Bike-share operator Motivate is in talks with the city to increase the bicycles in its system by another 50 percent after the current round of expansion wraps up this year, including stations in the Bronx and Staten Island. City Hall would not contribute funds but would grant Motivate more favorable terms in its contract with the city.
At present, Motivate is planning to add more stations in western Queens, a handful of Brooklyn neighborhoods, and Manhattan up to 130th Street this year. There are no official expansion plans after that, which would leave much of the city without bike-share, even in neighborhoods where it would likely be heavily used.
The contours of the deal, first reported by Politico's Dana Rubinstein, involve adding 6,000 bikes, 4,000 of which would go beyond the current planned service area, including areas in the Bronx and Staten Island. The remainder would increase capacity in areas of the existing system that are overwhelmed by demand.
In return, Motivate wants the city to eliminate a number of fees (including its obligation to cover lost revenue from stations that replace metered parking spots) and limit competition from other bike-share companies.
The talks are still "preliminary," according to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "We all know we want to get to a five-borough system, we want to do it in a way that is going to be safe and efficient," she told the City Council yesterday. "I think we want to minimize taxpayer investment to the extent that we can."
Trottenberg said the city has been "very pleased with Motivate" but hasn't ruled out working with other bike-share companies. "There are a lot of other low-cost operators out there and I think that’s a question we’re grappling with: Is it one city-wide monopoly? Do we allow competition? What does that look like?"
Transportation Alternatives and the City Council have been advocating for city funding to bring bike-share to more of the city. While the outline reported yesterday would touch all five boroughs and keep the expansion process going for another two or three years at its current rate, it would not resolve the question of how to extend bike-share network everywhere it would be well-used. A system with 18,000 bikes would still be about one-third the size of the bike-share network envisioned by the Department of City Planning in a 2009 report.
In a statement, TransAlt endorsed the parameters of the deal as reported and called on "the de Blasio administration to work with Motivate to create a high-quality five-borough bike share system in a timely fashion."