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NYC's Bike Share Stuck At Its Current Size

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 04:35 PM

WNYC
A Citi Bike station on Canal Street (Kate Hinds)

Citi Bike will not be growing any time soon. Six months after the launch of the popular bike sharing program, the New York City Department of Transportation isn't saying when a promised expansion into parts of Brooklyn and Queens will happen. 

Citi Bike began in late May with 6,000 bikes and 332 docking stations. That was less than planned: Storm Sandy damaged 1,000 bikes and 88 stations that have yet to be placed in service. They've been missing from several neighborhoods stretching from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn to Long Island City, Queens -- represented by the gray dots on this map.

With winter approaching, the DOT is still not saying when residents can expect to see the blue bikes on their streets. And this week, DOT staff told Queens Community Board 1 that bike share won't reach Astoria and Jackson Heights for another 18 to 24 months.

District Manager Lucille Hartmann attended the meeting. She said the DOT's presentation aroused no great passion. "Nobody said, 'I don't want these,'" she recalled. "And nobody said, 'Oh goody, goody, goody.'"

That contrasts with the results of an online poll by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which found that 91 percent of respondents support using federal transportation funds to expand Citi Bike.

Funding seems to be the problem when it comes to growing bike share in New York. Transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has prided herself on launching a program with no public money. Instead, Citibank paid for the city's bike share while reaping the benefit of thousands of branded bicycles serving as mobile advertisements for the company.

But it seems that Citibank won't be putting up the extra money needed to implement the full pre-Sandy plan for bike share. DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said, "NYC Bike share has sought federal and other funds that would add 1,000 bikes and 90 additional stations to Long Island City, Bedford-Stuyvesant and elsewhere."

Gastel didn't respond to requests for clarification about whether Citibank was backing away from fully funding its initial commitment to a program with 7,000 bikes and 420 docking stations. In other words, why is the city seeking government funds to complete phase one of a program that Citibank committed to underwriting?

Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio has said he wants to expand bike share, but has yet to fill in details to his plan, including funding sources.

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Comments [11]

chris m from Brooklyn

Since 51 percent of the cost of road maintence is paid for by drivers through the gas tax and other road use fees (in NY state) then driving is subsidized by all taxpayers by 49%. If we are happy subsidizing roads why not invest a comparable amount in Citibike? 20 million or so, about one third the cost of a mile of new freeway, could expand citibike into queens, the UWS, UES and more. Anyone who spends time in Manhattan can see the enormous benefit we are getting from citibike already. But there is still frustration from users due to the fact that there are never enough bikes or docks and the program is not large enough yet to meet the demand.

DOT knew a point of failure was to implement a bike share program without being a large enough program. Their initial plan of 10K bikes and even more docks was a good plan, but was reduced twice, once for insufficient sponsorship (thanks CitiBank for being so cheap. How much did we lend you?) And then a second time from the Sandy damage to the inventory.

We need to make up this shortfall somehow. Cars do not pay for roads and we cough up the difference with taxes. Why shouldn't we do the same for bike share?

Dec. 06 2013 03:36 PM
John from Brooklyn

@CyclerfromNYC: You are absolutely incorrect with your statement that 91& of those who supported using federal funds to expand Citibike were already Citibike users. The survey was held by Transportation Alternatives not Citibike. I personally participated in the survey and responded in favor of federal funding for bike share and I have never ridden a Citibike. You should not shoot from the hip with assumptions as you are wrong. Check your facts first.

Nov. 26 2013 11:39 AM
John from Brooklyn

@CyclerfromNYC: You are absolutely incorrect with your statement that 91& of those who supported using federal funds to expand Citibike were already Citibike users. The survey was held by Transportation Alternatives not Citibike. I personally participated in the survey and responded in favor of federal funding for bike share and I have never ridden a Citibike. You should not shoot from the hip with assumptions as you are wrong. Check your facts first.

Nov. 26 2013 11:39 AM

Those who criticize the decision to not use federal funds initially just don't remember the negative climate as Citibike was being developed. The anti-bicycle zealots were screaming at every turn, and they had powerful leaders including a former NYC-DOT commissioner and spouse of the senior NY US Senator, Dinkins' former First Deputy Mayor, the City Council Transpo Committee chair, and the law firm providing extensive and seemingly infinite pro bono representation of Guiliani's former Chief of Staff.

