Citigroup to Sponsor NYC Bike-Share at $41 Million Over Five Years

The line-up at today's bike-share presser: Deputy Mayor Robert Steel, Alta Bikeshare CEO Alison Cohen, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, and Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Photo: Noah Kazis

The largest bike-share system in North America will be sponsored by one of the world’s largest financial institutions. At City Hall today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $41 million, five-year sponsorship arrangement with Citigroup that will fund most of the cost of implementing NYC’s bike-share network. The system will go by the name “Citi Bike,” and its distinctive blue bikes will be available in late July, with the full 10,000-bike, 600-station network in place by spring 2013.

MasterCard, putting in $6.5 million, will be the secondary sponsor. Its logo will appear on all the station kiosks, where bike-share users can sign up by swiping their credit cards. The sponsorship announcement clears up the last big unknown about how the system would be funded. After the initial capital investment in setting up the system, the city and operator Alta Bikeshare expect Citi Bike to turn an operational profit.

It was also an occasion to see how much it pleased the chiefs of two large multi-national corporations to associate their brands with bike-share. “We could not do what we do” without New York City’s infrastructure, Citi CEO Vikram Pandit told the assembled reporters, calling bike-share “an innovative option, kind of like ZipCar,” but “better for the environment and it’s also good exercise.” Said MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, “The bike-share program is just another way to continue that ‘priceless’ New York feeling.”

Announcing that the timetable for launching the full 10,000-bike system will extend into spring 2013, Bloomberg said, “You’re getting an entirely new transportation system without spending any taxpayer dollars.”

About two-thirds of the system — 420 stations — will be available soon after the July launch, according to the Citi Bike website, with “parts of the Upper West and East Sides, and Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights” getting stations by next spring. DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said that Long Island City, Queens will also be included in the system. “It’s going to be a phased deployment,” she said.

The full system map will be available later this week, Bloomberg said, the result of copious online feedback and 250 meetings with community boards, BIDs, and other stakeholders. If any location doesn’t work out at first, he added, the solar-powered kiosks are easy to pick up and move elsewhere without construction.

In his prepared remarks, the mayor emphasized the mobility benefits of bike-share, the increasing safety of the city’s streets, and the city’s ability to benefit from the system without subsidizing it. “It gives people one more way to get around,” he said. “The subways and buses don’t always go where you want to go. Now New Yorkers will have another option — Citi Bike.”

In addition to the phased launch timetable, a few more details about the system and rollout surfaced at the presser:

  • The pricing looks like this: $9.95 for a 24-hour pass, $25 for 7 days, $95 for a year.
  • Annual subscribers get to ride 45 minutes at no additional cost, after which fees kick in, escalating the longer you go before docking the bike. Short-term users get 30 minutes free. You can look up the time-based fees on the Citi Bike website
  • Sadik-Khan said that NYC DOT will be launching “an unprecedented public safety messaging campaign this spring” to accompany the bike-share launch.
  • The bikes displayed at today’s presser had serial numbers 00001 and 00002 — the five digit numbers hint at the expectation that the system will eventually exceed its initial 10,000-bike size.

In the press Q&A that followed, Bloomberg said he would ride a Citi Bike soon enough, but not today (because “I’ve got to get my helmet first”). “I will certainly pay and ride a bike,” he said. “Will I do it often? Probably not. But I’ll give it a try. I’ll see what it’s like.”

  • Mike

    According to DOT’s FAQ, the dividing line between this year and next year is Bergen Street.

    I wonder if the Long Island City stations have anything to do with the fact that Citibank has a huge office building there.

  • JamesR

    Love the fact that bike share is on the cusp of happening, but I’m not gonna lie, the fact that all of these bikes will be shilling for loathsome CitiBank makes me throw up in my mouth a little. 

  • Cute name. I can foresee some confusion over the MasterCard branding, since the machines also take Visa, but it seems that Citi + MC have a pretty close relationship.

    Those prices are pretty dang steep; the median trip for a CaBi day-pass user is ~45 minutes, which given CitiBike pricing would put someone out $14 for a single trip.

    Even if the system reached exactly 10,000 bikes, it would need five-digit serial numbers — just for that very last bike, or for eventual replacements. Besides, it’s not as if there’s much overhead cost involved in going from 4 to 5 digits.

  • Anonymous

    wait, new york’s getting 420 stations?

  • @mistermarkdavis:disqus 420 stations by August, 600 by spring 2013.

