Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Citi Bike sounds Good. Expand it shall! (Part 1)

                              Those bikes! Photo of Citi Bikes outside of City Hall. Courtesy of NY Daily News

Yesterday, May 27, marked a groundbreaking day for New York City and the push to make the city a more livable place for everyone.

Citi Bike, the City's brand new and ambitious bike sharing system, debuted yesterday to those who signed up and received an annual membership key for just $95 - and over 15,000 people did, gaining access to just over 600 stations and 6,000 bikes all over Manhattan below 59th Street and selected areas of Brooklyn. Already, the number of people holding memberships has surpassed those numbers in cities where bike sharing systems have been established long before, such as Boston (which has 7,000 members and 1,000 bikes in 105 Stations), Miami Beach (which has around 2,400 members and 1,200 bikes in 100 Stations), and Minneapolis (which has around 3,750 members and 1,550 bikes in 170 Stations).  Starting this upcoming weekend, weekly and daily memberships will be available to those who aren't inclined in purchasing an annual membership (at $25 and $9.95 respectively).  

Already, Citi Bike is starting to show some early signs of resounding success. Within the first day of operation, Citi Bike reported that as of 5 p.m yesterday:

  • 6,050 Rides were taken 
  • The average duration of each ride was at 20.48 minutes
  • In total, over 13,768 miles were traveled with Citi Bikes.
  • They added 772 new members, for total of 16,463 members.
But really, what is Citi Bike intended to do? Besides being a new mode of transportation that New Yorkers can rely on, it is also intended to compliment the city's existing Mass Transit system of Buses and Trains. Especially so in Manhattan, where buses (crosstown buses being a noteworthy case) are often slow and caught up with soul crushing traffic, Citi Bike can provide a much needed alternative from slow buses or expensive cabs. The Lower East Side is another perfect example, as it has subpar subway access and relies heavily on buses to transport it to the nearest subway station. With this, the LES happens to have an abundance of Citi Bike stations, which would give them a reliable alternative from the bus to reach the subway, or in some cases, bike to work! Two quotes from Mayor Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Khan, the Commissioner of DOT, tell as much (Courtesy of Streetsblog New York)

Question: Will this compete with transit and bike stores?

JSK: We look at this as a real complement to the MTA system, to fill in the gaps. And there are times when it’s just quicker to get across town in particular. We have the largest bus fleet in North America and the slowest bus speeds, so this a convenient, fast, affordable way to get around town.

MRB: Also you’ve gotta remember that a lot of people own bicycles and rent them to go for long periods of time. This is really more designed for getting from Place A to Place B in 30 minutes kind of thing. Some of the bicycle stores that are worried about their business, I think in fact if they think about it, they will sell an awful lot of helmets, that’s profitable, and the more people that ride the more people think about riding, and there’s no reason to think that business will go down. I think history shows it will go up.

The fascinating thing, however, is that this was originally expected to have over 10,000 bikes in over 600+ stations, however, due to technological glitches and the effects of SuperStorm Sandy, it started out with 6,000 bikes - still an impressive number, but 4,000 short. Now, the City is planning to work with sponsors and obtain a Sandy Recovery Loan to speed up the expansion to the original number of 10,000.

However, the prospect that has gotten me really excited is the potential rollout of Citi Bike beyond the initial start up zone to upper reaches of Manhattan and most of the South Bronx, as well as the far reaches of Western Queens - including the neighborhoods of Astoria, Jackson Heights/Corona, and Forest Hills. The DOT is actually committed in expanding the program to those areas, but the political support and will needs to be there. In Part 2 of this series, I will go into detail about the potential expansion of Citi Bike to the Outer Boroughs, the benefits and potential drawbacks of said expansion, and what one must do to support the extension. Until then, hopefully I'll be able to get my annual membership key!

This is Part 1 in a Series of posts detailing the start and potential expansion and benefits of Citi Bike, NYC's brand new Bike Sharing System. Part 2 coming up soon. Stay tuned!