Citi Bike is getting their shift in gear for the summer by ridding bike share of busted equipment, an unhelpful app and buggy software, and difficult-to-dock spots that had frustrated riders, officials said Monday.
A new set of wheels, meanwhile, is in development, too, though details are under wraps for now.
Bike share executive Jay Walder, at the Sunset Park headquarters of Motivate, the company that took over Citi Bike last year, said he understood a dramatic overhaul was needed to live up to big city expectations.
"They were frustrated that the system that was set up wasn't really handling demands of New York City," said Walder, a former mass transit executive who ran the MTA.
It is set to expand later this year with 92 stations in Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant. Citi Bike is already hunting for locations in Manhattan's east and west sides and is looking to put stations in Harlem, Astoria, Red Hook and Park Slope by 2017, doubling the number of bikes and docks. More bikes will be added to Citi Bike's existing footprint in Manhattan below Central Park and parts of Brooklyn, according to Walder.
Walder in October was brought on board to helm the bike share's parent company, Alta, which was financially struggling and unable to operate bike share smoothly here. A firm affiliated with Related Companies, a real estate giant, took over, giving the company a boost in funding; Alta then rebranded as Motivate.
Citi Bike, with a fleet of 6,000 bicycles, averages more than eight rides a day, per bike, during the busy summer season, according to the company, which runs bike share systems in nine cities. That outpaces Paris' system of 6.7 rides a day, per bike, with a fleet of 16,000 bicycles.One of the immediate changes Citi Bike users should notice is an app that now has accurate, real-time information, thanks to new back-end software from a firm called 8D Technologies installed this weekend (Walder apologized for the short notice shutdown that caught riders by surprise). Citi Bike will be changing the software used at stations that riders see.
"You now can rely on the information that is in the app," Walder said, adding that the data is refreshed every 10 seconds.
To prepare for the summer, Citi Bike crews have fixed up 4,253 out of 6,000 bikes, replacing worn out parts and getting the ready for riding. The rest of the bikes will get repaired by summer the peak season. Motivate is also adding repair staff to meet the demand.
Walder also said there have been more maintenance checks and that the process will improve and be streamlined, such as getting feedback from riders who hit a bike's "wrench" button what went wrong and making sure repair crews have enough parts.
"What it gives us is a chance to be quicker, more nimble in the way that we are maintaining bicycles," Walder said.
Casual riders, meanwhile, will find it easier to hop on a bike, with some stations in high-traffic areas getting key fob dispensers.
For the end of the ride, bikes will be easier to lock into the station docks, with riders getting an email notification that the ride is complete. To address gripes finding a spot to lock it up, Citi Bike is bringing valet service to busy stations.
"I'm confident we're addressing all sides of what we have to do to make Citi Bike a lot better," Walder said.