Last year, I dove headfirst into the Nice Ride dataset and compared the bike share usage in each downtown. At the time, I argued that the large disparity between downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul meant that the city needed to be a lot more aggressive about building bicycle infrastructure.
At the time, one of the many thoughtful comments that appeared on Streets.mn was that the comparison was a bit premature, and probably unfair. Here’s one example:
Overall I think this is right on. Downtown St. Paul could have much better infrastructure for bikes. Two things come to mind though:
1. Did the Downtown St. Paul stations open at the same time as the Downtown Minneapolis stations last year? Nice Ride tends to open the new stations a month or so later than the stations that existed the previous year. The St. Paul stations may have had a shorter season than Minneapolis.
2. I’ve got to imagine there’s a bit of maturing to the system. I find I have a much better idea of the station locations that have existed a year or two and how I can use the system to get where I want to go. Areas that are new may have a bit of a learning curve for people to find out how the system can work for them.
I wonder how a 10 station comparison might look between the first year of Downtown Minneapolis service to the first year of Downtown St. Paul service.
As per usual, Streets.mn commenters make excellent points. So now that the 2013 Nice Ride data is available, I thought I’d take a look at the comparison one year farther on. Did Saint Paul’s downtown ridership grow?
The ten stations I looked at in downtown Minneapolis actually saw a decrease in ridership of about 3%! Who knows why this happened. Could have been weather or maybe just some statistical noise. Maybe the market is saturated?
But, overall Nice Ride ridership in downtown remained high. The IDS center station is still the #1 Nice Ride location in the whole system (though the station on St. Anthony Main is rapidly catching up). Some of the spots saw a lot of growth (especially the station at Washington and 2nd Avenue North), and a few declined (the library, another North Loop spot). The total ridership at the ten stations in my sample was about 45,000 for the whole season.
Meanwhile over in downtown Saint Paul, ridership grew 10% over the (shorter) 2012 Nice Ride season. Some of the stations saw dramatic increases (especially 10th and Cedar), and usage grew at practically all of the ten locations except for the two along Kellogg Boulevard. The Landmark center remains the #1 Nice Ride location in all of Saint Paul, with about 1,100 trips during the season.
That said, Saint Paul ridership is very low compared to the Minneapolis part of the system. Looking at the two downtown populations, we might expect something like a 4:1 ratio between ridership numbers, but instead we see a 7:1 ridership gap (45K in Mpls v. 6200 in StP). Granted, that’s a bit better than last year, but with a longer Nice Ride “season”, you’d have to expect some growth. It seems that pretty much everything I said in April’s post remains true in 2013.
Maybe Next Year?
In order to build ridership and make the most out Nice Ride’s investments in Saint Paul, the city needs a network of bike lanes, and to ensure safe and comfortable bike connections between the downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. (For example, see my earlier post on bike lane gaps at bridge approaches.)
One of the nice things about doing data analysis is being able to return to it, year after year, with updates. It’ll be interesting to see what 2014 brings, when the (long awaited) light rail begins running through downtown Saint Paul. Until then, it seems like the capitol city is still getting lapped by its larger Western twin.
To state the blatantly obvious, St. Paul’s hills might be a very big obstacle too. There aren’t too many directions out of downtown you can go with your bike without encountering some big ones (or heck, even around downtown).
Another reason for weak growth from 2013 over 2012 could be weather. We had a pretty brutal start to spring/summer in 2013. I recall the Nice Ride network being shut down due to snow storms at least once or twice after its early April launch. We had cold weather and even snow(!) into the first week in May. IIRC, Spring 2012 was much more pleasant bike riding weather.
It’s not only the hills but the highways. Downtown is completely isolated from the rest of the city. It will be interesting to see what the light rail changes, as well as some action on the forthcoming Bike Plan.
Who are using these – tourists or regular citizens? We are sorely lacking in both by comparison, but I wonder if the tourism split could be more like 7:1 than 4:1.
Until the infrastructure is built to connect Downtown to surrounding neighborhoods we’re not going to see a meaningful increase in ridership since the current system leaves cyclists isolated to Downtown and with no bike lanes or traffic calmed lanes: I don’t see why the latter would be so hard since it’s a tiny downtown only a fraction of the size of Mpls’.
Even Indy which is much less urban than St Paul striped bike lanes from their downtown and out 6 miles north to the closest dense urban neighborhood of Broad Ripple and these lanes connect to bike lanes that go from downtown out east about as far. And the thing is that St Paul doesn’t need nearly that much since there are already various types of bikeways just outside of Downtown to connect them together, although the W 7th area could use some: not even the short 5 block stretch of Otto that connects the river trail to businesses on W 7th has any bike lanes: why doesn’t the city of St Paul want businesses there to get more customers?
And as far as hills go remember that San Francisco is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation and hilly as hell.
And downtown St. Paul itself is very small- a bike for an intra-downtown trip is unnecessary when corner to corner is a fiteen minute walk.
Why walk fifteen minutes (especially with below zero windchill) when you could bike it in 5 minutes or less?
Speaking of which, St Paul’s plan is to have a loop of bike lanes on the outer edges instead of traversing through Downtown as though someone wanting to head directly east-west in the center of Downtown wants to have to travel on a detour north or south so many blocks to reach the nearest east-west bike lanes which avoid many destinations. If these same lanes were the only lanes that cars could use it would make just as much sense…or maybe more actually.
Actually, the plan is to have separated lanes in a rectangle, but most of the other streets will be bike-friendly, as well. Check the draft map and you will see all streets besides 6th and 7th are planned for some kind of bike infrastructure.
Great article. Where is the data source?
Data is from nice ride hq. Not sure if it’s officially public yet.
There’s a link on the niceridemn.org homepage, lower right
That is the twin cities most interesting alley it was merely lacking activation
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