Citi Bike Launch Re-Scheduled for March [Updated]

Making his weekly appearance on WOR with John Gambling this morning, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the software problems affecting Citi Bike equipment won’t be resolved in time to launch New York’s bike-share system this year.

The Public Bike System Company, which makes the stations and bikes that NYC will use, recently dropped the company that makes software for its successful systems in London, Washington, Boston, and Montreal, citing a dispute about billing. Glitches with the new software kept Citi Bike from meeting the initial July launch target, and the mayor confirmed this morning that the new target is next spring.

Update: A press release from DOT pegs the new launch date as March 2013, when the system is scheduled to go live with 7,000 bikes at 420 stations. After launch, Citi Bike will expand to its full 10,000 bike/600 station coverage area. This matches the original phased implementation announced earlier this year. The announcement states that all parties — the city, the private operators of the system, and the main sponsors — have agreed to this new timetable.

The press release includes a status report on the system’s software:

NYCBS [New York City Bike Share] continues work to conclude manufacture and testing of the high-performance software necessary to operate the new system, which is being tailored for New York City. The system uses new solar power arrays and circuit boards, and engineers will continue to thoroughly test data communications, power management and payment systems to ensure overall system performance.

Here are some excerpts from the mayor’s radio appearance this morning:

Unfortunately there are software issues. The software doesn’t work. Duh. Until it works, we’re not gonna put it out…

It really has very advanced technology… each station, the dock, each place you’re sticking a bike is a computer. Everything needs to work perfectly. They run on solar power so you don’t need a lot of wiring and there’s no burden on the electrical system. There’s an enormous number of transactions that you have to communicate in real time to central computers…

We’re just not gonna launch it until spring.

The mayor also touched on the recent flurry of front-page “bike bedlam”-style coverage in a certain daily tabloid:

Meantime, one of the big problems is there are bicyclists who break the law, speed… a friend of mine, I don’t know that he wants anybody to know, but a guy, most people would recognize his name, he got hit, run down in the back…

That’s gone on forever. Keep in mind, people get hit by cars every day. People fall off a roof. Lots of things go on. That doesn’t make this any better, but if you put it in context there are few. But any one is one too many and the question is, we’ve got to figure out how do you slow down bicycles

At this point Bloomberg considered speed bumps for bikes but ruled them out because they would affect car traffic too much. Then he got back into more of a livable streets groove:

Every place where it’s worked is very popular. And the world is going towards more bicycles. They’re not gonna replace cars, but you can’t get more cars on the streets and you have to have other means of transportation. Walking is one thing, bicycles another and buses, subways, those kinds of things. And the streets are there for everybody. The streets are there for people and not just for automobiles.

  • Anonymous

    When will the expansion to the full 10,000 bikes/600 stations be happening? Is “after launch” 6 months later, or do they plan on rolling it out more quickly since they will have all that time to prepare? 

  • Joe

    Same thing is going down in Chicago. 

  • @Geck:disqus I’ll ask about that. It would make sense to have more of a continuous roll-out, since they had always planned to have 10,000 bikes ready by spring 2013, and they won’t have the winter interrupting things. The press release gives the impression that there won’t be a lag between launch and expansion but it’s not 100% clear:

    “Following the March launch, work will continue to expand the system to 10,000 bikes, covering parts of Manhattan and from Long Island City to parts of Brooklyn.”

  • Bummer, I was looking forward to the bike share. The subway is not a pleasant in the summertime so riding a bike to get around would have been a welcome change.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I’m glad that Bloomberg has finally gotten out in front of this story with the radio appearance and the press releases. And even if he is no superstar in terms of bike stuff, he has been generally quite good about supporting the continued growth of cycling here in the city. One meme we all need to continue to spread: safe and separated bike lanes promote safer streets for all and more civil riding by bikers.

  • Anonymous

    This is simply inexcusable. 

    Alta may be “our team” and all, but, they’ve totally messed up here.  They better have reserves because there must be massive penalties for a breach like this.   If the previous vendor was overbilling than sue them.  But, their software worked.  

