The problem? Ironically, it's losing money because it's too popular with the New Yorkers who purchase memberships, and the tourists who everyone thought were going to flock to the system and immediately kill themselves in traffic simply aren't taking up the slack:
One issue is that Citi Bike has proved more popular than expected with annual users who generate comparatively little revenue. Some 99,000 people pay $95 a year plus tax to be able to use the bikes for 45 minutes at a time.
The potential for far greater revenue, however, is with short-term users. Many of those were expected to be tourists, and they haven't used the bikes nearly as much as officials had anticipated, people familiar with the matter said.
I hate when things are more popular than expected.
As for those short-term users, here's a chart illustrating the problem:
Notice that the number of tourists and other occasional users is quite high in the summer months. Then it decreases significantly during the winter, but shows signs of increasing again as the spring approaches. This is a huge shock to everybody, since until now nobody realized that New York City has these things called "seasons."
I mean, sure, scientists have been talking about "season change" for centuries, but it's mostly been dismissed as liberal nonsense.
Anyway, I expect another Wall Street Journal article sometime in June about the miraculous rebound in Citi Bike ridership.
The other problem is that the bikes wind up all clumped in certain areas and all sparse in others, like the contents of the six month old carton of soy milk in the back of your fridge:
Operational difficulties have also troubled Citi Bike. The task of moving bikes to respond to the patterns of commuters—those who grab a bike in the West Village to Midtown in the morning but may not ride it home at night—has been more cumbersome than expected in New York City traffic. That has raised costs.
I gotta say that is indeed a problem, and it's the reason I've pretty much stopped using the system--I've had too many experiences where I either couldn't find a bike, or I couldn't dock it, or both, and ultimately wound up spending more time than I would have if I'd simply walked. Of course, just as everyone was surprised by the existence of four seasons, they were apparently similarly surprised that New York City has a shitload of traffic, and that spreading Citi Bikes around in huge vans during rush hour is a gigantic inefficient pain in the ass.
Fortunately, there's an easy solution to that, and if Citi Bike wants to pay me to ride the bikes all over the city to the stations where they're needed I'd be more than happy to take the job.
But that's not going to happen, since there's no money for it:
New York's bike-share program is unique among large U.S. cities because it is designed to operate without public dollars, experts said. Programs in Chicago, Boston, Washington, Houston and San Francisco either use local or federal money or both, according to Corinne Kisner, a program manager at the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Citi Bike's revenues come from corporate sponsorships, advertising and membership and usage fees.
Basically, every other form of transport--including all these ferry boats nobody uses (obviously I don't mean the Staten Island ferry, since shitloads of people use that)--gets some kind of subsidy. I don't expect that to happen with bikes, though, since the average person hates bikes and all the wear and tear on the infrastructure they don't cause. Still, I'm not sure I'd want Citi Bike to be publicly funded, since it would make it that much more difficult to play the smugness card in arguments.
Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised to see the whole thing slowly die on the vine, which would be a shame, since even though I don't really use it a lot of people do, it has huge potential, and it's already had a positive effect on New York City cycling in general.
And now, I'm pleased to present you with a quiz. As always, study the item, think, and click on your answer. If you're right you'll get a million points, and if you're wrong you'll see how it's done.
Thanks very much for reading, ride safe, and safe reading.
--Wildcat Rock Machine
--A cog flosser
--A fine-tooth hacksaw for delicate crabon components
--A bow and arrow set for bike/archery biathlons
--The folk instrument known as a "Jew's harp"
(From that stupid car commercial..)
2) Yeah, well, somebody attempted it anyway.
--A bell you activate with your brake lever
--A sensor for a rear brake light
--A trigger for an oil slick
--Disembodied hand modeling extremely poorly thought-out bell placement
4) Looks like somebody wrapped a Fuji in duct tape.
--"Combines running and cycling"
--"Is a real conversation starter and stands out from the crowd"
--Is designed by architects, which is more proof that architects need to stay the fuck away from bicycles
--All of the above
("This one will do nicely.")
6) Mario Cipollini won Milan-San Remo in what year?
--Mario Cipollini has never won Milan-San Remo
(Via a reader. Thank you, reader!)
***Special Science-Themed Bonus Video!***