Citi Bike Offering $3 Single Ride Fares as a Promo. Why Not Make It Permanent?

With City Hall reportedly set to allow dockless bike-share services to begin operating in the summer, Citi Bike's fare structure is worth renewed attention.

Citi Bikes aren't performing that well. Photo: Adrian Nutter/Flickr
Citi Bikes aren't performing that well. Photo: Adrian Nutter/Flickr

If you don’t have a Citi Bike membership, you can buy $3 single rides for the month of April. It’s the lowest price Citi Bike has offered per ride, following a $4 single-ride fare that was available last spring.

The single ride fare is a temporary promotion intended to introduce people to Citi Bike and drum up interest in unlimited passes as temperatures warm, says Motivate, the company that runs the service. But it raises the question of whether Motivate — and New Yorkers interested in using bike-share — might be better off if it was permanent.

Annual Citi Bike membership currently costs $169. Citi Bike also offers one-day ($12) and three-day ($24) passes. With the promo, Citi Bike is trying to reduce the initial barrier to trying the service and get people more people to buy annual passes.

Streetsblog contacted Motivate to see how the company plans to evaluate the single-ride fare, and if making it permanent might be in the cards. A spokesperson gave no indication the company intends to offer $3 rides after April.

“We are always looking to introduce more people to the benefits of bike share, and we hope this flexible new payment option will do just that,” the spokesperson said. “This is a limited-time offer for April for the beginning of riding season.”

With City Hall reportedly set to allow dockless bike-share services to begin operating in the summer, Citi Bike’s fare structure is worth renewed attention.

Given Motivate’s exclusivity arrangement with the city, the dockless systems may not be allowed to operate in the Citi Bike service area, which covers Manhattan below 130th Street and parts of Brooklyn and Queens. But Motivate itself is one of the 12 companies that submitted proposals to the city for the dockless bike-share pilot, and its dockless offering will be much more useful if fares are integrated with its current system.

Citi Bike’s fare structure is very different than the dockless companies, many of which offer single rides for as little as $1 (though it remains to be seen whether that price point can be sustained in the long run). How will Motivate compete with that? To get new people interested in Citi Bike beyond the current service area, a single-ride fare may need to be an option past April.

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