Today’s Headlines

  • Tri-State Links Fresh Direct Mitigation to Implementation of Sheridan Recommendations (MTR)
  • Woman Loses Leg on East Tremont Avenue in The Bronx After Driver Swerves Near Her (Post)
  • Off-Duty NYPD Cop Arrested for Bronx April DWI After Investigation (News)
  • Driver Manages To Plow Through Park, Nearly Crash Into Newtown Creek (Gothamist)
  • Washington Heights School Group Applies for Slow Zone, With Support From Electeds (News)
  • Cass Sunstein Hails Uber (Bloomberg)
  • Daily News Wants to Know What’s Up With Bike-Share Station Outages
  • Brownstoner Queens Is Already Asking About Bike-Share Expansion
  • Instead of Expanding Bus Terminal Capacity, NYC Is Pushing Bus Permits to the Curb (Bowery Boogie)
  • Coney Island Business Group Wants City to Subsidize Ferry Service to Manhattan (Bklyn Daily)
  • StreetEasy and Related See How Bikes Can Help Sell Real Estate (DNA)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • Ari

    Contrary to the “Terminal Capacity” Streetsblog post, I think curbside intercity bus loading itself is a terrific idea. It’s flexible, cheap, and good for customers. Buses, unlike trains, can go almost anywhere. For example, if there is a demand for intercity bus service from Flushing to Boston, let the private sector supply it and let DOT regulate the curb space.

    Of course, the devil is always in the details. But the concept itself is sound.

  • Ridgewoodian

    I’d like to know what’s up with the station outages, too. LaGuardia and W 3rd has been out a number of times. Bowling Green was out on Saturday morning. Washington Pl. and 6th Ave has been out once or twice. I’m hoping this is just a growing pain, that it’ll be worked out in the near future. I suppose it’s progress that the DAILY NEWS, in its own way, seems to want this to work better.

  • Ridgewoodian

    Bravo to the Brownstoner Queens. Yes, bikeshare would be most welcomed in Queens, and not JUST in L.I.C.

  • Anonymous

    The Daily News suggests solar power issues, but there are plenty of stations fully exposed to sunlight that have been down. The largest station in Brooklyn, at Barclays Center, has now been down for two full days.

    It’s time for Alta (through NYCDOT, which the DN also mentions and is quite troubling) for fess up and admit there are issues and work on them. My usual station in the East Village was down this morning for the second time this week. And it’s Tuesday.

  • tyler

    “to fess up and admit there are issues and work on them” — What? Yeah, I’m sure Alta isn’t working on problems. This is only the largest implementation (by far) they have worked on. I’m sure they’re just sitting around saying, “I’m sure no one has noticed. I bet the problems will just fix themselves.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m speaking more of admitting they are problems with their system. It’s very clear that there are, and they’ve been mum about it. Acknowledging that they’re working on it would at least give members a little piece of mind.

  • tyler

    It would also give the Post, News and old bitties in Co-op buildings another excuse to run with stories like “Citibike is in total ruin, Alta confirms.”

  • Anonymous

    And if they don’t, the tabloids will just continue their ongoing series of whiny man-on-the-street interviews and criticize Alta and NYCDOT’s secrecy. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • tyler

    Exactly… except the whiny man on the street is just that. A random whiny person, not an official statement from the organization to be twisted. They were able to find whiny man on the street interviews when everything was working perfectly fine…

  • tyler

    And a few outages (yes, few) really doesn’t rise to the level of conspiratorial secrecy. Does the MTA chief make a statement whenever there is a broken escalator or a closed entrance?

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Worse than the stations randomly going down, it’s nearly impossible to tell when stations are working or not until you get to them. Sure there’s usually another station nearby, but you then have an issue like around my office this morning: One of the biggest stations for commuters was offline (or flatlined in reporting numbers at any rate) for over 16 hours. All the others fill up, causing people to have to travel further and further to find a station that actually works. A significant portion of the system capacity is completely non-functional at any time.

    The fact that Alta hasn’t even told us what’s going on and how much longer we can expect this to continue isn’t encouraging. People are a lot more forgiving of growing pains when to say nothing of their difficulties in getting a telephone system that actually works.

  • Anonymous

    Another citibike question: Has the trip log on the website disappeared for anyone else? My key works (at least when the stations do) as of this morning, but I haven’t seen any trip data since this weekend.

    Do you think the number of open trips and stations faults has gotten so bad they’ve just disabled tracking takeouts and returns? As in a member account will release a bike, but they’ve given up tracking overtime or if locking accounts for open rides. Would certainly cut down on the customer service load.

  • Anonymous

    No but the MTA posts information when there’s an outage in service, on their website and send out emails. They also make announcements.

