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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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Jay Walder on What’s Next for America’s Biggest Bike-Share Company

Last fall, former MTA chief Jay Walder took over as CEO of Alta Bicycle Share, part of a restructuring that injected new resources and expertise into a company that had struggled to keep up with the demands of running bike-share systems in half a dozen major American cities.

Jay Walder. Photo: fortunelivemedia/Flickr

This morning, the company came out with a new name, Motivate, one of the first public announcements in what’s expected to be a year of rapid improvement and growth. (Another piece of news dropped last week: Jersey City has picked the company to run its new bike-share system, which will be accessible to Citi Bike members.)

I got a few minutes this afternoon to chat with Walder about the new name, the status of the Citi Bike overhaul, and his vision for the company. Here’s our Q&A, edited for length and clarity.

What led to renaming the company and why did you go with “Motivate”?

It was a requirement to rename the company after taking over. We engaged in a discussion of our values, and what we want to achieve. We think it fits in with the way people think of [bike-share] in their life. When I think about it, I use words like “action” and “energy” and “movement.” I think it also reflects that as a company we have to be continually moving and changing and evolving in the cities and urban areas where we are.

After we ran a short post this morning about the name change, readers immediately wanted to know more about efforts to make Citi Bike more reliable. What can you tell us about how that’s going?

When we took over, we said we would be working over the winter to use this time to make Citi Bike more reliable. We said we would overhaul all 6,000 bikes in our fleet, and that is underway right now.

Read more…

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New Name for Alta Bicycle Share: “Motivate”

With a new name, Motivate is telling cities more bike-share stations are on the way. Photo: Citi Bike

After new management took over in 2014, injecting capital and expertise that’s expected to turn around a sputtering operation, the company formerly known as Alta Bicycle Share has adopted a new name: Motivate. (A verb! Very active transportation-y.)

Motivate operates bike-share systems in New York, DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle, making it the dominant player in the American bike-share market. While the company isn’t releasing details about how it plans to upgrade the problematic software and equipment that’s held back system growth in those cities and stalled the launch of systems elsewhere, today’s announcement promised a new wave of expansion.

“As cities change and grow more rapidly than ever, only bike share is flexible and personalized to keep pace,” CEO Jay Walder said in the statement. “Now, with the backing of new ownership, Motivate is positioned to deliver even better service to cities and bring bike share to scale.”

Walder told U.S. News that changes are underway now in preparation for peak bike-share season. “We’re trying to use the winter to be able to get things done,” he said.

Public presentations about adding Citi Bike stations started up last month in New York.

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Jersey City’s New Bike-Share System Will Be Open to Citi Bike Members

Jersey City bike-share is expected to launch in the spring. The city is currently striping 31 miles of bike lanes. Photo: ##https://labikas.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/new-jersey-city-bike-lanes-on-fulton-and-woodlawn/##Joe Linton##

Jersey City bike-share, which Citi Bike members will be able to access, is expected to launch in the spring. The city began striping new bike lanes in 2013. Photo: Joe Linton

Jersey City is preparing to launch a bike-share program this year that will be compatible with Citi Bike, according to an announcement yesterday from Alta Bicycle Share. Jersey City lawmakers awarded Alta the contract to operate the system on Monday.

The new system “will have reciprocal membership privileges with New York’s Citi Bike system,” Alta says, so if you belong to one system you can also use the other.

With an anticipated June start-up date, the Jersey City system will initially have around 350 bikes and 35 docking stations, with expansion down the line if the system proves popular. Alta expects to sign up 5,000 annual members by the end of the year. The pricing scheme will be similar Citi Bike’s.

Alta hasn’t announced yet who will sponsor the Jersey City system, but like Citi Bike, the new program will not be subsidized. The other interesting question is which hardware and software Alta will choose. It’s safe to assume that Jersey City won’t be getting the same buggy platform that Alta is looking to replace in New York.