  • Too much too hope that the “unprecedented public safety messaging campaign ” will be as much directed at drivers as it will be at cyclists? 

    I’m not thrilled to see a big bank as a sponsor, but I do appreciate that it represents another step toward the legitimization of the bicycle as a form of practical transportation.

  • Glenn

    I actually wish there were multiple sponsors that you could choose from which bike to ride. Oh well. But I think what’s great about this level of investment from a major corporate icon (love it or hate it) is that bike share will really mainstream the whole concept of urban cycling. Can’t wait to see the 420 Stations mapped out. It would be great if they built out the system all along the Hudson River to 125th Street at least (or higher).

  • Guest

    This is a little off topic but is anyone else concerned that most of the stations will be in the Manhattan CBD where car traffic is terrible, and the bike lane network is even worse?  I mean I know that the idea is to put the stations where more people are and where people need to go, but isn’t that seriously undermined by the fact that there are almost no bike lanes in the CBD? Do we really expect people who never ride to be persuaded to hop on bikes just because they’re there?  The larger issue here is that the City is being a little irresponsible by encouraging more cycling without providing safer infrastructure to do so.

    Sorry to be a killjoy.

  • Dot Org

    @JamesR: Agree. But Citibike is a fine use of TARP funds, if you ask me. 

  • Steve F

    This is not Citi’s first support for NYC bicycling.
    Dig out that old “City Never Sleeps” fluorescent orange safety vest that was given out to all the riders on the AYH Five Boro Bike Tour for a decade.
    Citybank sponsored the 5 Boro from year three – 1979 – for a decade.  We can still see a few cyclists wearing one of the tens of thousands of those vests that were given out.  Citi bought into bicycling, with support for training and education programs beyond just the day of the 5 Boro ride.
    Nice to see Citi pedaling bikes again.

  • JK

    Hats off to Janette Sadik Khan and Jon Orcutt for continuing to push hard for bikeshare during the coldest days of the bike lash Winter. This is an awesome legacy for them and Mayor Bloomberg. They have set a new standard for public engagement with “250 meetings with community boards, BIDs, and other stakeholders” and a cool online, interactive mapping portal. And, they’ve listened and continued to adjust their plans as needed. That this is being done at very low cost to tax payers makes it doubly impressive.

  • Eric McClure

    Look, I loathe Citibank as much as the next guy, but did anyone really not expect it to be Citi Bikes?  The name is a perfect fit.  And that’s $41 million that won’t be going to Vikram Pandit’s pay package, as far as I’m concerned.  To paraphrase what @601dbb914200a6fd7a1df5c155d2f6d0:disqus wrote, can you name a better way to spend TARP funds?

  • Pbsinnyc2

    Citigroup / MasterCard = The 1%

    Just makes me more motivated to prove that this bike sharing program is going to hurt NYC’s livable streets movement in the long-term.  But I’m feeling pretty optimistic, I believe there will be something that can be done about it in the future.

  • Dennis Hindman

    It was a masterstroke getting having the sponsor included in the bicycle sharing name without it seeming to be blatant advertising. Citi bike is a great name for a bicycle sharing system in New York City.

    I agree with the pricing. It has to be high enough to keep the demand in line with the supply of bikes available. If the price is set too low, then the amount of users could quickly overwhelm the system, creating a lot of dissatisfied customers who will have a difficult time finding a bike to use or an open docking station to return a bike to.

    If any future profit sharing from this, for New York City, goes into creating more bicycle infrastructure that is better maintained, then this could be a big driver of increased overall bike use in New York City. People will have a very easy way to try bicycling in the city and after a few rentals they may start using their own bike daily instead.

    If this private/public partnership proves successful, this could turn out to be the model for a bicycle sharing system that every other large city in the U.S. would want to immulate.

  • Morris Zapp

    I don’t see how advertising on bikes and bike stations is any more odious than advertising on buses and trains.

    Sure it’s undeserved, but until the Reaganites die off, corporate sponsorship lends bike-share an air of legitimacy that a straight-up gubment program could never hope to match. And it eliminates the inevitable cries of “Boondoggle!” from the Lew Fidler and Marcia Kramer types. Though Christine Haughney is doing her level best to expose problems that don’t exist.