  • Anonymous

    IF it’s a software issue (not a solar issue) AND IF Felix Salmon’s analysis is correct (http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/06/05/the-one-big-problem-with-nycs-bikeshare/), then I really, really beg NYC Bike Share to go crawling back to 8D Technologies and get them to take over. I say this as someone who very very much wants to program to succeed and to expand far beyond its already sizable initial footprint. I have NO knowledge to suggest that my guess (software) is more on-target than the DN’s (solar), but the DN’s sounds like just as wild a guess as mine. Please, NYC Bike Share, if any of you lurk around here: if my guess is onto something, then please consider going back to 8D.

  • carma

    100% agree. for me, it would certainly help getting to the train without having to wait for the stupid bus.

    i already have a membership and use it extensively everyday even though i dont live in the service area.

  • Ridgewoodian

    As you can probably tell, I live in Ridgewood, Queens. For me, it’s an eight to ten minute walk to the train every morning, which isn’t SO bad, but if there was a bike nearby that would cut it to three to four minutes, you know I’d take that, especially in the cold winter. Of course, my primary train is the (M) which they’re always taking out of service for multiple weekends every summer. During those times you have to crowd onto buses to get to the (L) which is a good 20+ minute walk away. Bike share would be perfect for that. And, of course, getting around the neighborhood – going to the post office, say, which is a bit over a mile away, or to various retail establishments or the music or arts venues that have sprung up in recent years. Sure, I can use my own bikes, but it would be so nice to not have to worry about locking it up on the street. I’m sure I’m not unique in any of this and the bike share would be useful for many of us in the far flung boroughs.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve speculated the exact same as you. I was just now able to log in and see my trip log, which I guess looks complete. I do see that it shows one 58 minute trip (whose accuracy I doubt, incidentally!), and I’ve never heard of any overage charges…

  • Eddie
  • Daphna

    I second your opinion. I want NYC Bikeshare to succeed and to expand greatly (and hopefully quickly). NYC already suffered a year long delay of the launch while Alta tried to master the programming in house. This delay was detrimental because this year NYC would have already been in expansion mode but now expansion time will come when Bloomberg is out of office and Janette Sadik-Khan may or may not be Commissioner of the Dept of Transportation.

    To Alta: do what it takes to make this work. Switching software developers for your largest system ever was unwise. Go back to 8D Technologies if that is the best way to make this work! NYC Bikeshare can be huge, popular and profitable. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

  • Anonymous

    The Daily News suggests solar power issues,

    I took a bike out last night (once the rain slowed down) and the lights weren’t working at all. First time for me. Wonder if it’s because it was raining all day.

  • Greg
  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s as easy as making a simple fix like that.

  • Ari

    A source at Alta told me that some (all?) of the station outage issues are battery-related (which are powered via solar). They have to swap out the batteries frequently.

    Poor design.

  • Anonymous

    Just got back from riding a citibike to lunch and back. When I got to the station there were two techs rebooting it, so I stayed and chatted with them about the problems with stations dying.

    They said the solar panels were working correctly, but there was a software problem where it drained power too quickly, and once the voltage on the station batteries got below a certain threshold, it would shut-off completely and not restart until a tech came and rebooted it. One tech also told me that they were going to change the software on the stations soon to lower the voltage threshold and to save more power overall, so they wouldn’t shut off.

    More worrisome, they didn’t even know that when a station is dead there’s no way to tell if it’s not working online. They said if the credit card kiosk was offline, then it certainly wasn’t functioning and you should find another one, which confirms everything I’ve seen, but weren’t aware that the apps and online map still showed it as functional.

    Anyway, individual field techs might not be getting all the information on the station issues, but that’s what I was told. Still wish Alta would be more transparent, but at least it’s a glimmer of hope that it might be fixed soon, and not a more serious and costly hardware flaw with the solar panels.

  • Ari

    As I understand it, the station kiosks are solar powered, not the bike lights.

  • They are suing each other left and right… yeah, make sense to crawl back to the original software if they like each other.

  • They cant go back, they are suing each other.

  • Greg

    For lack of transparency from Alta / DOT, reports like yours are extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing this.

    I encourage anyone else to share whatever they discover through whatever unofficial channels they get access to, as that’s the only source of information we have.

  • Anonymous

    To be clear, although I’ve encountered dead stations pretty regularly since launch, the density is still good enough it hasn’t been a problem, more of an inconvenience. I haven’t experienced the “3 dead stations in a row” problems others have reported. It is a regular thing though.

    That said, when it does work I love it, and it’s worked great as a transportation option when the stations are online. Even just riding a bike for 4 minutes to make a 8 block walk a little faster makes me very happy. I want this program to succeed, and I want it in many more areas. Alta and the DOT should realize though, that when you refuse to answer questions, blame users, or even acknowledge problems, people are going to assume the worst. This isn’t the NSA were talking about here.

  • I’m going to go out there and disagree with all of you who say Alta, Citi Bike, and the DOT need to be more transparent about what’s really going on. The fact is, people are not assuming the worst of the system, and especially because density is so high, they can afford to let a few stations remain offline throughout the day.