One intriguing possibility would be to opt for something compatible with the Smart Bike system that Hoboken and Weehawken plan to roll out in the spring. Those cities opted for a “smart-lock” platform, allowing users to drop off their bikes anywhere in the service area instead of specific docking stations. Using compatible technology in Jersey City could lead to a more useful bike-share network throughout Hudson County.

Jersey City is working toward making its streets at least somewhat safer for cycling. As Streetsblog reported in 2013, Mayor Steven Fulop’s predecessor Jerramiah Healy failed to act on the city’s bike plan. But under Fulop, who rides a bike himself, Jersey City is in the process of striping 31 miles of bike lanes.

“Jersey City has one of the fastest growing biking populations and a community who utilizes bikes and mass transit for commuting to and from work,” said Fulop in the press release. “We anticipate this program will be one of the most-used in the nation and will develop a national model for a regional, urban bike share system.”

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Stringer’s Citi Bike Report Is Woefully Behind the Times

Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office took so long to produce an audit of Citi Bike maintenance that major issues flagged in the report no longer appear to be affecting the system.

Citi Bike had a maintenance backlog a year ago, but not today. Photo: Velojoy

The report dropped Thursday night, and on Friday several media outlets came out with stories following the lead of Stringer’s “scathing” press release, which emphasized Citi Bike’s failure to meet bike maintenance targets last winter. At the time, financially struggling operator Alta Bicycle Share cut several mechanics as colder weather and lower levels of bike-share usage approached. The key metric Stringer’s report points to, the share of bikes inspected by maintenance crews, fell far short of the obligation spelled out in Alta’s contract with the city: checking 100 percent of the bike each month.

But beginning this spring, Citi Bike has gradually improved its maintenance record. In February, Citi Bike reported inspecting only 34 percent of its bike fleet. By June, the rate was up to 71 percent. And from July through October, between 98 and 100 percent of the fleet received mechanical checks each month. Customer service calls are dropping compared to the same time last year. The improvement began even before new management took over in October, injecting more financial resources.

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Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

This chart shows the performance of the world's bike sharing systems. U.S. systems, by en large, are lagging. Image: ?

U.S. bike-share systems, which tend not to have dense networks of stations, also tend to lag behind other bike-share systems on ridership. Graph: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations.

That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a leading U.S. expert on bike-share. In a recent exchange about what some cities are passing off as bike-share, Orcutt told he has some concerns about how bike-share systems are being rolled out in cities around the U.S. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate in an interview.

Here’s what he had to say about what separates a successful bike-share system from one that’s not meeting its potential:

So you’ve come to some conclusions about how certain bike-shares are functioning?

They’re not my conclusions. There’s a fair amount of research out there now and you can see pretty clearly what some of the variables are. There’s a huge variation across cities, especially in the United States.

Can you summarize the research?

The most useful metric is rides per bike per day. You can compare a system with 600 bikes to 6,000 bikes in different size cities pretty easily. You just see, how many rides is it getting?

I’d say the breaking point internationally is about three-and-a-half or four rides. High performing systems are seeing four rides per day on average or more, and then there’s everybody else. A lot of them in the United States are under two.

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Will de Blasio’s Bike Lane Network Keep Pace With Citi Bike Expansion?

Will Mayor de Blasio fix huge infrastructure gaps in the bike lane network as Citi Bike expands? Image: Transportation Alternatives. Click for full-size version.

Will Mayor de Blasio fill huge gaps in the bike lane network, especially in western Queens and Manhattan above 59th Street, as Citi Bike expands? Map: Transportation Alternatives. Click to enlarge.

A City Council hearing on bike infrastructure is about to get underway this afternoon, where council members will “focus on ways to improve” NYC bike infrastructure, according to a press release from Ydanis Rodriguez, the transportation chair.

One issue that Transportation Alternatives will be highlighting at the hearing is the mismatch between the existing bike network and the upcoming expansion of NYC’s bike-share service area. This morning, TA released a map of the current and future Citi Bike zone, overlaid with a map of current bike lanes. With the bike-share coverage area set to double in size in the next two years, the de Blasio administration has much to do if it intends to keep up.

