DIVVY a costly program

Bicycle-sharing program costs village over a quarter million annually

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Board of Trustees could soon be taking a closer look at the Divvy bicycle-sharing program brought to town in 2016.

The program includes 13 stations with the loaner bikes, but trustees are beginning to question the high cost of the program.

The program currently costs the village $288,000, but that number will increase to $588,000 if the board were to double the number of stations in future years, according to Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.

"We need to have a serious discussion about the program," Trustee Deno Andrews said at a recent board meeting. "We've done some calculations on it, and it costs the village about $20 every time somebody gets on a bicycle."

The program, he said, is "really good for DIVVY; it's not really good for us." Andrews said for the amount of money Oak Park is spending, "We could buy every kid a bike every five years in the village."

Andrews said in a phone interview that all the revenue from the program goes to the village, so the more people who use it, the more it pays for itself.

"I've been teaching at the high school for the last couple of weeks, and I drive past there, and there's a thousand [private] bicycles in front of the high school DIVVY station," Andrews said. "If we're trying to get annual memberships, it seems logical that we'd put a giant station in front of our big potential market five days a week, nine months a year. It just makes a lot of sense to me. I could be completely wrong."

In an effort to increase membership in the program, the village is offering annual memberships at a cost of $59.99 — that's a $40 discount — for Oak Park residents who can use the code OPFYI when signing up on www.divvybikes.com.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Andy Moss  

Posted: October 22nd, 2017 11:59 AM

The reason Divvy works well in Chicago is that I connects people both with destinations (transit, shopping, museums, etc.) and where they live and work, not just destinations. For that vast majority of Oak Park, it would take someone more time to get to a Divvy station alone as it would for them to just go directly to their destination by other means. Additionally, most Oak Park destinations are easily walkable, and, unlike Chicago, Oak Park does not have off-street cycling options, such as the Bloomingdale Trail, the Major Taylor Trail, or the Lake Front Path. Oak Park streets are not as bikeable as city streets (despite the Village's belief that it's a bike-friendly town--as a bike commuter, I can tell you that it is not). Divvy will never be viable in Oak Park unless it's accessible by a short walk within residential neighborhoods.

Bill Kopper  

Posted: October 21st, 2017 9:55 AM

Also have to think about Albion. We have money to spend on Divvy and we fund (I know not directly) this and other inefficient projects by granting variances to zoning? I am going to think of the extra 10 stories of Albion as funding 1 or 2 Divvy fiascoes per year.

Bill Kopper  

Posted: October 21st, 2017 9:53 AM

Looks like the cool concept was sold before studying demand. I think of Divvy as a way to extend transport once beyond the train or el. Here in Oak Park we own our bicycles. The village would be better served by investing in convenient, safe, ample and theft proof bicycle storage at the el stations and schools. Why not use the money to fund a design competition to find a 21st century solution for bike garages at the el stations and schools? Why not look into a drop and board service that allows you to drop your bike and catch the approaching el?

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 10:47 PM

This whole set up was wrong from the very beginning....Over four years ago, on the Aug 19, 2013 agenda, the Board approved, on the Consent Agenda, this expenditure. There was no study done, no public discussion, or even Board discussion about it. It was rushed by Village staff, and the Board went along, because Oak Park, along with Evanston, were applying for a state grant, to expand Divvy beyond the Chicago city limits. It was a sales job, about "connecting" the towns to the city. And claiming all the revenue that was going to be flowing in to town, by Chicagoans who were going to bike from the city and spend their dollars here in town. It made zero sense at the time, and it still makes zero sense. And the Village focused on the "free money" it was getting (the grant money), rather than, not only the initial outlay, but the ongoing annual operating costs.//And while we, the taxpayers are funding all this, Evanston, did things differently. They were open and transparent (not putting something on a consent agenda, but actually conducting surveys, gathering input from the residents) all before applying for the grant. They have 10 docking stations and 100 bikes (their population is 75K, while OP's is 50K, which has 13 docking stations and 130 bikes). They raised $230K from local sponsors for the program, and they got Northwestern University to sponsor 2 of its docking stations. They offer sponsorships to businesses at $25,000 a year, with a three- year minimum commitment. In other words, they didn't burden the tax payer with this. We in Oak Park make "feel good" decisions that lack logic. This is one of those decisions.

Bob Larson  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 9:40 PM

DIVVY bikes and their ilk are great for very dense urban areas. OP is not dense enough and the people committed to riding bikes rather than driving have their own bikes. Looks like it should be terminated.

Al Rossell  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 6:21 PM

And what about the lost parking revenue on North boulevard? Any other areas also taking up parking spaces?

Adrian Rohrer  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 3:36 PM

So looking at the prior reporting on Divvy, the Village estimated $230K in operating costs, and projected revenue of $168K, when they voted in favor of bringing in Divvy. That raises two points: (1) the Village new this would operate at a loss to start; and (2) the $280K figure appears to be the real operating cost, but revenue (while maybe not $168K) isn't zero. So what's the real cost to the Village, not just what the trustees are saying the operating cost is? Like I said, this program is very likely running at a loss, but I call BS on it being a full $280K loss unless the original operating estimates were simply completely off base.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 1:52 PM

Call it what it is, a FAIL, and move on by cancelling it. Doubling down on a loser is what losers do.

Chris Hartweg from Galewood  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 11:27 AM

My first reaction is that before even thinking about adding or expanding - especially at Deon Andrew's calculation of subsidizing $20 per rider - has VOP done usage analysis? Looking at the website, the stations are quite condensed. Only 1 north of Chicago? Only 2 on the south side of 290? Wouldn't putting one in each of the four corners of the village make more sense, reach all of the village and even draw riders (and money!) from surrounding communities? Folks near North Ave could use the service to get to Green & Blue Lines or meet others on Lake St. OR someone from south part of town could ride to support North Ave businesses, who are in desperate need of foot traffic. If you live in, or are trying to get to NE corner of OP, you have to walk 12-15 BLOCKS just to get to a station. Seems very poorly laid out to me.

