After some bruising spills during its maiden spin, the Citi Bike program has dusted itself off and charted a smart new course that should revive its progress.
The plan means two things for riders.More bikes.Citi Bike promises to double the number of bicycles in its racks to 12,000 by 2017. And it will finally broaden the program's reach -- to Greenpoint, Bed-Stuy, Long Island City and Williamsburg next year -- and then to nabes including Harlem, the Upper West Side, Park Slope, Gowanus, Red Hook, Astoria and Bushwick. Soon, we hope, the program will learn that folks in the Bronx like to ride, too.
Surging fees.The price for an annual membership is likely to jump by about 60% -- from $95 to $149 plus tax. Yet this doesn't look unreasonable. The original program was priced too low for year-round New Yorkers, who stunned the company by quickly embracing Citi Bike -- snapping up 100,000 annual subscriptions in the first year alone.
Unfortunately, the tourists who were expected to purchase pricier short-term passes never sufficiently materialized. That's one reason why Alta Bicycle Share, which runs Citi Bike, saw its profits roll south. Another reason is that Alta was bedeviled by electronic glitches and by problems putting bicycle docks where the riders are.
These problems should shrink now. A new owner, Bikeshare Holdings -- formed by executives at Related Companies and Equinox Fitness -- will move from Portland, Oregon, to NYC. And the company has hired Jay Walder, who formerly ran the MTA, to oversee the retooled enterprise. Walder, who grew up in New York City, has run mass transit systems in London and Hong Kong but, most important, he ran our subways and bus system.
This looks like a major victory for everyone -- transit gurus who want to see fewer cars on the streets, health buffs who need a daily workout, and even the occasional rider who wants to explore a park on a lovely day.
May Citi Bike have the wind at its back.