    There simply is no reason for this delay if there is software available that would work.  Either fork over extra cash that bleeds into your margins, or sue, or issue equity to raise capital.  Either way, we’re all bearing the costs of Alta’s f’ up. 

  • We have to slow down bicycles?  Taxis and liveries go up and down the avenues at fifty miles per hour. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    Good point Olen. Even speeding bikes are barely approaching the posted speed limit. When we have a robust bike lane network, drivers know where to expect to find cyclists and they can drive cautiously as a matter of course.

  • jooltman

    Summer blockbuster conspiracy theory: Louise Hainline up in her spy cam-equipped aerie on Prospect Park West hunched over her computer, hacking Alta’s new software system…

  • Anonymous

    It’s the Goldielocks Effect: Bicycles are either too slow or too fast, but never just right.
    Cyclists are ALLWAYS too fast for pedestrians, even when we are moving slower than a jogger.
    Cyclists are ALWAYS too slow for drivers, even when we are going over 20 mph, even on steep downhills when we may be going at or over the 30 mph city sipped limit. For these people, as long as we are on “their road,”there is no right bicycle speed.

  • J

    @JarekAF:disqus I am definitely disappointed, but I would much rather wait 6 months for a system that works well, than rush it out on the street with all sorts of problems, which you know the tabloids would gleefully cover.

    Yes, the companies should have known better if the software was in flux. However, I don’t think Alta is swimming in money and slamming them with massive lawsuits would very likely put them under. Then what? We’d have to start all over. That hardly seems worth it to me.
    In the mean time, I guess I’ll just wait until spring and push for other improvements.

  • David

    JarekF: Either way, we’re all bearing the costs of Alta’s f’ up. 

    What costs are we bearing?
    There are no penalties

  • Anonymous

    @Uptowner13:disqus 
    I am definitely disappointed, but I would much rather wait 6 months for a system that works well, than rush it out on the street with all sorts of problems, which you know the tabloids would gleefully cover. 

    Right but there is software, that exists, that works well.  This delay is about $$$.  For whatever reason, Alta cannot afford to use the software that works.   They made a bad bid. 

    These types of contracts address these types of breaches. 

    My point is, we know that there’s software that would allow Bikeshare to start tomorrow.  If it’s a matter of money and it’s Alta’s fault, they should pony up the money.  And I hear you that they’re not swimming in money,but, that’s why they should issue equity (meaning, the owners ownership stake becomes diluted, but, the Alta itself has more money), otherwise, we’re suffering at the expense of their owners, who should be bearing the cost of this delay.  Alta shouldn’t have trouble raising equity either, given the material contracts they have lined up.  

    So, I’m with you. I  want this to work and work well.  But, it’s being delayed because of financial reasons.  Not because of unworkability. Let’s not forget that. 

  • Anonymous

    @cf7ba48ab923c80f6370beb74def0e8f:disqus 

    I believe the cost we’re bearing is a 7-8 month delay!  There is software that works that would allow it to start tomorrow.  Alta’s contract for sure has promises with respect to certain start dates and milestones to be reached.  They’re undoubtedly in default.  If it’s a matter of money then they should raise capital (which doesn’t effect their debt, it only effects the owners’ stake).  

    So, for example, if they low balled their bid because they presumed they could reverse engineer the code and carve out the old software vendors, then, they were wrong and should just pony up the extra dough.  

  • car free nation

    As someone who works in the software industry, I read between the lines to see that the previous software developer was over billing and producing software that could not be customized to work with the new hardware components. Perhaps they didn’t hand over source code, or maybe it was just poorly planned development. Who knows? I think the statistic is that over 70% of software projects fail. 

    I’m not involved in the project, but from the public statements, I’m pretty sure @JarekAF:disqus ‘s supposition that there is existing software that works is false. I imagine something like a solar powered station introduces a lot of complexity into a system, and unless the previous contractors were extremely talented, it’s unlikely they built a system that could be configured for any and all hardware products and business logic. 

