The 7,000 Citi Bikes and 330 stations in lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn are called the largest most widely used city rental bike program this side of the world. But the company that operates Citi Bike has told the city it is losing money may want to raise fares and seek more city funding.
Bicycle advocates say the operating company, Portland-based Alta, is a mess.
Part of the problem is that while people with annual memberships just have to put in a key, if you rent for a day or week at roughly $10 and $25, you have to use a credit card and punch in bunch of numbers and there have been software problems. So there are not enough of the profitable short term rentals.
We saw two technicians working on a software problem at a bike station in Chelsea. That makes it difficult to get or return Citi Bikes at this stand. The software running the Citi Bike stands has been an on again off again problem since the program started.
Another problem: commuters will empty one bike stand of bikes and ride them to another stand, where they are left -- and no one takes them back. So Citi Bike workers have to use vans to transport the bikes from crowded stands back to now empty bike stands. That costs Citi Bike more than expected.
Alta has asked the city for tens of millions of dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal. The commissioner of transportation won't discuss the depth of the problem.
Where will the money come from? Higher fares, taxpayer money, perhaps more corporate sponsorship.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the head of the council's Transportation Committee, wants to see Citi Bike's and Alta's books.
Some people do not want to raise fares, some do not want to use taxpayer money and some want to change the company operating Citi Bike.