Bike-Share Is Going to Be Huge at NYC Transit Hubs

Hubway bikes at Boston's South Station. The bike-share stations at Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal will be even larger than this one, and there will be three at each transit hub. Photo: ## Sherman##

The Department of Transportation is currently going around to community boards and presenting preliminary maps of bike-share locations. While the map for the full service area isn’t finished yet, the details that have come out so far are pretty exciting.

One of the big questions we had about station siting concerned the bike-transit connection. Namely, how is our bike share system going to handle New York City’s biggest commuter hubs: Penn Station, Grand Central and the Port Authority Bus Terminal? Based on the preliminary presentation made to Manhattan Community Board 4 this week, the answer is that bike-share is going big.

At Penn Station and Port Authority, rather than build a single station big enough to meet the enormous demand, DOT and Alta Bicycle Share have decided to build three stations at each location, with around 50 or 60 docks at each. At Port Authority, the plan is for a total of 140 docks, according to CB 4 transportation committee co-chair Christine Berthet. At Penn Station, there will be 180 docks.

For a little perspective, Capital Bikeshare, currently the nation’s largest bike-share system, only has 23 docks in front of Washington D.C.’s Union Station, with the same number at a station a couple of blocks away. Boston’s North and South Stations only have a single nearby Hubway station each, with about 45 docks at both locations.

In other words, the most important sites in New York City’s bike-share system are, fittingly, super-sized. With the biggest transit system in the country, it’s only appropriate to give those riders the biggest bike-share stations for the last mile of their trip.

CB 4 Assistant District Manager Jenna Chrisphonte said that the bike-share stations will be placed so as not to impede pedestrian movement on the often-crowded sidewalks in Community Board 4, which represents West Midtown. “You couldn’t put it right in front of the subway entrance,” she said by way of example.

According to Berthet, nearly every station in the district is being placed on the street, rather than in the sidewalk, as the community board requested in February. The board is currently working on a resolution proposing some small revisions to the proposed map, including the removal of one station and the addition of others.

Chrisphonte said that the ability to quickly move stations around — a bike-share station can be installed or uninstalled in about an hour — will come in handy, especially around complex sites like the Port Authority or Penn Station. “We all know it’s not going to be perfect,” she said. “We just have to watch how commuters are using the space.”

  • MAA

    I hope DOT is also “going big” at South Ferry / Staten Island Ferry Terminal and Atlantic Terminal. While they may not have as high a daily ridership as the other locations you mentioned, they are important transit hubs that will also attract tourists looking to mix up their sight-seeing modes. We all know bike-share will also be heavily used by tourists (especially foreigners who are familiar with bike-sharing systems) and I can imagine plenty taking a subway to Lower Manhattan, then a quick ride on the ferry and then wanting to bike back to their hotel. Or others who will take a train to Atlantic Terminal get a bike from the station so they can bike over a bridge (we can all guess which one) back to Manhattan. I know this report was only about Manhattan CB4, but I’m hoping the same holds for these other transit hubs (which certainly have plenty of space for large docking stations).

  • Danny G

    Within a few years of Bike Share hitting the streets, the “New York is not Copenhagen” types will realize that they were correct; New York is in fact much more like it’s sister city Tokyo, a relatively flat transit-rich city where many, many people ride their bikes to the train station.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “At Penn Station and Port Authority, rather than build a single station big enough to meet the enormous demand, DOT and Alta Bicycle Share have decided to build three stations at each location, with around 50 or 60 docks at each. At Port Authority, the plan is for a total of 140 docks, according to CB 4 transportation committee co-chair Christine Berthet. At Penn Station, there will be 180 docks.”
    I hope they plan to put ads on the commuter trains and buses, and have plans to expand.  This could completely change what it means to come in on the commuter railroads and work south of 30th Street.

  • Union Station isn’t really DC’s largest transit hub anyway.  The biggest metro stations downtown have many more bikes in their areas, and they still fill up/empty out quickly.