The City wasn't just defending Citibike, but the ability of bicycles to ride on the streets at all. The Citibank sponsorship was a coup that avoided the anti-bicycle people from adding "government waste" to their claims. And it worked.

Nov. 25 2013 09:22 PM
Chang

Thanks for opportunity to express my opinion. Let me ask cyclists fundamental questions: 1> Why are you promoting cycling in "New York City" without differentiating Manhattan to Staten Island? 2> Do Cyclists in NYC deserve all benefits of road like green colored bike lanes and green bike icons? 3> If separate lanes, path, "route" are justified for saving lives, bike using car lanes should be not only prohibited but given tickets like car seatbelt tickets? By now you guess I'm a frustrated driver in NYC. I have to say my side because I suspect NYC DOT is occupied by cyclists. No balanced opinion anywhere when it is concerned for bike policies. 4> Are CitiBike riders contributing to "NYC" environmentally and economically besides giving free promotion to CitiBank, private business? 5> How many percent of cyclists including CitiBike riders in Manhattan currently own cars and left cars in parking lot in order to ride bikes resulting in "reducing congestion and pollution"? How many percent of cyclists have driving experience or driver's license at all?

Nov. 25 2013 09:06 PM
Chang from Nyc

Just Checking

Nov. 25 2013 08:25 PM
Laurie from Brooklyn

I've given up on CitiBike. The corrals near my home are ALWAYS empty -- from 6am to midnight. No bikes, period. It's useless. I end up walking nearly the entire distance to my destination before I find a bike, which pretty much defeats the purpose. CitiBikes claims there are roving vans moving bikes around to deal with the imbalance, but I guarantee that no matter what time you come to Brooklyn's Clark St., Cadman, Montague or Hicks bike corrals, they will be empty, save for the ones with broken docking stations. Where are the bikes? Who knows? But the service is utterly useless for time-dependent use. It's a tourist service, screw NYC taxpaying residents. Oh, the the bike-finder app? Also useless.

Nov. 25 2013 05:37 PM
CityCyclist from Manhattan

We have yet to have Citibike uptown (UWS, UES) - areas that are perfect for using a bike to get to midtown and back and that are typically so clogged with car traffic that only walking provides a viable alternative.

I purchased a membership early on in support of this program, but the nearest station is more than 30 blocks away from my home, making Citibike only a rare option.

There were lots of listening meetings early on for the UES - where we would like to see stations - along York Avenue anywhere between 68th and 72nd would be great - to accommodate the hundreds if not thousands of hospital employees who trek from Lex to York EVERY DAY.

Citibike is a great success and expanding the map should be a high priority. If Citibank doesn't want to foot the bill for expansion - perhaps we can invite a secondary sponsor - keep Citibike logos on the bikes and offer naming opportunities for the stations or much needed helmets.

Nov. 25 2013 12:29 PM
Joe from Manhattan

This is a frightening future for Citi Bike. While Bloomberg's zeal for biking was admirable, his promise to bring bike share without public funds was fool-hearty in retrospect. The precedent has been set and the NIMBY voices will likely prevent any public funds from being used. Meanwhile, our incoming mayor has made all sorts of promises but clearly has backed off his transportation platform after the primary to appeal to the cab drivers who funded his campaign. He's a driver first and foremost and does not have the broad support to be innovative with our streets.

Nov. 25 2013 11:54 AM
Cycler from NYC

You are failing to point out that the "91 percent of respondents support using federal transportation funds to expand Citi Bike", were all current Citibike subscribers. I can assure you that 91% of New Yorkers would NOT agree that this enterprise should be taxpayer funded.

I would bet, however, that 91% of those that reside in the neighborhoods where DOT has dropped these 30-40 dock mega-stations would GLADLY agree to see them shrunk in order to free up some for other areas.

Nov. 25 2013 10:45 AM
Chris from Greenpoint

I purchased a Citibike membership when it launched this year on the premise that the timeline of rolling out to my neighborhood (the "gray dots" on the map you mention) was this fall. While I expected it would be a while before it rolled out to other areas not included in the initial planning process, the DOT is even mum on fulfilling what was originally promised? I feel ripped off.

Nov. 25 2013 10:21 AM

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