Citi Bike expansion: How Motivate installs new stations

A new Citi Bike station was installed in Gowanus on Aug. 24, 2016.
A new Citi Bike station was installed in Gowanus on Aug. 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Sony Picture Classics / Jonny Cournoyer

Each time a new Citi Bike station opens to the public, staff from Motivate, the bike-share operators, ring a ship’s bell hung from the wall in their Sunset Park headquarters.

That bell will toll 139 times through the current Phase 2 expansion that’s bringing new stations to uptown Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn.

“Being in Sunset Park, away from the expansion, [the bell] helps our staff feel more connected to the new stations,” said Dani Simons, Motivate’s communications director, as she watched a Citi Bike crew assemble a new station at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street in Gowanus on Wednesday morning.

The second round of Citi Bike expansion began on Aug. 1. During the installation season, Motivate‘s deployment team staff swells from about seven full-timers to add some 50 seasonal workers. This round, crews — sometimes installing up to four stations a day — will pepper docks around Central Park to increase density and bring new stations to Gowanus, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and Park Slope.

“One of the biggest challenges is training all those people and making sure everything falls into a nice routine,” said Brian Geraghty, Citi Bike’s director of system expansion. “And that’s where we’re at now—we’re hitting our stride and installing stations at a pretty rapid pace, which is great.”

Every station comprises the same core parts: the plate, or the base, docks, a kiosk and a solar panel. Docks can be angled, when in tight quarters, and installed back to back or in alternating fashion. Two vehicles, plus a third van carting a dozen workers, are needed for each install. One flatbed truck carts the new station equipment and another bears the crane needed to lift 800-pound, prefabricated station pieces into place.

With new stations come new Citi Bike app updates. Riders can now eschew kiosks and unlock bikes directly from their smartphones.

“Sometimes there are long lines at kiosks and this allows you to skip the kiosks all together,” Simons said. “People are doing so much on their phones already, this is just another way to add to the Citi Bike experience.”