  • James

    These bikes are ugly compared to the London bikes, which at least incorporate the distinctive ‘Tube-style’ circle, incorporating them into the broader transport system. There is nothing NYC about these bikes, only CitiBank, CitiBank, MasterCard. Real shame…

  • Anonymous

    @eccfe854e12a08a0548f0744d7ddcee4:disqus What if all buses and all trains in New York had no indication whatsoever that they’re part of a public service? What if it all of that seemed like some beneficent product from the innovative minds of, say, Verizon?  Why not redecorate the courts, etc.?

    Listen: I don’t think for a second that there was another way besides this public-private nonsense of getting bike share into New York. But (a) that’s a terrible statement about the American reality, no matter how inured we all might be to it and (b) I for one never imagined that sponsorship would mean pure branding, without so much as a wee vestigial hint that the city created this plan.

    That people find the name “Citi Bike” perfect makes me very depressed. I’m really not sure I’m going to be able to ride these–and I’d really been looking forward to it. (Cue comments to the effect of “Good, don’t ride, ‘cuz these are going to be so popular, it’ll be hard to get a bike,” and so on.)

  • lic lovr

    might I add that other bike share systems use corporate sponsorship?  Why is this a problem?  The fact is, we’re getting a fully-funded transport system without any tax-payer funding.  I couldn’t be happier.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The two most important things to get people to cycle are access to a bike and then for them to ride it. Citi Bike provides easy access to a bike without having to lift the bike in and out of a building to use it.

    A transportation coordinator at a city in Los Angeles County told me a few months back that he didn’t care what the bikes looked like and he wouldn’t mind if the bikes had advertising all over them if the bicycle sharing system were provided at no cost to the city he worked for.  Yet, some people are complaining on this website that it’s the wrong type of advertiser, the bikes look ugly and that somehow the cost of zero is too high a price to pay by the city government.. Geez, you obviously cannot please everybody.

  • Anonymous

    @6684b3affdda7131404c7efbe9dd4d54:disqus Why is it a problem that the city I actually live in has to cower in the corner while some bank that makes $41 in profit on any given Wednesday decides that this is very, very cheap advertising and ongoing publicity? Hmmmm. Maybe because I live here and the city I actually live in is being sold cheap to a company that makes money in some of the worst ways possible . . .
    @d5ef5e91fd4f619109ebb16eca656a73:disqus I think that the city being able to visibly claim ownership of the project it put together is actually an important part of this. People need to see that cities and city governments work–that they provide worthwhile services in smart ways. Citi’s sponsorship to this degree–not just, like, a sign here or there, but every square inch covered in grotesque branding–reinforces the utterly poisonous mindset that Business Acts while Governments Dawdle and Waste.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think most people would rather Citi put its name on the bike than pay for them, and I’d like bike infrastructure to be a cheap as possible to counter the haters.  So, thanks to Citi.

    A couple of comparisons.  I watch free TV and don’t have cable.  Guess who pays for that?

    “Maybe because I live here and the city I actually live in is being sold cheap to a company that makes money in some of the worst ways possible.”

    Don’t worry.  Citi makes money by doing simple things like providing ATMs and savings accounts.  It LOSES money in some of the worst ways possible.

  • Anonymous

    Correction: Citi only made $31 million in profit every single day of 2011, not $41 million. But maybe profits will be up thanks to this!  Root for the home team!

  • Clarke

    Let’s get Sadik-Khan to ride one of these across any intersection along the Delancey Deathway Interstate!

  • fj

    Great news and lets hope more cash rich Gotham companies jump on the bandwagon and really grow this thing out in what is sure to be a terrific opportunity for everyone.

  • Anonymous

    @f9b2cb395abd5a101456b3b0a40912e1:disqus

    I think most people would rather Citi put its name on the bike than pay for them

    But they have paid for them. This wasn’t put together by volunteers from Citi. It was planned by people paid by tax money.

  • Driver

    It would be nice if the service was priced to serve ALL the residents of NYC, not just those who live or work in certain areas.  

  • Bike share fan

    Driver, the subway does not serve ALL residents of NYC. Why is bike share held to a different standard? Is there any public transportation service that reaches all residents of the city everywhere they live and work?

  • Dennis Hindman

    This arrangement that New York City has with Alta Bicycle Sharing is very similar to the contract that Cemusa has to provide bus shelters, newsstands and public toilets for free in exchange for the company being allowed to advertise. The Cemusa contract will bring in at least $1.2 billion to the NYC government. There are those that believe that the city government should provide this service without advertising. To do this would mean the city would be in the hole for millions of dollars and they would not receive the $1.2 billion.

