What does bikeshare trip data reveal about connections across DC neighborhoods?


Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

In an earlier analysis of Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare program, we found that bikeshare stations tend to be concentrated in whiter and more affluent neighborhoods, and placement and use generally follow the distribution of the city’s existing transportation infrastructure. Building on that analysis, we investigated whether bikesharing in DC results in a greater connection between economically and racially diverse neighborhoods.

With funding support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, we looked at the starting and ending stations for all Capital Bikeshare trips within DC in 2017, using publicly available, anonymized trip data. We found that riders starting trips in downtown neighborhoods are more likely to travel to a wider range of destinations compared with riders starting in predominantly African American neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, reflecting DC’s existing socioeconomic divides.

More importantly, bikeshare riders generally travel to neighborhoods that have similar demographics to where they start. These findings suggest that although the city is embracing innovative shared mobility tools, we can’t assume everyone will adopt the tool the same way or that these investments will connect people in the same way.

We hope a better understanding of travel patterns will provide decisionmakers and communities a clearer picture of DC’s interneighborhood connectivity and how the city’s disparities are changing.

Bikeshare connectivity reflects existing socioeconomic disparities in DC

Capital Bikeshare provides a relatively affordable, flexible, and healthy transportation option for short trips in DC. Bikesharing also enables DC residents to visit more areas of the city and to connect to neighborhoods with diverse demographic and economic characteristics.

To measure how well bikesharing helps riders travel between different parts of the city, we counted how many different neighborhood destinations each starting neighborhood generated and the number of different starting neighborhoods reflected in each receiving neighborhood. We call these simple measures of exposure to different neighborhoods “destination diversity” and “receiving diversity.” We use census tracts as the relevant “neighborhood” throughout our analysis. View our methodology here (PDF).

Perhaps not surprisingly, riders who start in downtown DC reach a much broader range of neighborhoods than riders starting in other parts of the city, and downtown DC receives riders from a much broader range of neighborhoods. As demonstrated in the maps below, the eight neighborhoods with the most diverse destinations in 2017 were clustered downtown. On average, trips from the most destination-diverse locations reached 100 other neighborhoods in DC, covering almost all neighborhoods with bikeshare stations in 2017. Overall, we found that destination-diverse neighborhoods are also highly likely to be receiving-diverse because of the nature of commuting trips.

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