    I am really excited to see how this changes New York travel patterns.  Bikeshare members are quickly hooked and, if DC’s experience is any guide, the rest of the city (and New Jersey) will want to join.

  • Anonymous

    All the bike haters are going to be begging for more bike lanes after bike share is unleashed on NYC.  No doubt. If you arrive at Penn Station, there’s no reason to have to wait around for a slow as molasses midtown bus, a train that may or may not go near your destination, or take a cab and just contribute to the slow as heck massive midtown congestion, all to go a measly 8-15 blocks in this city.   I bet they’ll put in a cross-town, midtown cycle track to handle all the additional traffic. 

    “you’re crazy to bike in this city”  

    Not for long.  NEXT:  Modifying driver’s expectations and thus behavior.  In 2-5 years: laws forbidding (a) honking at a bike, because they’re in your way and you want them to move and (b) passing within [  ] feet (buzzing).  HAHAHAH!!!!!!!

  • J

    This is really exciting and will generate a massive and sustained jump in bicycling. How big a jump is anyones guess, but I predict that biking will roughly double. This will generate massive political support for more bike facilities.

    HOWEVER, someone still needs to propose, design, fund, and implement those facilities. If DOT leadership changes, the motivation to do so can quickly fall by the wayside. DC was moving ahead rapidly with bike share and cycle tracks, but then a new mayor was elected and everything stalled. The bikeshare and cycle tracks are great, and the city has completed lots of studies about those facilities, but it hasn’t built any new cycle tracks in the year and a half since Gray was elected. The point is that we need to keep the pressure up for new protected bike facilities, as it’s all too easy for cities to rest on their laurels.

  • Ian Turner

    @JarekAF:disqus : These things are actually already illegal, though you would not know it from seeing our streets.

  • krstrois

    This is so exciting. I really can’t wait. 

    I do wish there could be bikes with child seats, though — Hangzhou style. Liability, I guess?

  • fj

    Auspicious developments

    Very easy to underestimate the extreme value of net zero mobility.

  • Andrew

    Noah, the longest a station can be is 150 feet (so the largest possible is 59 docks), due to the solar power constraint and likely customer service demand on the station kiosk. DOT mentioned this at the workshops. So DOT & Alta can’t to do one huge station that could meet demand.

  • Anonymous

    A big concern I have is about finding the BikeShare docks.  “Wayfinding” signage and tools are key.  When I arrive at Grand Central, there needs to be a dock in view of EVERY EXIT (there are 6 that I know about).  There needs to be some great signage directing them there, or there needs to be a dock in view of every exit.  So when I exit at the corner of 42nd and Vanderbilt, a dock needs to be across the street or right there.

    Part of “Wayfinding” is the ability to find a dock at your destination, and have an easy way to find an alternative.  Montreal does this really well.  When my destination dock malfunctioned and would not accept my bike, pushing a button got me a Customer Service person (bilingual, of course) in about 5 seconds.  He directed me 2 blocks to an alternative dock.  Minor hiccup but due to quality customer service, I felt fine about it.

  • @HamTech87:disqus I’d imagine that after a week or two of daily bike share trips most regular users will learn where their “backup” stations are if the one closest to their office is full.  I’d also imagine that anyone exiting Grand Central will eventually learn how to get to the closest bike share station as quickly as possible, just like subway riders eventually figure out which car to ride in if they want to get off of the train closest to the subway exit. 

    That kind of stuff becomes a point of pride for New Yorkers and I’m sure bike share will be no different!

  • fj

    Let’s hope that this is just the beginning of a very aggressive continuous improvement program rapidly increasing service, accessibility, safety, convenience, range, practicality, etc.

  • Long-Time Observer

    Bikehsare will be massively transformative in NYC. People just have no idea what’s about to happen. 

  • Very exciting,  Are they going to remove most of them for the winter as ridership goes down?

