.

  • Daphna

    I wish Alta has stayed with 8D for software for NYC Bikeshare. Those developers had a proven system. I understand Alta has some sort of billing dispute with them or did not like their prices and thought they could do it cheaper. But with 8D, we would have had launch in Spring 2012 with 7,500 bikes and 480 stations and we would have had tried and proven software.

    Instead NYC got a launch a year later – a smaller launch due to storm Sandy damage – with a in-house software system that is not up to par. Maybe they should hire 8D back asap?!?! Maybe they need to hire better programmers and be willing to pay the higher salaries that more experienced developers can command. I do not know what the solution is but doing it on the cheap like they have been is not working. From annual, daily and weekly member sign-ups they have collect about $3.2 million thus far. Put some of that money into software development!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Just refreshed the website. The trip I took this morning that didn’t show up now shows up, but it’s still listed as open in the system. This despite the fact I got a green light and successful lock when I returned it.

    Fun!

  • Daphna

    Yes, it is only the 2nd week and re-balancing is going to be hard without longer term data about usage patterns. But much of midtown is chronically out of bikes and has been since the first day. I want the system to succeed. Just because streetsblog readers can be patient with it, does not mean other users will be. Poeple will get frustrated. That is why I hope NYC Bikeshare steps up their re-balancing efforts.

  • Greg

    I’ve been struggling with the same data challenges: availableBikes + availableDocks != totalDocks and I saw a lot of fluctuation in the differences. I’m not convinced docks being out of service sufficiently explains that. I wonder if we can get an answer from someone more informed.

    I also played some with the full / empty station stats, but ultimately held back after finding that one day’s data showed a certain station always had available docks even when I failed to dock my own bike at at that station because it was completely full. It is possible that some of the bikes weren’t properly docked, hence the discrepancy.

    I’d be interested in comparing our numbers and seeing how much they gel.

    If anyone else is playing with the station feed, or wants to, please reach out. I’d love to start up a discussion (email list?) where we can bounce around ideas on how to get better data and what to do with it. There really are lots of cool things we can do, and it’d be nice to sanity check ourselves against each other.

  • Daphna

    Thank you for this analysis and information.

    The issue in midtown is that there are both empty stations and many that are nearly empty and have only a bike or two docked. So it is good you are looking at how full/empty stations are, not just at which ones are completely empty or full.

    I am happy to hear that in the mornings the distribution is more normal. I am only seeing it in the afternoons or evenings when the distribution has become very skewed.

  • John

    Re: Chase protocol. In NYC, cops just can’t let a suspicious and reckless vehicle get away. What if that teen driver who fled from the police had been a terrorist with explosives in the back of his truck?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I’d be interesting in comparing notes, source code, data, etc. One possibility would be to set up a project on SourceForge or similar service where we could host a website showing the stats in real time, a mailing list, etc. There are many interesting things that could be measured and shown. I’m just not sure yet about how much time I can commit to this, though.

  • Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

    Good to see a positive BikeShare article in the WSJ after that trash they published a few days ago.

  • they can let a suspicious and reckless person go, they do all the time! they had his license plate, make and model, even a good look at the guys involved, and manhattan is *covered* in other police cruisers. someone else he’s driving towards can catch him—there’s no need to further endanger people because of danger imagined. the NYPD states this as their own policy and explicitly made it clear that this was the thinking behind it. can’t be 9/11 all the time.

  • It’s too bad the city doesn’t own and maintain the system (including software, licensed or built internally) itself. The city has a bad reputation now for managing external software contractors and getting bilked (e.g. CityTime) for crap work.

  • Anonymous

    This happened to me and I couldn’t bike for a day. It later showed up in the system as a 38 hour trip. Hopefully I don’t get billed for that.

  • email customer service. they’ve been forgiving all these overage charges but you need to tell them about it.

  • Greg

    I’m in the same boat. 🙂 Let’s keep it in mind, and whoever gets more momentum first can update the conversation here.

  • Ian Turner

    What if the teen driver had had a Death Star in the back of his truck? Deaths by terrorism are extremely rare and deaths by police chase are a sadly common occurrence.

  • Mark Walker

    It has now been two days since the killing of Ariel Russo and I have walked by the site several times. What is remarkable is that there have been numerous people clustered around the site every time, in addition to many flowers, balloons, and other displays of commemoration. I have lived on the UWS since 1975 and I have never seen such a public display of grief. This death has touched a nerve. Our elected officials will ignore it at their peril.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been keeping an eye to this site, which can give you a good idea of how long a station has been down. Click on a station, and if you see the graph “flatlining” during peak hours, you can pretty much assume the station is down.

    You had problems at 9:15 this morning, and six hours later, that Pershing Square North station is STILL “flatlined.” Not only are the stations prone to going down, but it seems to take entire days for Citibike staff to get out to fix them when they are.

    I also use the site to find out if any stations I’m heading to are “flatlining” so I don’t run into this problem. It’s a shame that I have to do that, but after having six encounters with non-functional stations in less than two days this week, I feel it’s necessary.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been keeping an eye to this site, which can give you a good idea of how long a station has been down. Click on a station, and if you see the graph “flatlining” during peak hours, you can pretty much assume the station is down.

    You had problems at 9:15 this morning, and six hours later, that Pershing Square North station is STILL “flatlined.” Not only are the stations prone to going down, but it seems to take entire days for Citibike staff to get out to fix them when they are.

    I also use the site to find out if any stations I’m heading to are “flatlining” so I don’t run into this problem. It’s a shame that I have to do that, but after having six encounters with non-functional stations in less than two days this week, I feel it’s necessary.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been keeping an eye to this site, which can give you a good idea of how long a station has been down. Click on a station, and if you see the graph “flatlining” during peak hours, you can pretty much assume the station is down.

    You had problems at 9:15 this morning, and six hours later, that Pershing Square North station is STILL “flatlined.” Not only are the stations prone to going down, but it seems to take entire days for Citibike staff to get out to fix them when they are.

    I also use the site to find out if any stations I’m heading to are “flatlining” so I don’t run into this problem. It’s a shame that I have to do that, but after having six encounters with non-functional stations in less than two days this week, I feel it’s necessary.

  • Anonymous

    That site is great, thanks for posting it! It already does most of the things I wanted to do with the station data feed. It seems I might not need to reinvent the wheel.

  • Anonymous

    You and I think a like my friend! I’ve been using that site to look for flatlining stations as well.

  • Anonymous

    “Stop de kindermord”?

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant, I’d seen that site before but never thought to use the flatline signature as a way to detect dead stations.

    Also, you could possibly use this to estimate the number of potentially broken docks, by looking for a phantom ceiling that never gets exceeded.

  • Greg

    It looks like the Pershing Square S. station showed bike activity through the period you were having problems? (i.e. activity from ~7 AM onwards). But you said that wasn’t working, right? What do you make of that?

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t been up to pershing square today, or at all really?

  • Greg

    I accidentally responded to mrmcd instead of JarekAF. Jarek: my comment above suggests one of the Grand Central stations was busy all today. I’m curious how you reconcile that with your experience.

  • Anonymous

    I was standing there for about 5 minutes and not a single one was working and multiple people also tried locking up and couldn’t get it to work.

    I’ve had it where it stays yellow but “is locked firmly,” but, that wasn’t the case with the Southern Pershing SQ location.

    It’d go yellow and it’d only be a real weak magnetic connection and stay yellow (and easy to pull out).

    Perhaps some people, after a while, were just leaving it weakly and yellow and it was still registering? I don’t know.

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