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Bay Area Bike Share to Expand Tenfold By 2017

Photo: Aaron Bialick

Bay Area Bike Share will expand to a 7,000-bike system over the next two years and venture into Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. San Francisco’s system will dramatically increase to 4,500 bikes, and San Jose’s will expand to 1,000.

The mayors of all five cities announced the expansion today along with Motivate, the system’s operator (formerly known as Alta), which will enlarge the system tenfold “at no cost to taxpayers.”

Here are the details, according to a Mayor’s Office press release:

Motivate’s proposal includes bringing a total of 850 bikes to Oakland, 400 to Berkeley and 100 to Emeryville, and boosting the number of bikes in San Francisco to 4,500 from the current 328, and the number in San Jose to 1,000 from the current 129. Motivate plans to add 150 more bikes to the Bay Area Bike Share fleet after the four-phase expansion is complete in late 2017. While the locations of these bikes have not been identified, Motivate proposes to keep at least 50 of them in the East Bay.

Supervisor Scott Wiener issued a statement applauding “this proposal to dramatically expand bike share,” as he has pushed for. “A robust and sustainable bike share network is a key part of being a Transit First city and will allow us to reap the benefits of bike share, including reducing traffic, improving public transit, and stimulating the local economy,” he said.

Mayor Ed Lee issued this statement:

When we launched Bay Area Bike Share nearly two years ago, we saw a transformation in the way that residents and visitors moved around the Bay Area with an easy, convenient, affordable and healthy transportation option in our world-class transportation network. The proposed expansion of this popular bike share program will help residents and visitors move around our diverse San Francisco neighborhoods, and around the Bay Area region more easily.

This is the first wave of expansion since new management took over at Alta Bicycle Share and changed the company’s name to Motivate in January.

Motivate also operates bike-share systems in New York, DC, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.

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Citi Bike Installs New Software, Laying the Foundation for Better Service

Citi Bike boss Jay Walder says last weekend's software upgrade lays the groundwork for more improvements at the bike-share system. Photo: Stephen Miller

Citi Bike boss Jay Walder said a software upgrade will lead to major improvements for bike-share riders. Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s the beginning of the end for Citi Bike’s software troubles.

After operating for nearly two years with software that drove bike-share users nuts, Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike, says it has replaced its back-end with a better platform that will lay the foundation for major improvements in reliability and convenience.

Citi Bike shut down abruptly over the weekend to switch out the system’s software, Motivate chief Jay Walder said this morning. In place of the problematic back-end supplied by PBSC Urban Systems, Citi Bike now runs on software from 8D Technologies, the firm that developed the successful plumbing behind bike-share systems in other cities. The weekend work wrapped ahead of schedule on Saturday evening.

The most immediate improvement will be stations that stay online consistently. Walder said that at any given time over the past winter, 20 of the system’s 332 stations shut down after failing to hold a charge and burning through their solar-powered batteries. Today, all 332 stations are operating, Walder said, except for the six that have been removed for road construction or utility work.

The Citi Bike app has also been updated and will display the availability of bikes and docks more accurately, with information updated every 10 seconds. “We now have, for the very first time, accurate, real-time information,” Walder said. “You now can rely on the information that is in the app.”

Additional customer-facing software, including the displays at kiosks themselves, will be upgraded before the busy summer season, with most work taking place overnight, Walder said. The new software will enable other changes, including:

Read more…

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Citi Bike Releases Map of Williamsburg and Greenpoint Expansion

Here’s some eye candy for the weekend — a map of Citi Bike’s expansion into northern Brooklyn.

This map was submitted to Community Board 1 and obtained by the Brooklyn Paper. There are 53 stations planned for Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Unlike the Citi Bike phase two expansion areas in Manhattan and Queens, which are starting from scratch, these station locations were determined during the initial bike-share siting process, prior to the 2013 launch. Basically, this is where stations in these neighborhoods were supposed to go before the program was beset by Hurricane Sandy and software problems.

It looks like about half the stations will be on sidewalks. While siting guidelines generally rule out sidewalk locations that put a squeeze on pedestrian traffic, it would be better if decisions weren’t filtered through the parking preservation board.

Regardless, after a two year wait this map is another sign that the Citi Bike expansion is happening. These stations are expected to come online sometime in 2015.

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Citi Bike Expansion Plan Gets Going on the Upper West Side [Updated]

uws_bikeshare_map

Participants filled about a dozen tables for two separate hour-long sessions of bike-share station siting exercises last night. Photo: Larissa Zimberoff

A public workshop last night set in motion the planning process for bike-share on the Upper West Side, part of Citi Bike’s phase two expansion that will double the number of stations and reach up to 125th Street by 2017. NYC DOT said the station map for the neighborhood should be finalized sometime this fall but did not give a timeline for implementation.

DOT and Citi Bike staff held the event last night to get feedback from Upper West Side residents and Community Board 7 about where to site new bike-share stations in the neighborhood. Every chair was occupied at both of the one-hour sessions at the Presbyterian Church at 150 West 83rd Street.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” said Joe Robins (Citi Bike member #560) as he sat down at one of the dozen or so tables covered with maps, Sharpies, and colored flags to mark potential bike-share station sites. It was a sentiment many seemed to share.

The question that seemed to preoccupy most participants was: “Will there be a station near my home?” When asked if they would prefer to place stations on the sidewalk, in the roadbed, or in public plazas, most attendees didn’t indicate much of a preference. One gentleman voiced a desire for stations at corners versus mid-block, which has been the typical practice for the current Citi Bike network.

With Citi Bike expanding to the Upper East Side as well, park access and navigating east and west through Central Park was another key concern. While progress has been made on bike access across the park, direct routes are still limited. There will also be no stations in Central Park, consistent with a blanket policy of avoiding station sites inside city parks with evening closures, since Citi Bike stations must operate 24/7.

Another open question is whether NYC DOT will provide a safe northbound bike route on Amsterdam Avenue to pair with the Columbus Avenue protected bike lane. Protected bike lanes on the Upper West Side remain scarcer than in the existing Citi Bike zone, but Community Board 7 has dragged its feet on moving forward with a protected lane for Amsterdam.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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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.

Read more…

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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.