    I agree with Felix Salmon’s assessment. The only thing that makes sense is a problem with the software. Even if they are swapping out batteries, that is a symptom of a software problem, not a root cause. They simply need time and possibly more manpower to debug the issue. Until they’ve debugged it, it doesn’t help anyone to make details of the bug public. The public is not going to dig into their software and fix the problem for them, so why tell the public about it? If you admit there’s a huge bug, all you’ll do is decrease public confidence about the system indefinitely, as it will always be their software running things.

    So I’m sorry guys, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for explanations from a private company that doesn’t owe me one. The service is what it is, and, since a true beta period was not feasible, all the early adopters are essentially beta testers. When this is all over, I suspect early adopters will be awarded a “free” extra month or something on their annual membership and everyone will be happy.

    If you don’t believe me, look at Apple. Huge PR problems with their antenna on the iPhone 4 early on. Apple said nothing about the problem for weeks until suddenly they announced that anyone who bought the phone so far would get a free case. Going forward, the problems mysteriously disappeared. We never heard why the antenna had issues or what they did to fix it. And now? Everyone still loves iPhones and nobody even mentions the antenna.

    Moral of the story: When you have technical problems, don’t talk, just fix it. Then make amends to early adopters when you’re done fixing.

  • Anonymous

    What’s insane is that we seem to have more insight into which stations are down using this website than Alta does using their own systems. That’s just flat-out unacceptable.

    Worth pointing out that it’s one thing when you only have to walk a couple blocks to find a working station, but if you look at data on the site linked above, every single station in an area bounded by Allen, Varick, Houston, and Grand was down during the morning rush hour this morning. That’s nine stations out in an area encompassing over 70 blocks. That’s a massive failure that leaves a lot of people in the lurch.

  • Greg

    I agree 100%. I’m frustrated with the persistent failures and lack of transparency, but it’s still working *most* of the time and when it does work it’s *fantastic*. I want nothing more than to see this system get better, larger, and more reliable at a rapid pace. I want nothing more than to see it realize the massive potential it has to unleash.

    But I, as a huge believer and advocate of this (as I’m sure most of us are), am still finding my patience tried as I evaluate how reliably this system can fit into my day-to-day life. Most people will make their own similar evaluations, but without the patience and benefit of the doubt we offer here. Alta / DOT needs to speak to them.

  • Anonymous

    My ride history disappeared last night, and hasn’t reappeared yet. It’s disappeared and come back before, so I presume it’s yet another glitch. I tried to get a receipt for a trip from a kiosk last night, and I couldn’t do that either, since my account showed no rides. Given the unreliability of returns, it’s important to be able to see that rides have closed. At least twice, I returned a bike and the yellow light lit up, and stayed lit. Only when I got home did I realize that the rides were still open, and I had to call to get the bike marked returned.

  • Anonymous

    Lights are driven by a hub dynamo, so not related to the weather.

  • Greg

    Apple also publicly apologized for their Maps fiasco after incessant user complaints that they were ported over to a buggy, unreliable system. Part of the reason they apologized, I believe, is that faith in their ability to deliver was shaken and that acknowledging their customers’ grievances, and giving brief high-level assurance that they understood there was an issue and were on it, would do a better job to keep the faith (and keep credibility) than stonewalling silence .

    I really think it’s fair to set some expectations of what kind of reliability we can expect from this system over what time frame. Software fixes aren’t always easy and short. Alta is not Apple (the latter has far more technical credibility to work with). If this all passes over in a week’s time, great. But if it doesn’t get substantially better over months, someone needs to do some expectation management.

    I absolutely hope the issues are simple and easily fixed. I would be thrilled if the outcome you project ends up being what happens.

  • Anonymous

    So a loose wire then?

  • Staack

    I don’t believe that the problem is with the solar panels. Solar panels can be powered by both sunlight as well as the street lights that go on at night. I am sure that the panels are getting energy. The explanation that mrmcd got from the tech is probably more accurate. There must be something in the software that is using a lot of processing, making the stations less energy efficient.

  • Anonymous

    Ahh, like when the fan on your laptop goes on loud and your battery says you only have like 20 minutes of life left . . .

  • Ridgewoodian

    Interesting. I took one out yesterday while it was still raining a little. I don’t know about the lights but the gears were messed up. I generally cruise in 3 and it kept on slipping in and out of 3 and grinding. It was annoying enough that even though I was only going twelve or thirteen blocks I found another station and got another bike. And the same thing happened. I rode to yet another station and got yet another bike and that third one was fine. I wonder if the weather had anything to do with it (although I thought all the relevant components were more or less protected) or if I just got unlucky.

  • Ridgewoodian

    Up until today I had my whole history. My last trip – from Mercer and Bleecker to W.13th and 6th – doesn’t appear at all. Also, a previous trip has lost its end station, although it still shows a trip time so I assume I won’t be hit with a $1000 charge.

  • Clarke

    Slipping out of 3 seems to be a recurring issue. I’ve had quite a few that have been doing it. It’d be fine if 2 were useful, but it’s a bit too loose to be functional.