Open data for Philly’s new transit system – Indego Bike Share

Indego bike handlebars with Race Street Pier and Philly Skyline in background
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An exciting week for Philly. The City’s new bike share system was launched on Thursday, Indego, with an impressive 58 active stations and 13 more coming soon. The organization running the system, Bicycle Transit Systems, has partnered with the city to launch an open data API that developers can use to build apps and visualizations.

So far, there’s just one REST endpoint that returns a list of stations (kiosks) in GeoJSON format along with station data including ‘status’ (Active or ComingSoon), location information and real-time availability of open docks and bikes.

This API feeds into Indego’s station map. Since there’s already a map showing station locations with a click-through to find bike/dock availability, I thought it would be useful to aggregate the data to give a system-wide overview and also see patterns of bike availability over time.

On Wednesday night I set up a simple Logstash job to collect data from the API every five minutes. This was a few hours prior to launch so all the docks were empty and there were zero bikes available.  On Thursday the bikes started to fill up at the active stations.

Today (Saturday 25th April), I used Kibana (part of Elastic‘s ‘ELK’ stack) to create a few visualizations that I’ll share showing a snapshot of station/bike counts as well as bike availability at key stations over the past 2 days since launch. It’s early days but these images give a picture of a system that’s already starting to gain momentum.

The following screenshot is from 10.30pm Saturday 25th April ’15 – two day after launch – and shows active vs ‘coming soon’ stations, total bikes/docks available across the system and a breakdown of bikes/docks by station.

Overall the balance of free docks/available bikes looks good but on Saturday eve Girard Station is full and some other stations are nearly full. Welcome Park in Old City is empty and 10th and Chestnut has just one bike available. Overall there are 1015 docks and 386 bikes are available across the network.

Summary of RideIndego stations, bikes and docks at 10.30 pm Saturday 25th April 2015
Summary of RideIndego stations, bikes and docks at 10.30 pm Saturday 25th April 2015

The following images show station bike availability over time for 4 separate areas of the city since launch day. Notice that bike availability starts at zero for all stations since the system wasn’t launched until part-way through the day on Thursday. It’s clear that the bikes are getting a fair amount of use based on the changes in bike availability at the stations. To discover exact locations for the stations, refer to the Indego stations map. Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 10.45.37 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 10.43.43 PM

I’m looking forward to seeing more trends over time as the weather gets warmer and more people start using the system. One of the challenges of running a bike share system is keeping the number of bikes/available docks in balance so people can always grab and return bikes wherever they want to; in fact one of the biggest operating costs of running these systems is transporting bikes around using trucks to get them into the right location.

I took a trip this evening and it’s visible in the ‘trip history’ in my personal profile (their clock seems to be in GMT – it was actually 5:51pm-6:42pm!).

Trip history showing checkout/checkin time and distance travelled

Tim Wisniewski, City of Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer tweeted that additional open data should become available once the system gets busier, but there must be sufficient usage “in order for [the data] to be anonymous”. Bike trip information with start/end location will open up more doors to exciting visualizations.

I look forward to seeing more civic hackers working on the data over the coming weeks. Perhaps a dedicated hackathon once more data is released?

Bikes at the bike share station at 4th and Walnut
Bikes at the bike share station at 4th and Walnut

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for helping out the community with your knowledge and enthusiasm! I joined Indego and I’m ready for my first ride.

    1. Thanks Tony; enjoy it – they are a very comfortable ride and it’s super convenient. You even get 2 baskets for picnic supplies. Just make sure you push it into the docks until you hear three beeps when you return it; a lot of people aren’t doing that!

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