From the TA press release:

Unfortunately, there are not enough safe places to ride in many of the areas where bike share is set to expand. To make matters more serious, very little new cycling infrastructure is currently planned, in spite of demand for more bike lanes and active requests from communities around the five boroughs. In fact, the administration has only committed to 50 miles of new bike lanes annually, with only five miles of protected lanes.

Also today, DOT is expected to announce a program to improve bike access on bridges. Trottenberg told WNYC that the “Bikes on Bridges” campaign will concentrate on the 16 Harlem River crossings that connect Manhattan and the Bronx.

Transportation Alternatives has been working with local partners in the area to identify where bridge access needs to be safer for biking and walking, and former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt has recommended using the Harlem River bridges as the backbone of a safer bike network Uptown and in the Bronx.

Hopefully council members will ask DOT about lag times between street repavings and restripings, which has left cyclists in some neighborhoods wondering when bike lanes will return.

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Michael Frumin Hired to Get Citi Bike Tech Back on Track

The company that runs Citi Bike has made a big hire, bringing on someone known for improving the customer experience by introducing new technology to the MTA. No, not new CEO Jay Walder. The newest employee at Alta Bicycle Share is its first-ever vice president for technology, Michael Frumin.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Walder said the company would be hiring for the position this week. It looks like he meant “immediately.”

Frumin has his work cut out for him at Alta. Citi Bike has struggled with a poor user interface at kiosk screens and flawed software that causes problems throughout the system.

Frumin is best known for leading the MTA’s Bus Time project, which brings real-time arrival information to riders. (Streetsblog’s parent organization, OpenPlans, helped develop the technology behind Bus Time.)

When Frumin joined the MTA in 2010 to work on Bus Time, Walder was the agency boss. The MTA rolled out the first Bus Time route in 2011, then expanded the capability borough by borough starting in 2012. With most of the work on Bus Time complete, last year Frumin took on a new position as deputy director of recovery and resiliency for subways at the MTA.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Frumin is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. He received a computer science degree from Stanford before going to MIT for a masters degree in transportation and operations research. He lives in Brooklyn.

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As Citi Bike Expands, So Should NYC’s Protected Bike Lanes

When Citi Bike launched last year, ridership numbers quickly surpassed levels seen in other cities. New York’s system had a number of advantages — more stations, more bikes, more places to go, and more potential customers, for starters. But there’s another reason so many people felt comfortable hopping on the blue bikes: For years before bike-share’s launch, the city had been installing miles of protected bike lanes on several key north-south avenues in the Citi Bike service area.

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike announcement, DOT chief Polly Trottenberg said the presence of protected bike lanes would factor into station siting as the system expands, but she didn’t commit to adding more protected lanes in tandem with bike-share growth. Photo: Stephen Miller

As Citi Bike expands beyond the city’s core, the protected bike lane network should grow along with it. The logic of the pairing is so clear to New Yorkers, noted former DOT policy director Jon Orcutt in a Streetsblog post this summer, that when the city sought to add protected lanes for Midtown avenues after bike-share was already in the works, the proposals “sailed through their respective community boards.” Will the de Blasio administration also make the connection between bike-share and building out safe bicycling infrastructure?

At Tuesday’s Citi Bike press conference, I asked Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg if DOT would grow the protected bike lane network as bike-share expands to more neighborhoods. “One of the big steps with Citi Bike in terms of safety and ease of use has been connecting wherever possible with protected bike lanes,” she said. “As we site stations, that is going to be one of the criteria.”

It wasn’t exactly a commitment to expand the protected bike lane network in tandem with Citi Bike.

Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio didn’t bring up protected lanes when I asked what his administration is doing to improve bike safety in light of the fact that bicyclist deaths have doubled in 2014 compared to the same time last year. De Blasio cited enforcement against dangerous driving before adding that NYPD has issued more tickets to “bicyclists who have acted inappropriately” and that the city would employ “equal opportunity” enforcement against bike riders.

