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

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."

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