  • fj

    David Hodgson,

    A smart move by DoT and the city would be to train people how to dress for the weather — perhaps, coordinated with clothing manufacturers like Patagonia, EMS, REI — encouraging people to embrace the weather rather than hiding from it; and with climate change, the cold is our friend.

    One common saying is:  There’s no such thing as bad weather, there is just bad clothing. 

    Another saying comes to mind since lots of people enjoy winter sports like skiing, skating outdoors, ice and mountain climbing (including Mount Everest), etc.:  People spend a huge amount of money for weather like this and we get it free.

    Other infrastructure improvements such as clearing bike lanes of snow first as in Copenhagen and vehicle adaptions such as balloon tires might also be considered options.

    It will not be serious transportation until the vast majorities use it year round.

  • krstrois

    fj, I appreciate the spirit of your comment, but I don’t think anyone in New York needs to be told how to dress for the weather — we are a city of people who walk everywhere in regular clothing, often looking rather sharp. 

    The nice thing about bike share is that it will help to demonstrate that cycling is just another way to get around and doesn’t actually require anything more than walking does. The degree to which people want to sportify cycling with clothing or gear is their own business, but special gear is certainly not a requirement. It sounds to me that the system will be so easy to use, cheap and widespread that people won’t need much encouragement to use it as long as they see others doing it in an ordinary way so that they realize they can as well.  

  • Bike Share Fan

    At no place where bike share is used in good weather and bad will you see people wearing “bike” clothing. They wear “clothing,” the same kind they’d wear no matter the temperature or level of precipitation.

    NYC’s system will be available 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. Only in extreme weather will they shut it down and not allow any bikes to be released.

  • fj

    Amazing little video of Bill Nye talking about cycling in the city of the future:

    Bill Nye explains why the city of the future is bike-friendly

    krstrois, never said anything about sportifying; get mainstream clothing manufacturers if you like stuff suitable for rain, sleet and snow, etc; the idea is to maintain large-scale cycling 24 hours year round — which it seems DoT intends — which currently falls off dramatically in NYC in the winter; where copenhagen remains 80% during the winter.

  • J

    I have a couple of points that seem relevant here:

    1) The Toronto bikeshare system is year round as well, and this past winter they only had to shut the system down once, and only for 3.5 hours during a blizzard. Pretty sweet cause Toronto generally has worse weather than NYC.

    2) I think @twitter-93223785:disqus has a point about biking in the rain. I always see photos of people in Copenhagen and Amsterdam biking with umbrellas in the rain. Has anyone else seriously tried this in an a typical NYC rainstorm? I have, and it doen’t work. The wind batters the umbrella around, making you wet and making it hard to control the bike. This is a big problem because we still have relatively few protected lanes so you’re way more likely to swerve into the path of a car. In most NYC rainstorms you need a poncho/rain jacket, rain pants, and shoe covers. Otherwise, you just take transit or walk, which are more convenient than putting on all that gear. 

    Obviously, in a light drizzle, an umbrella should be ok, but I like to think that most NYers don’t consider that rain.

  • I’m surprised there has not been some sort of system developed for the bike share docks to function how everything else in the city functions: vertically. An automated stacking tower could probably save some space to produce more docking stations. 

    I also wonder how distribution of docking stations could influence and alter commuting patterns to redirect users to more efficiently use subway stations and discourage use of subway stations that are already crowded. 

  • > In most NYC rainstorms you need a poncho/rain jacket, rain pants, and shoe covers.

    I don’t think we have special rain here. I just wear a long coat and a hat regardless, and it usually works. Sometimes a pant leg gets wet, and that’s okay. It dries. In a dark pair of wool pants I could wade through a stream crossing and no one would know the difference. That’s the closest I get to gear.

