Monday, February 23, 2015

There's now reason to have confidence in the Citi Bike app

Imagine the Citi Bike communications team tweeting this: AFTER ALMOST 2 YEARS, OUR APP NOW ACCURATELY REPORTS DOWNED STATIONS

Of course they can’t do that, so it’s up to this blog to spread this really good news. Make that great news, because on the list of Citi Bike aggravations, arriving at a dead station is at the top.

Here’s a look at the number of available docks for the first seven weeks of 2014:
An “available dock” is supposed to be a dock online, regardless of whether it’s holding a bike
The numbers varied little, from a high of 11,651 docks on Jan. 19 to a low of 11,502 on Feb. 19. The variance of about 150 docks reflected the stations that Citi Bikes announced as out of service. For example, during this timeline a number of Times Square stations were dismantled for Super Bowl events.

But as every Citibiker knows, the numbers did not reflect stations that had crashed. Our own surveys, taken last summer and fall, show that the app was no more than 50 percent accurate.

Now here are the same seven weeks of 2015:

What a difference a year makes!  
During the snowstorm of Jan. 26-27, the system was reporting that 326 stations were operating, just three shy of the maximum. Then, in the hours after the storm ended, a major station crash occurred. 
At 8:30 am Jan. 28, 65 fewer stations were online than on the previous day -- a drop iof available docks from 11,191 to 8,884.

Since that crash, the system has not returned to “normal.” The variance in available docks since the day after the system recovered from the crash has swung wildly -- more than 1500 between the high of 11,241 on Feb. 18 and the low of 9684 on Feb. 17.

For us, here's the clincher
Since the January crash, Citi Bike has completely changed the way it announces out-of-service stations.

From the system’s opening day, Cit Bike routinely announched single-station outages on Twitter this way:

Citi Bike @CitiBikeNYC · Jan 23

Station Update:  1 AVE & E 18 ST has been taken out of service due to an issue with the kiosk. Our team is fixing and we'll update soon.

But that Jan. 23 announcement appears to be the last of its kind. Since then, Citi Bike Tweets go like this:

Citi Bike@CitiBikeNYC  Feb 20 @9am Temp 7F
If you ride today, layer-up, stay warm and check the Citi Bike app or online map. Cold weather is affecting the performance of our stations.

System Status: Large # of stations out of service this AM. Techs working to resolve ASAP. Pls check the Citi Bike app for real time info.

Citi Bike@CitiBikeNYC  Feb 14 @ 2 pm

Our earlier connectivity issues have been resolved. Check the Citi Bike app or online map for real time info about station status.

10 CitiBike stations are currently down due to technical issues. Check the app for live station updates if youre playing Cupid today by bike.

What we're seeing is new-found confidence in the app’s accuracy. This check-the-app mantra just didn’t happen before the January crash.

We leave you with this bit of mystery
For the first time since the day it opened, Cit Bike shut down the entire system for 15 hours during the snowstorm. Could it be that it used the shutdown to install new and better software?

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