Given recent reports of the CitiBike program’s financial trouble, Queens officials want to assure residents that the bicycle sharing program isn’t disappearing if they have anything to do with it.
“The system is successful as proved by the 100,000 annual users and a number of other daily and weekly users,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “This is a successful bike share program; Alta has mismanaged it.”
Recently, Alta Bike Share, one of three companies that put together the program, announced that CitiBike was proving difficult to maintain due to a lack of revenue. It sought funding from the city but Mayor de Blasio quickly denied the request.
Though the program is far from being eradicated, there are concerns of how the lack of funding will affect the rollout of CitiBike to Western Queens.
“They need to raise additional money and seek private money to solve the financial issues, but they also have to fix their operational issues,” Van Bramer said. “We’re continuing to press for the bike share to expand to Western Queens. That is a priority of mine and it will continue to be.”
Van Bramer and state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) have both pushed for CitiBike to come to Western Queens, and Alta had every intention of rolling out the bike share to Long Island City, followed by stations in Astoria.
“The important thing is that it continue operating whether it’s public or private funds,” Gianaris said. “Hopefully the mayor’s announcement doesn’t forbode a thing to come.”
Van Bramer said he is not entirely against using public funds for CitiBike as it becomes a public transportation option for more and more New Yorkers, but added that he in no way is in favor of bailing out the program with public funds.
“First and foremost, we need Alta to fix what it’s doing and get the management of the system right and for there to be more private investments coming in,” Van Bramer said. “Having said that, with the confidence that the system is well run, this is a form of public transportation. It is and will be thought of as part of our public transportation infrastructure and funds can be used but not as a bailout. Get private money in, make it profitable and maybe there will be an opportunity for the city to support the program, especially with capital expenses.”
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said there is a silver lining to the CitiBike finance announcement.
“We’re pleased that New York City Bike Share is releasing this data so that the program’s stakeholders and the public can see firsthand how CitiBike is functioning, understand the work that remains to be done and contribute to the conversation about where bike share is headed,” she said. “We remain committed to working with the system’s operator to address these important financial and operational issues so that the very popular CitiBike — which just reached 7 million rides — can perform even better.”
Alta was not available for comment on the matter.