All posts by nyurudincenter

Why is Citi Bike So Successful?

By Lily Gordon-Koven

In its first six months of operation, Citi Bike riders took more than 6 million trips from bases in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and by January, nearly 100,000 enthusiasts became annual members. Nearly one year in, Grand Central has become the busiest area in both mornings and evenings. The system is used by both New Yorkers and tourists alike. At the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, we’ve been observing the system closely and have conducted the first academic investigation into Citi Bike’s use.

One marker of success: Even as the city weathers one of the worst winters in recent memory, Citi Bikers continue to pedal through slush and ice every day. On January 7, the coldest day on record in over a hundred years in New York City, hearty New Yorkers took nearly 7,000 trips on Citi Bike. The system’s continued use through the winter months, despite snowed-in stations and treacherous riding conditions, is a strong indicator that Citi Bike is not just a passing trend or summer pastime.

Our analysis shows that the key ingredients of Citi Bike’s success are urban density and proximity to mass transit, two of New York’s most valuable urban assets. Other bike share systems in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC (as well as other American cities) move plenty of riders, but none do so with the same scale and intensity of Citi Bike.

This is, of course, due in part of New York’s population size and tightly knit street grid, but it’s also about something else – connections. Citi Bike thrives in New York because of the many ways it connects to other modes New Yorkers use everyday – subways, buses, taxis, commuter rail, ferries, and their feet.

We have mapped the busiest stations and their connections to the City’s economic and transit hubs, including the Financial District, Midtown, and Downtown Brooklyn. While Citi Bike at this time covers a limited portion of the city, its connections to transit make it accessible for New Yorkers from all five boroughs and commuters from the entire region.

The busiest stations are at Grand Central and Astor Place in the mornings and Grand Central and 17th and Broadway in the evenings.

Click on the map below to explore the busiest origin and destination stations during morning and evening rush hours.


Our forthcoming report maps out exactly how Citi Bike has successfully become a part of the transportation system in New York. The system isn’t just for tourists or leisure riders; it has become an integral part of the transportation network.

NYU Rudin CitiBike Presentation at TRB

ActiveStartStations_LGK_0108 [Converted]

NYU Rudin Center Director Mitchell L. Moss and Research Assistants Lily Gordon-Koven and Nolan Levenson presented new findings on CitiBike at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January.

Findings will be compiled into a post on this site, including interactive maps. A preview is at left, showing most active journey start stations – mostly around the city’s transit hubs. Check back for a full writeup this week.

Interview: Anthony Townsend in Atlantic Cities

SmartCities.embed_NYU Rudin Senior Research Fellow Anthony Townsend discussed his new book and the growth of smart cities in Atlantic Cities. He said, “in 2011 when I started writing Smart Cities, the best forecast of the smart city market, in terms of credibility and without being too, sort of, puffing it up, was this group called Pike Research based in Boulder, Colorado. And they tagged it at $100 billion through 2020. And recently, about a month ago, the U.K. released its own forecast, and they’re saying $400 billion a year.” Read more here.

NYC vs. DC: Pedestrian Showdown

Do pedestrians have more time to cross the street in DC than in NYC? It depends. Both cities have rapidly implemented “countdown” pedestrian signals to give pedestrians a better estimate of how much time they have to cross. This is particularly useful for those who may walk a bit slower than the “average” pedestrian, such as the elderly and disabled.

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in DC display the full cycle length

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in DC display the full cycle length. Source: Eric Fischer, Creative Commons / Flickr

At first glance, it may seem like pedestrians have longer to cross in DC, but here’s the secret: in the District, pedestrians are given the countdown of the full cycle length, whereas NYC pedestrians are only given the countdown for time just before the “don’t walk” phase (the blinking red light or the “clearance phase”).

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in NYC follow the MUTCD and only display "clearance times."

Countdown Pedestrian Signals in NYC follow the MUTCD and only display “clearance times.” Source: Eric Fischer, Creative Commons/Flickr

Why does this difference exist? According to the signal bible, the Manual on Uniform Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration, pedestrian signals should look like the ones in NYC. But wouldn’t you want to know how much time you have total? Not just the “clearance time”?

Are government officials in DC a bunch of rule breakers? Actually, DC was a trial city for implementation of full countdown clocks, but the results of this “test” have yet to be released.

In general, the length of signals for pedestrians depends on volumes of people and traffic on the street. DC usually uses 100-second signal cycles (for all intersection movements) during peak hours, and 80-second signal cycles on nights and weekends. NYC varies much more, with cycle lengths between 45 and 120 seconds.

Sources: Sam Zimbabwe and George Branyan, DDOT; NYCDOT website