    In many cases like this, if the previous software is hard coded for a particular environment and inflexible, it’s more cost effective to start with a better architecture from scratch. That way the software can handle upcoming changes to hardware and business logic.

  • JT

    JarekAF — You have a sort of overblown notion of the “costs we bear.”  A relatively short delay in the launch of a hugely complex service that is brand new to the city doesn’t seem exactly Earth-shattering. 

    If Apple delayed the release of the new iPhone by a month, would you speak of it as an “inexcusable” delay and “we’re all bearing the costs of [Apple]’s f’ up”?

  • JT

    JarekAF — You have a sort of overblown notion of the “costs we bear.”  A relatively short delay in the launch of a hugely complex service that is brand new to the city doesn’t seem exactly Earth-shattering. 

    If Apple delayed the release of the new iPhone by a month, would you speak of it as an “inexcusable” delay and “we’re all bearing the costs of [Apple]’s f’ up”?

  • Shemp

    Awesome displays of bike share entitlement.  Keep em coming New Yorkers!   

  • Anonymous

    @fd22f38e5353be50b99d8c417c7fd3ca:disqus I was acting under the assumption that functional bikeshare software exists.  I mean, they do this for a half dozen cities, I didn’t think they’d necessarily reinvent the wheel on this. 

    Comparisons to Apple’s next cell phone are inapplicable.  The City doesn’t have a contract with Apple to perform services for the benefit of New Yorkers.  Us bearing the cost analogy only works if software that works actually exists as of today (which is what I originally thought given that they’ve done this before and it shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel).

    Contracts of this nature tend to have penalties and incentives for performance based on certain dates.  If the service provider is able to perform (we have good software, we just don’t want to pay for the licensing)

    And, most likely, they are paying penalties.  Citi has committed significant capital to this project.  Such capital is not being used.  There are costs for that.  So, I bet, Citi is getting a discount/haircut on its investment.  

    Now, CarFreeNation makes a good point and it could be the case that the NY Bikeshare is significantly different (from a hardware perspective and thus necessarily from a software perspective) from the Bikeshare systems they run elsewhere, then, it begs the question, why the f did they think they could start from scratch and have everything started on time! 

    ALTA won because they’ve done this before.  Now, they’re coming back to us, after all our battles, and hang us out to dry, for promising something that they unrealistically promised. 

    Either way, ALTA’s let us down here.  

  • J

    @JarekAF:disqus 6 months is a tiny wait for a system that will be around for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that the City is getting this system for FREE.
    Yes, waiting sucks, but lawsuits and penalties won’t make the wait shorter.

  • Anonymous

    J
    Thanks for trying to keep things in perspective and I don’t disagree with anything you’ve wrote.  What’s another 6 months when you’ve been waiting for over 30 years 😉 

  • Hey look, Alta pulled the same thing they did with Boston. A 2010 launch turned into a “partial” 2011 launch, and expansion was delayed until just now….

    NYC should have known better. 

  • @Uptowner13:disqus  Bike share has been around the world successfully since 2007. The technology exists and has been perfected time and time again. The problem is not software, its the company chosen is not able to deliver on their promise. They pulled the same stunt in Boston and Chicago looks to be going the same way. 

  • “But any one is one too many…”

    Good, Mayor B! Let’s look for zero deaths starting immediately from bike-ped injuries AND car-bike/car-ped injuries.

  • fj

    Collision avoidance guideways for net zero vehicles pretty much solves the problem when traveling, say, over 10 miles per hour.

    (bike-pedestrian collisions)

  • “There’s an enormous number of transactions that you have to communicate in real time to central computers…”
    LOL

  • fj

    Since this is a public system kind of wonder if NYC DoT is willing to publish the full hardware and software technical details, documentation and etc. for public review; or even worse, even has access to these details?

  • i think this great news for feature and very appreciation.

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