Will Citi Bike Riders Get a More Convenient Network for Their Higher Fares?

Last week, the price of a Citi Bike annual membership rose from $149 to $155. It’s still a good deal for people who make more than a few bike-share trips per month, but taken in tandem with last year’s jump from $95, it’s also nothing to sneeze at. Will bike-share users get more for their money as fares rise?

Citi Bike says the higher fares will “offset costs of operating [a] larger, more robust network at the quality riders expect.” And it’s true that service improved dramatically last year while the number of stations grew 40 percent. The trouble is that Citi Bike stations are more spread out in the expansion zones (currently the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side) than in the original service area, because Motivate doesn’t want to supply a sufficient number of stations to cover all the turf DOT wants bike-share to serve.

This is a problem because bike-share doesn’t work as well when stations are spread farther apart. The longer you have to walk at either end of the bike trip, the less convenient it is to use bike-share. A more disperse network also means less redundancy — full or empty stations become bigger obstacles if another station isn’t nearby.

Word is that NYC DOT and Motivate are close to reaching an agreement that would lead to better station density throughout the expansion areas. Streetsblog reached out to both parties and was unable to confirm the rumor, however.

Unless something changes, the thin network will become a more pronounced weakness as Citi Bike expands northward in Manhattan and deeper into Queens and Brooklyn.

  • HamTech87

    Agreed. Citibike also needs to rebalance better. Those tiny rebalancing trucks carry too few bikes. Montreal’s Bixi does it right. Here’s a pic of their rebalancing vehicle only partially loaded: https://portajohn.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/48-hours-in-montreal-photos/#jp-carousel-1722

  • CP Norris

    Yogi says nobody uses Citibike anymore, because the bikes are always in use.

  • sam

    greater density would be good, but also rebalancing. Every morning I leave my apartment at about 8am, walk to my UWS corner where there is a very large, 64-bike citibike station, and there are zero bikes. Sometimes there is one. Which is broken. And then I check the app, and there are no bikes or one bike at the 6 closest stations. and then sometimes I complain in frustration (https://twitter.com/verysimple/status/704283586682359809). And then I walk to the subway because I actually have to go to work.

  • simon

    The issue is so bad in Greenpoint that I am considering not renewing. Awful awful service.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    The shortage of Citibikes is very likely a function of a mild winter. Demand is 3-4x when weather is good. Betcha the leadership has been blindsided by incredible latent demand at the new locations plus warm weather. Imagine trying to plan and manage around these factors

  • Jonathan R

    To add on to Dr. Vucelic’s comment above, if the bicycles are being ridden, they aren’t available for rebalancing, and on a beautiful morning like yesterday I suspect that there weren’t many bikes just sitting at docks waiting for riders, anywhere.

  • stephen_nyc

    Is it fair to blame Citibank when they are just the naming rights folks? Yes!!!!
    Of course, it’s also fair to blame the DOT and that wonderfully-named company, Motivate.
    I’ll never ride them due to the program having a naming rights deal. I despise naming rights and I go out of my way to NOT patronize those companies that think by slapping their name on a stadium or college bowl game I will buy their stuff. I can’t avoid them all, but I do want I can.

  • AnoNYC

    Anyone know when Harlem is supposed to get coverage?

  • walks bikes drives

    Yes, it was a mild winter that was predicted during the summer. They are simply doing a horrible job. I have often commented that the rack outside my window every morning is empty from the time I come in at 8am until usually around 11am, when a bike or two will show up. It is poor planning, and poor maintenance. When the expansion gets further north this spring, I’m supposed to have a rack around the corner, and have one right next to work as well. I’m not going to join citibike, and will continue using my own bike for commuting, because I have no confidence that there will be a bike available on a daily basis when I need it. If I leave my apartment in time to ride, I am already too late to take the subway, which is a major reason I bike commute in the first place (it sure isn’t the safety).

  • Alexander Vucelic

    give them a chance – lets re visit in Sept.

  • BBnet3000

    I would gladly put all my money into a bank that put $41 million into a bike share system.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Summer/Fall 2016

  • AMH

    Not soon enough!

  • reasonableexplanation

    I really wish citibike offered some sort of ‘part time’ or ‘weekender’ membership. When the program began I signed up as a founding member, but increasingly, I only find myself in the service area on weekends. Hard to justify $155 for the amount I’d be using it. I even called them and tried to arrange some sort of reduced rate ‘weekends only’ pass, but they didn’t want to help me.

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