    I notice that people who’ve walked or ridden the subway also arrive at work with tell-tale splotches of water, or snowflakes (but not this year!) on their clothing. They aren’t ashamed, and I hope no one would be. I rather enjoy having variety in weather as a part of life, and appreciate that as city dwellers we’re more in physical contact with it than the people cowering from every raindrop and gust of wind in their mobilized glass boxes.

    Occasionally New York gets heavy rain, as  I think most places do. I’ll often ride the bike anyway, and get pretty wet. It would be nice if it were always clear in the forecast which rain was which. I might chose the subway on those days if I knew it was going to rain hard my whole ride. If I didn’t ride every time it said “rain” I would be underground a lot more often, and that’s not worth it to me. On balance getting drenched a few times a year is not the worst thing in the world. With the right attitude it can be amusing.

    But this is with my 25 minute (slow) ride to work. The effects of weather are different if you live further away, and that’s where transit hubs and bike share really come into play. I’ll use bike share myself when the weather is being sneaky.

    > Otherwise, you just take transit or walk, which are more convenient than putting on all that gear.

    Precisely the thing we can avoid by not having a gear mentality. If you wear the same outfit for all transports, you can use them interchangeably.

  • J

    @n8han:disqus Perhaps I overstated. I do ride in the rain sometimes with nothing more than a poncho and rain boots. Sometimes it’s fine, but sometimes I get soaking wet and sweaty. My ride is always much longer than 25 minutes, though. I guess my main point was that distances are longer in NYC than Copenhagen/Amsterdam and that umbrellas by themselves don’t really work in anything but a drizzle.

  • fj

    Having narrowly missed the two tornados that hit NYC two years ago, by literally seconds, with no idea of the announced tornado warning it seems that the bike-share stations and eventually even the bikes may serve as sources of useful and even critical information such as time, weather, and directives from the city’s emergency management office, etc.

  • Glenn

    Can’t wait for this!

  • fj

    Combining information and communication technologies (ICTs) with the extreme distributed on-demand nature of bike-share would greatly expand the functionality and revenues streams available to this system; especially considering, it seems that virtually the entire NYC government is on twitter.

  • fj

    Google has recently released a driverless car for a blind person and virtually nothing prevents it from building and releasing driverless hybrid human-electric recumbent tricycles also suitable for the blind; especially, if NYC DoT starts producing major completely collision-safe routes throughout the city virtually eliminating all inter-vehicle and pedestrian conflicts.

    Vehicle and infrastructure costs and environmental footprints including emissions would obviously be a small fraction of other existing transport methods; and perhaps even competitive with walking since simple cycling is three times more efficient.

  • fj

    This McKinsey report on the accelerating deployment of solar photovoltaic technologies also gives some indication of the rapid changes in store; which will most likely happen in transportation as well and quite rapidly; also requiring rapid technology development, innovations and major secure high-value financial services to make possible. .

    Solar power’s next shining

  • As I have commented many times before on Streetsblog, there seems to be NO general plan for secure all-day always available bike parking on the “home” side of a bike-subway-bike share commute. I assume many people will prefer this then to trying to get their bike onto a crowded train in the morning — and MTA advises not to do this anyway. IF there is a plan, will it be implemented at the same time the bike share system starts working? The bike share system will easily create demand for this for people who already comfortably ride bikes in NYC.

    In regards to the suggestion for a vertical system, I would guess that Alta or PBS simply does not want to invest, or of course there might be no interest.I am curious if the number of docks – which is not the same as number of available bikes – is based on a guess or projections on how much demand there will be. 