Terence Jones  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 10:44 AM

I drive by the Divvy station on Chicago Avenue a lot. The first time I saw it, I wondered why they didn't put the stand off the main thoroughfare on Forest. But, what do I know? I have lived in Oak Park for 50 years and seen my taxes multiplied by 13. As Everett Dirksen commented, " A million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money". It's getting old.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 10:24 AM

I like the Divvy concept a lot but it's realy too expensive. You have to pay a yearly fee and each ride isn't cheap. This works a bit better if it's a service you will use often but if you want to grab one every now and then it's simply not cost effective.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 10:10 AM

I agree with other comments that Divvy is probably a better fit for Chicago than it is for Oak Park. That said, it's still a nice amenity for residents and visitors, so if Oak park can get a better deal our of it somehow, i say great. Also, such a system needs a critical mass of stations, but i wonder whether 13 is too many for Oak Park. Maybe reduce that to 10.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 10:03 AM

I think Oak Park should support its local businesses

Robert Milstein from Oak Park   

Posted: October 18th, 2017 9:42 AM

Divvy...dividend...portion... share...Village pays (loses) $20 for each bike rented. So over time the Village might spend $588K for the Ride and Lose Program. A suggestion: save the costs of doubling the program and buyout the Faux Mayor. Yes, pay our Faux Mayor to simply quit. Just a thought. Seriously, the Divvy idea is a good one but the idea is for all to benefit. Time to renegotiate this budgeting atrocity. Brian...great idea...

Adrian Rohrer  

Posted: October 18th, 2017 9:36 AM

A service like Divvy takes time to get off the ground and become self-sustaining, so the trustees that originally approved this knew it would take a contribution from the Village for a period of time to maintain the program. Maybe the adoption rate is lower than anticipated, and that would be good information to know, but current trustees essentially now framing this as a surprise that it's costing the Village money is disengenuous at best. Also, if we calculate the amount of money tree Village spends to subsidize cars operating here (the Downtown valet program comes to mind, in addition to other parking infrastructure, etc.), I'd bet the $250k going to this would look like a drop in the bucket in comparison.

Charlie Meyerson  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 9:41 PM

P.S. This message board coding interprets em-dashes (the long ones used to separate words and phrases, generally employed to suggest an aside or attribution) as question marks. So sorry about the confusing punctuation in my preceding comment.

Charlie Meyerson  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 9:16 PM

Divvy adds plenty to the Oak Park quality of life, and would do even more so if it were better known and more widely used. Assuming this is accurate --"all the revenue from the program goes to the village, so the more people who use it, the more it pays for itself"?"seems like the smart thing to do would be not to just kill it, but instead to get more people to use it while also working to renegotiate a better deal with Divvy. You know, as the village did with the Albion developers. ?" (Signed) A Divvy fan and user for more than three years

Natalie Rauch Kelly from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 7:41 PM

Considering that Divvy does not allow riders under the age of 16 at all, and only permits those 16-18 if they are riding under the account of a person over 18, I can't see why it's shocking that kids aren't using them to get to school. Divvy has never been meant to be a replacement for kids' personal bikes.

Paul Cagnina  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 7:23 PM

As I remember correctly there "WAS and IS" a bicycle rental shop on Marion just south of south Blvd. Oak park says it wants to encourage new business to come here and do well. How does the village help that Ma and Pop shop when they bring in divvy? I'm sorry, stupid question. A child could surmise " THE BIKE SHOP GOT SCREWED". So let me get this correct, the bicycle shop got screwed, the village loses $20.00 per rider, so the " TAX PAYER GETS SCREWED" who benefits, divvy!! I would rather see the village give the bike shop $50,000 for marketing money so their rental service is known to potential visitors. There you go village hall you just saved $238,000 . If the village would allow the bike shop to rent their bikes from where the divvy bike station now stands in front of the FLR studio, the bike shop will do very well, the village has less risk of losing an occupied storefront and the village has accomplished it goal of providing a GREAT service for visitors.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 5:15 PM

I might be wrong, but with all the abandon bikes auctioned off by The Oak Park Police Dept., and $288K, the village could supply their own rebuilt bicycles to the population. Throw in mentoring to kids by adults who fix/paint bikes and there is a terrific program.

Jeff Evans from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 4:38 PM

Can we get some clarification here? Does this mean there is a recurring cost just from riding that the village pays (ex: for lost bikes or some such)? Or are they simply dividing the cost to maintain stations by the number of actual rides? FWIW, I see about one person riding one per day on my street.

Richard Fischer from OP  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 4:27 PM

I'd like to see what the usage rates are at the various stations. Every time I drive by one they don't seem to be used much and I hardly ever see anyone riding one.

Marty Bracco  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 3:28 PM

If I read this right, that we are paying $ 288,000 a year for the "privilege" of hosting DIVVY, then this program needs to end immediately. There is no justification whatsoever to pay people to ride DIVVY bikes. As a rule, I like the DIVVY idea, but it's made for Chicago, not Oak Park. I am a cyclist, and ride my own bikes around town all the time. I can't recall ever seeing a DIVVY bike being used here. In truth, some DIVVY stations, like to one on Chicago Ave near the Wright home, are actually hazards to cyclists and drivers. What am I missing?

Al Rossell  

Posted: October 17th, 2017 3:15 PM

so did i understand this correctly that every time someone gets on a divy bike it costs the Village $20? Perhaps we should just give the potential user $10 and let them take an uber.

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