Ongoing discussions that are expected to result in a massive expansion of the Citi Bike program are among the most poorly-kept secrets coning out of City Hall.
Multiple news outlets, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, have reported that REQX Ventures, an affiliate of Related Cos. is involved in talks with Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share Inc. which operates the bike share program that started in spring 2013.
Related is a giant in private and commercial real estate development. It reportedly is seeking to acquire a controlling share of the bike-sharing business, infuse the Citi Bike program with funding and greatly expand the program into Queens, Brooklyn and Northern Manhattan.
No service currently exists in Queens.
News of the talks leaked out just days after Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) held a press conference in Elmhurst to announce that he and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) were planning companion bills that would allow bike share subscribers to deduct the cost if they used the bikes to commute to and from work. Federal law already allows such deductions for services such as the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.
Citi Bike has more than 90,000 subscribers, and the top fee is $95 for an annual membership. Reports say that membership following a sale could go as high as $155, and that new ownership would address glitches that have plagued the program, including that with the computer software.
The program right now has more than 6,000 bikes at about 330 stations.
But a map available on the Citi Bike website shows that none of the stations in Manhattan are located above 60th Street, one block north of the southern boundary of Central Park.
Stations in Brooklyn are limited to the area bordered by Nostrand and Atlantic avenues and the East River.
Talks already were underway between Alta and the city’s Department of Transportation to bring some of the bikes to the Astoria-Long Island City area, though a DOT spokesman appearing at Crowley’s event said the talks were still in their preliminary stages.
With that in mind, state Sen. Mike Gianaris, (D-Astoria), long a proponent of bringing the service to Queens, appeared guardedly optimistic on Monday.
“As news of a possible deal to revive and expand Citi Bike inches closer to becoming a reality, I renew my commitment to fighting for the inclusion of our neighborhoods in this program,” Gianaris said in a statement issued by his office.
“Western Queens remains home to some of the most bike-friendly neighborhoods in the city, and some of the most underserved by mass transit, making our community perfect for Citi Bike,” Gianaris added.