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New York City’s Citi Bike Now in Trouble – Bixi Boondoggle in the Big Apple?

by John Symon
Citibike opens in New York in Spring 2013  ©  Wikipedia
March 22, 2014 (New York, NY) – Now it’s Mayor Bill de Blasio turn to say that his city will not spend taxpayer’s money to bail out Citi Bike, a public bike share program reports The Wall Street Journal. The same refrain has been sung in recent months by Toronto’s Rob Ford and Montreal’s Denis Coderre. All three cities operate public bike share programs using Canadian-designed Bixi bikes. Mayor de Blasio qualified his declaration, however, to say that he values Citi Bike and wants to see it expanded.

NYC Bike Share, which operates New York City’s Citi Bike program, probably needs $14 million to fix problems with the program. Like similar Bixi programs elsewhere, Citi Bike is proving very popular. Some 99,000 New Yorkers have taken out annual memberships at $95, but this price is probably “too low” according to Michael Jones of Alta Bicycle Share, the Oregon-based parent company of NYC Bike Share. In fact, because Citi Bike has proved more popular than expected this has lead to growing pains, especially with “redistributing” bikes. Software problems have also added to the woes.

Unlike in Montreal or Toronto, financing for Citi Bike has so far come from private sources: an initial $41 million came from Citigroup and paid for up-front capital expenditures while Mastercard provided an additional $6.5 million. And despite Mayor de Blasio’s declarations, it sounds as if public financing is indeed being considered. On Friday, Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said that “everything is on the table” for Citi Bike.

Inaugurated in May 2013, Citi Bike officially operates some 7,000 blue Bixi bikes from 330 docking stations, making it the largest Bixi deployment in North America. Critics, however, claim that the actual number of Bixis in service is closer to 4,300.

As reported earlier, Bixi’s Montreal-based parent company declared bankruptcy in January, partly because of withheld payments of $5.6 million from New York and Chicago’s bike share programs.

Read more on Bixi’s bankruptcy here.

Wall Street Journal report on Citi Bike here.

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