The administration has gone on the record saying the protected bike lane network will expand at about the same rate as it has since 2007. At a press conference celebrating New York’s “best biking city” ranking last month, Trottenberg said DOT has committed to adding five miles of protected bike lanes every year.

So far, however, the de Blasio administration has yet to put its stamp on the bike network.

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Citi Bike 2.0: New Owners Hire Jay Walder and Promise Major Expansion

With new ownership and a new CEO, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has even started taking suggestions for bike-share expansion again. Image: DOT

With new ownership from executives at real estate giant Related and a new CEO in former MTA head Jay Walder, Citi Bike expansion is back on track. DOT has already started taking suggestions for new bike-share stations. Image: DOT

It’s official: Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, has a new owner, an infusion of cash, and a fresh face at the top — longtime transit executive Jay Walder. At a press conference this afternoon, the new team promised to correct Citi Bike’s blunders and double the system’s size by the end of 2017.

The same ownership group will also be running Alta bike-share systems in Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, and Boston, among other cities. While today’s news signals potential changes in those cities as well, the most immediate changes — along with Alta Bicycle Share’s headquarters — are coming to New York.

Citi Bike’s reboot has been months in the making. Top executives from Equinox Fitness, itself a division of real estate giant The Related Companies, burst onto the bike-share scene in April with an unsuccessful last-minute bid for Bixi, the bankrupt Canadian supplier of Alta’s bike-share components. Related execs resurfaced in July, when word came that they were on the verge of buying out Alta. After months of negotiations, the deal is now official, with a company backed by Related executives and other investors, called Bikeshare Holdings LLC, acquiring all of Alta Bicycle Share.

Alta is getting a major cash infusion — $30 million from Bikeshare Holdings LLC, which is led by Equinox CEO Harvey Spevak, Related CEO Jeff Blau, and investor Jonathan Schulhof. Citi has extended its initial $41 million, five-year sponsorship of NYC bike-share by promising an additional $70.5 million through 2024, contingent on system expansion. Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, which has already helped finance Citi Bike, is increasing its credit line to Alta by $15 million. The deal includes $5 million from the Partnership Fund for New York City, an investment fund backed by the city’s big business coalition, to expand Citi Bike to more neighborhoods.

That expansion is set to roll out in stages over the next three years. Today, the system has 330 stations and 6,000 bikes. Alta and DOT promised today that by the end of 2017, it will double to over 700 stations and 12,000 bikes. The first round will bring the system to neighborhoods that have long been promised bike-share, such as Long Island City and Greenpoint, as well as additional parts of Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant. The second phase will expand the system to just north of 125th Street in Harlem, south to Red Hook, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights, and to a large section of Astoria. It does not include Roosevelt, Randalls, and Ward Islands.

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Citi Bike Expansion Map: 375 New Stations for Uptown, Queens, and Brooklyn

citi_bike_map

Photo: Stephen Miller

The rumors were on target and the wait is over for New York City bike-share: With new management and new capital, the system is on track to cover a lot more ground. Here’s the map of the expanded Citi Bike service area that’s in the works, courtesy of Streetsblog’s Stephen Miller.

City officials including Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg are at Queensbridge Houses this afternoon to announce that REQX Ventures is buying out Alta Bicycle Share, the operator of Citi Bike. As first reported by the Daily News, former MTA Chair Jay Walder will be running things now, so the bike-share system is gaining not only an infusion of funds but a serious management upgrade as well.

Once completed, the bigger bike-share zone will reportedly have about 12,000 bikes and more than 700 stations. The first new stations will be installed next year, and the implementation of all of phase two will stretch into 2017, according to the Citi Bike blog. The price of an annual membership will rise from $95 to $149, but the $60 discount membership for NYCHA residents will not change.

Stephen and Clarence Eckerson are at the presser and will have more details later today.