    Likewise, Alta Bicycle Sharing is providing bicycle sharing without any cost or liability to the city government and in return receives revenue to cover their costs from user fees and advertising. This service is too expensive for user fees alone to cover the costs, it has to be supplemented by some other revenue source such as advertising or government funding.

    Potentially, the NYC government could receive millions of dollars in profit sharing from Alta Bicycle Sharing that could be used to provide some form of city service. Without a bicycle sharing arrangement like this, there would not be this potential for millions of dollars coming in. There is no burden to the taxpayer for this service, in fact this potential income likely makes it easier for the city to provide services. 

  • Driver

    Bike share fan, you might have missed my point.  I’m not saying that bikeshare should serve all residents by being in their neighborhoods.  What I am saying is that there are millions of NYC residents who do not live or work near bike share that will not be able to justify the (reasonable) annual membership for occasional use.  These residents only options are to pay the inflated tourist daily or weekly rate, or reject the system as something that is not designed for them. 
    As someone who was somewhat excited about the coming of bikeshare, I have now been put off by the nature of the pricing structure.  $10 is not worth a couple of short bike rides to me, and likely not to many working class NY’ers who live throughout the city.
    If the city wants to bilk the tourists to help finance the system, that is one thing.  If in they process they are either bilking or shutting out a large segment of NYC residents, that just creates a stigma for bikeshare that will hurt its perception in the eyes of many residents.

  • Anonymous

    @d5ef5e91fd4f619109ebb16eca656a73:disqus Here’s a crazy idea: public space shouldn’t be for sale. We should be proud enough of our public spaces to be willing to endure the ungodly burden of 1990s tax levels and provide government services through the government.

    In any case, I love how simultaneously, Alta Bike Sharing couldn’t run this on user fees (they said that, after all, so it has to be true!), but it could be popular enough that it makes so much that the city gets money back. Funny how that works: the poor company is so poor it will make us money!

    Regardless, my primary point remains the same: this arrangement is one more step toward the glibertarian horror show of the American future, where government is auctioned to low bidders who whine about not being able to make money and need government support in order to be able to make lowball bids to destroy government, and on and on.

    Being pragmatic is not smiling about whatever crap gets dumped on your head.

  • Daisy

    Driver:  It looks from the Citi Bike FAQs that they actually are putting together some sort of affordability program – $60 memberships payable in four quarterly increments, and some other program being worked out with credit unions for New Yorkers without bank accounts.

  • Joe R.

    @SB_Driver:disqus Yes, I feel the exact same way here. I too was somewhat excited about this, the crappy bikes notwithstanding, until I heard about the $10 daily rate. For $1 it might be worth it to use in those rare cases where I would otherwise be walking a few miles in Manhattan, but $10 is just ridiculous. An annual membership makes no sense for me either unless the time comes where the bikes are literally everywhere, including the outermost parts of the outer boroughs. I just wouldn’t be in the areas served by bike share often enough to justify paying the annual fee.

  • Andrew

    @ebb96073af0292c37f20b27270f30db3:disqus That’s fine for frequent riders who have difficulty paying $95 up front for an annual membership. It doesn’t help occasional riders, or people who just want to try out a bicycle, who are stuck with the punitive $9.95 daily rate.

    It’s as if the subway charged (say) $800 for an annual pass, $200 for a weekly pass, and $80 for a daily pass – and allowed annual passholders to travel 50% further on each trip. Not a bad deal at all for regular subway riders, but if you just need to ride once in a while, it’s pretty outrageous. Divide by 8 and you get the bikeshare pricing structure.

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus I knew we’d eventually find something we could agree on!

  • Guest

    At the Citi Bike release: “Sadik-Khan said that NYC DOT will be launching “an unprecedented public
    safety messaging campaign this spring” to accompany the bike-share
    launch.”

    And, Ray Kelly will tell the NYC Police that they will will be launching “an unprecedented bicyclist harassment and assault campaign this spring” to accompany the bike-share
    launch.”

    We don’t pay enough for the cops we need.
    We pay too much for the cops we got.


  • Bloomberg says NYC has the greatest subway system in the world. I don’t think he’s ever left the United States. If he has, he has certainly never ridden a subway in any other country.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The first three bicycle rental prices that I found for New York City on a Google search were $35 for a day, $39 for four hours and $43 for three hours. Yep, $9.95 for a 24 hour bicycle rental pass does sound outrageously high for New York City. Who in the world would go for that?

