New Citi Bike Data on Individual Trips Shows How Bike-Share Links to Transit

Today, Citi Bike opened up a treasure trove of data on how people are using the system, giving the public access to details of individual trips, featuring information such as starting point, ending point, trip time, bike identification number, and anonymous information about the bike user, including gender, age, and whether the rider was  using a day, week or annual pass.

With today’s news, Citi Bike has joined sister systems in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco in releasing data about individual bike-share trips, not just aggregate data on the total number of trips and members.

The data, from July 2013 to February 2014, gives the public an opportunity to look for patterns in how New Yorkers and tourists use bike-share. To prepare its release, Citi Bike worked with NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, which got a head-start on analyzing the data.

“We got it about three weeks ago,” said Sarah Kaufman of the Rudin Center. “September seemed to be the most interesting [month of data],” she said. “Everyone is going to work and school and the temperature is still temperate enough that people are still interested in biking.”

Kaufman, along with Jeff Ferzoco of linepointpath and data visualization specialist Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, sorted through the data to create maps and animations.

Some patterns jumped out as the group began its work. First was the difference between annual members and riders using day or weekly passes. “The casual riders, they’re clearly tourists,” Kaufman said. “They’re concentrated around the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center site, the bottom of Central Park.”

Another pattern that emerged: Late-night bike-share rides, especially on weekends and holidays, often involve pairs of riders going from the same starting place to the same destination within a minute or two of each other. “People are biking together,” Kaufman said. “It’s interesting to see these Citi Bike couples.”

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share use. Image: Rudin Center
Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share usage. Image: Rudin Center

A third pattern: a slight correlation between unplanned MTA service disruptions and Citi Bike ridership. “It shows the potential of Citi Bike to become really intricately interwoven into the New York City transportation landscape,” Kaufman said.

Observational studies of Manhattan cyclists have shown that women make up a higher proportion of Citi Bike riders when compared to the cycling population at large. The data released by Citi Bike today includes gender information, and the group is working with WNYC on a project to look deeper at the age and gender demographics of Citi Bike users. “I think that’s going to be very interesting to dive into,” Kaufman said.

Citi Bike is encouraging the public to share its creations and visualizations using the newly-released data with the #citibikedata hashtag. Each week for the next four weeks, Citi Bike will choose a favorite project and award its creator a free t-shirt. (Alta systems in other cities, including San Francisco and Chicago, have launched robust data challenges featuring a panel of judges.)

One set of data that’s missing from today’s release: GPS information. Unlike other systems, New York City bike-share is designed to include information on the routes its riders choose, not just their starting and ending points. Streetsblog asked Citi Bike if it is collecting this information and plans to release it. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

  • AnoNYC

    Holy ridership!

  • Peter

    I know that early on they said there would be GPS in the bikes, but I’ve seen no evidence that it was actually implemented. I’d be quite surprised if they actually have GPS tracking.

  • Alex

    they should gps the bikes and create a database of all the streets in ny that have bike lanes and that don’t. then they could figure out the streets without lanes that get ridden the most and use that data to prioritize what lanes should be built next

  • Larry Littlefield

    Transit ridership and cycling are soaring, and VMT is weakening.

    The cost of real estate in the remaining economically viable walkable urban areas has soared to the point of crisis, while the cost of real estate in many auto-oriented places built since WWII has weakened to the point of crisis.

    This has economic implications. But to understand the political implications, one has to weight the trends by the age and attitudes of the perpetual incumbents in politics, and the relative sense of entitlement of different generations.

    The drive everywhere folks have allowed bikes and transit to get this far. The question is, now what? The only form of non-drive alone transportation that is going down is the local bus, which has to share lanes with private automobiles.

  • Clarke

    Agreed…have actually been in contact with them about mysterious open trips in my account and was asked where I docked the bike that failed to close out the trip. If there really were a GPS, it seems that they’d be able to tell (the bike was stopped near a station for a prolonged period of time). This theory fails, however, if it failed to close out the trip and someone was able to take the same bike out in a short enough turn around that the data didn’t show it as any more than a red light stop.

  • Jeff

    This is what a sane world would look like. But we all know that bike lanes are simply built on the streets which hurt motorists’ feelings the least. It has nothing to do with what is actually needed by cyclists.

  • Zachory Nissenbaum

    In my case, someone took the bike out and never returned it. My trips changed from “Trip complete” to trip open.

  • NSLX

    Here’s my theory on the ‘Open Trip’ status:
    http://stuarte.co/2014/trip-open/

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