Maybe Citi Bike isn't completely screwed, after all. An internal report suggests that though the bike share program has flailed financially in its first year, it's likely that many of its costly setbacks were unfortunate one-offs from which it can continue to recover in Year Two.
According to Capital New York, Citi Bike's initial technology problems—which were ultimately revealed to be mere symptoms of a deeply troubled partnership—have largely been remedied, and will continue to improve pending the arrival of savvier management. "If the bike system’s troubled operator (Alta Bicycle Share, which runs the city program through its subsidiary NYC Bike Share) and its troubled equipment supplier (Bixi) can find new, more competent owners or investors, the system could become a sustainable or even profitable operation, and could maybe even subsist at its current size without public funding," the site reports.
It's no secret that Citi Bike was born amid total chaos. Between Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment, and the now-notorious software glitches, the program exceeded expected start-up costs by around $9 million. Still, while Citi Bike has seen lower than anticipated use by tourists, New Yorkers have glommed on with vigor, with yearly passes netting $4.5 million more than initial projections suggested.
Because such a significant percentage of Citi Bike's financial hemorrhaging is not presumed to be repeated (depending who you ask, though, theories might differ on whether another "Sandy-like event" is imminent), the report seems to indicate that the system has a shot at a long life after all.
"It just shows that the first thing Alta needs to do is get its house in order, because this shows that Citi Bike isn’t a black hole from a financial perspective,” Noah Budnick, deputy executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told Capital.
However, the program isn't likely to expand without private sector assistance—de Blasio has already summarily killed the notion that it will receive public funds on his watch, and another major corporation like Citi Group might be reluctant to pour money into a venture that already prominently displays someone else's logo.
In the meantime, Alta Bicycle Share has proposed increasing the cost of an annual membership from $95 to $140, which represents an increase of 47 percent that could bring in an additional $4.6 million per year, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Around 6,200 Citi Bikes are currently rolling down Citi Streets, though both Alta and local officials would like to expand that number to 10,000—the number of bikes initially planned before Sandy drowned everything—sooner rather than later.