  • Driver

    Tourists

  • Andrew

    @d5ef5e91fd4f619109ebb16eca656a73:disqus Far fewer than would go for a $5 or $3 or $1 daily rental. At $9.95, most people will find the subway cheaper.
    This isn’t even for a 24-hour rental – it’s for unlimited 30-minute rentals within 24 hours. (But $95 annual users inexplicably get 50% more time!) So it isn’t useful for long bicycle rides. And, as I’ve said, the price is too high for most non-cyclists, like myself, who might decide on the spur of the moment to give a bicycle a shot.

    Daily members pay 38 times the daily rate of annual members (and get slapped with overtime fees 15 minutes earlier). An annual membership costs under 10 times the price of a single ride. Are you aware of any other bike share programs – or transportation programs of any sort – with such a pricing scheme? I can’t think of anything that comes close.

  • Anonymous

    And remember about the fee: you’re paying $10 a day to ride something that is a 100% branded Citigroup ad. At least with Barclays, London gets cobranding and the cost is £1 for 24 hours.

  • James

    Yes, @dporpentine:disqus , exactly! If I were Citi, I would have put a huge NYC on the front of the bike instead of just another CITI advertisement — it would have associated CITI with something good. Now they just look like greedy publicity you know whats…

  • AW

    The sponsorship is meant to pay for the capital costs of the system, while the user fees are meant to pay for the operating costs. In other cities, the capital costs are borne by the public, usually by some combination of city and state funds plus grants (usually CMAQ) from the Feds. In those cases the municipality owns the equipment, but here Alta owns it. In other cities, the public is also responsible for operating shortfalls, but that is not the case here.

    I don’t disagree with your primary point. $50 million is a tiny investment in transportation infrastructure for a city like NYC. However, if the system is successful, it might be possible to make the case to our elected officials that this is something worth funding publicly.

  • I’ll swallow hard and accept “Citibikes,” and buy an annual subscription for the 50 or so times a year I’ll end up using it. But I do think Citi has over-reached and over-branded here, just because they knew the city was in a tight spot and so they could. What will be the effect on the Citi brand when crashes occur involving the bikes, and we get “wacky” Post headlines like “Citi-Squashed”?

  • moocow

    I plan on buying the yearly membership, but there have been several times just this spring where $10 would have been steep but a price I would have paid to get somewhere on time and not in a cab.

  • Radio5496

    $10 seems a bit much for someone in NYC for the day.  Subway is still cheaper.  

  • I hope that public safety campaign focuses on the most dangerous users of NYC’s roads, drivers of cars and trucks.

  • Dennis Hindman

    There are going to be 10,000 rental bikes for a population of millions and even more visitors annually. Paris has a population of 2 million and they deliberatley started with 10,000 bikes to cut down on dissatisfaction with the service from not having enough bikes to meet demand.

    If the daily fee to rent the bikes is low enough that most people find it reasonable, then it will be much tougher to find a bike to use when you want one. There has to be a balance of demand and supply or else there will be dissatisfaction with poor service in that you cannot find a bike to rent or else the stations to return a bike are frequently full. London has about the same population as New York City and many of the bike share users have grown tired with having to deal with these problems when trying to use one of the 8,000 bikes in their system. A city the size of New York or London would need at least 80,000 bikes to equal the bikes to population ratio that Paris has with their 20,000 Velib bikes..

  • David

    Bikes only: I somehow imagine that New York’s “creative” artists will somehow find a way to re=brand the citibike look with stickers and other arty ideas.  In the end Citibikes will find that an ugly corporate look will not work in the long haul.  MARK MY WORDS!

  • Anonymous

    An apposite column from, of all people, Tom Friedman:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/opinion/sunday/friedman-this-column-is-not-sponsored-by-anyone.html?ref=thomaslfriedman

    It’s as ideologically and rhetorically incoherent as anything else he writes, but it’s great that someone of his prominence is saying things like this:

    market values are crowding out civic practices. When public
    schools are plastered with commercial advertising, they teach students
    to be consumers rather than citizens. When we outsource war to private
    military contractors, and when we have separate, shorter lines for
    airport security for those who can afford them, the result is that the
    affluent and those of modest means live increasingly separate lives, and
    the class-mixing institutions and public spaces that forge a sense of
    common experience and shared citizenship get eroded.

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