  • Tallycyclist

    Regarding riding in the rain with umbrellas that you commonly see in Copenhagen or anywhere in Holland.  It’s a lot more pleasant to do that when you’re in a separated cycle path and not having to worry about accidentally swerving or getting blown in front of a car, etc.  Yes, it only works well when it’s not a rain storm and going a few blocks within the city is also more pleasant than doing that for 25 minutes.  Also, many of their bikes have coaster brakes (you back-pedal to brake) so you don’t necessary have to devote energy from the hand on the handle to provide brake power; not a huge difference, but one nonetheless.  I’ve done it in light or moderate rain (not too windy), but only on the sidepath or pedestrian walkway.  I won’t do it on a busy street, even with a bike lane.  It’s more to keep mainly the upper body dry in the appropriate situations.  A lot of people I saw commuting from the suburbs just wore the poncho with rain boots.  

  • Dennis Hindman

    I would expect that at some locations the demand will far outstrip the supply of available bikes and there will be a lack of empty docking stations to drop off the bike at some hours at other locations. 

    London has about the same population as New York City and at one train station their cycle hire system could have enough docking stations to fill five soccer fields and it still would not be enough to meet the demand. This creates a situation of making the system unreliable for depending on getting a bike or being able to find a station to drop it off.

    The only way I can see to rectify the problems with having a shortage of bikes and docking stations is to raise the user fees and or put tens of thousands more bicycles out there. The highest operational cost will almost certainly be to reposition the bikes as it is with the Washington DC bicycle share system.

  • Ian Turner

    Dennis: In Paris I believe they have created economic incentives to rent bikes at full docks, and return them to empty ones.

  • Dennis Hindman

    At $75 for a yearly membership and the person expects to use it an average of ten times a week, that’s 520 uses a year or less than 15 cents a trip. That’s why most bicycle sharing systems lose money.

    Velib makes money both for the city and the contractor JC Decaux with supplamental billboard advertising. London’s Cycle Hire loses money with just bicycle sponsorship and user fees. Fortunately, New York City seems to have learned from other bicycle sharing systems and so they will allow both advertising and bike sponsorship. Having the kiosks and bike docks all on a platform that can be easily moved to where the demand is was another great strategy. London decided to go with hard-wiring like the Velib system and that increases installation costs, while decreasing flexibility.

    Decobike in Miami Beach charges $15-35 a month and they turned a profit in the first year of operation. So, that would be the equivalent of $180-420 for a yearly membership.

    The sooner the contractor can turn a profit, the faster they can install more bikes and create better service. Very low membership fees and you end up with too few bikes to meet the demand You end up with lousy service and many dissatisfied customers who won’t want to continue using the bikes.

  • bill b

    Trees,parking meters, tourists, bus shelters, free newspaper racks,store displays, restaurant tables, very clean food vendors,spoiled fruit vendors,garbage cans,payphones that are never used, etc. the sidewalks of new york have ran out of room to walk . Now bike docking stations, I guess dog owners are happy their dogs have something else to urinate on.

  • David

    What happens now if you get a ticket with a bikeshare bike and you don’t have ID? Take you downtown until someone comes to get you out?  They can’t take the bike can they? Just curious.

  • Rain boots slide as you walk, so wear two pairs of socks with them to avoid blisters. Double socks will also provide extra protection against cold air and rain.


This Week: Help Choose Bike-Share Locations in CB 4

The big activity on the livable streets calendar this week — and perhaps for weeks to come — is bike-share station selection. The first local workshop, hosted by Manhattan Community Board 4 and West Side elected officials, will begin to determine where stations will be located in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea. One of the major […]

The 2015 NYC Streetsies, Part 1

Welcome to the first installment of the 2015 NYC Streetsies. The votes are in, and today we’re looking back at how streets changed for walking, biking, and transit this year. Tomorrow will be all about the people who left a mark on the city’s streets. The Best Thing That Happened This Year Bike-share debuted two years ago […]

Prepping for July Bike-Share Launch, DOT Shows Prelim Station Sites to CB 3

After several months of public meetings and online feedback on bike-share station siting, NYC DOT is beginning to tour community boards with preliminary station maps in preparation for launching North America’s most expansive bike-share system this July. Yesterday evening, NYC DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt walked the transportation and public safety committee of Manhattan Community […]