Struggling Citi Bike gets no handout — for now
Even as the ledger behind the recognizable blue-hued bikes is bleeding red, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that the city won’t use tax money to boost a struggling Citi Bike program.
At an unrelated press conference, de Blasio said that while his administration values the bike share program launched last year, the city will only commit to help — from a distance.
“They do have real economic challenges that they’re facing,” de Blasio told reporters. “Our transportation commissioner, Polly Trottenberg, is going to work with Citi Bike, looking for ways that we can be in collaboration with them, find ways to make their operation more efficient, more effective. And we want to see them succeed.”
Some of that growth includes expansion neighborhoods in the outer boroughs that the program has so far left behind. But city money is not on the table as part of that cooperation, he added.
“At this moment, that’s not in our plans,” de Blasio said. “We want to see what we can do to help them back on their feet, using other methodologies.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported about Citi Bike’s woes last week. It found that Alta Bicycle Share — which operates the program — is looking to raise tens of millions of dollars after rough and expensive first year stymied by storms and software problems.
The Journal added that Citi Bike managers have approached the de Blasio administration of hiking the current $95 membership fee, which is one of the program’s main revenue sources outside advertising and short-term passes that range from $10 to $25.
The Department of Transportation’s Trottenberg told the Daily News in early March that “all options are on the table,” but offered a much more measured response as of late.
“We are working as diligently as we can to help the company resolve them and strengthen the program going forward,” Trottenberg recently said in a statement.
The Citi Bike program launched in spring 2013 with some 5,500 bicycles placed at 293 stations mainly in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Citigroup committed $41 million in private funds under a six-year contract. While operated by Alta, any profits are to be split 50-50 with the city.
Bixi — the Montreal-based subcontractor that supplies equipment for various bike-share systems around the country, including Citi Bike — filed for bankruptcy protection in late January.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration oversaw Citi Bike’s roll out, often defended it as a new mass transit system at no cost to taxpayers — even if it fails.
“If they make money we’re going to share in the profits,” Bloomberg said in October. “So, you know, everybody should be happy with this.”
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria