Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week 3 Summary: Where did 1500 bikes go?

Underneath the frozen slush is a story of disappearing bicycles. Last Sunday morning, Jan. 12, at 7:12 to be exact, there were 5650 bicycles in the docks. At this writing, one hour shy of one week later, those same docks hold 4178 bikes.

We were about to tell you that whatever the issue, given the weather we’re pretty much talking theory versus need. To back that up, we thought we’d share a graf from the SysOps on ridership during subfreezing weather. Lo and behold, we got this:
What a surprise!  This data section of  the official site has more or less been busted since early December, though it was up and running for a time earlier this week.

This gets to the nub of what this blog is about: Getting a discussion going on what is an acceptable level of service.

Back to the “missing” bikes. The chart below is based on data captures taken several times each day. We started out with 4226 available bikes on Jan. 5 and that number gradually rose until peaking on Jan. 18 at 5674.

On Monday Jan. 20 we started the morning with about 5400 bikes and that number dropped to 5041 at 8 pm. We awoke Tuesday to 4338 bikes at 7:05 am.

What’s been the impact? Even given the weather, marginally bike-able at best, the results don’t look good.  

The chart below shows existing NotSpots and available bikes around 5:30 pm on weekdays from January 6 through Friday. It’s pretty clear: NotSpots during evening rush were trending downward as more bikes were made available.  And zooming upward on two of the three days since bikes were pulled  from service.

On Friday at 5:30 pm, the last data point on the chart, we hit our recorded low of 3874 bikes in the docks. There were 39 empty stations. It was 18.6F with a 14 mph wind off the East River.

Now we surmise that the system operators are taking advantage of the bad weather for some major maintenance. But that gets us back to standards.  Is having three times the number of NotSpots that occurred with 5,000-plus bikes an acceptable level of service? We think not.

Note: All data come from the map provided by Oliver O’Brien at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis.

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