Bronxites might be a little closer to seeing Citi Bike, the city’s bike share program, expand into their borough.
Citi Bike has scheduled a meeting in October with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and other stakeholders to discuss the possibility, according to Dani Simons, a Citi Bike spokesperson.
The meeting was prompted by comments Diaz made in August after Citi Bike announced it would be expanding into Jersey City.
“It is deplorable that Citi Bike is expanding to New Jersey before the rest of the city,” said Diaz. “My borough deserves better, as do the parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island that are not currently served by our city’s official bike share program.”
Currently, neither the Bronx or Staten Island have Citi Bike stations.
But the biggest hurdle for Citi Bike’s deeper expansion into the outer boroughs continues to be the cost of its annual membership fees, particularly for low-income New Yorkers.
The average median income in the Bronx is $33,0006–the lowest of all five boroughs.
Since last November, when fees increased from $95 to $149, ridership declined 21% in 2015, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. Annual fees for NYCHA residents and qualifying low-income individuals remained at $60; however, a recent FOIL request revealed that less than one percent of Citi Bike members fell into this category. In contrast, Hubway, Boston’s bike share program, cost $5 annually and 18% of its membership is low-income–the highest of any such program in the country.
Credit card ownership–which is required to use a Citi Bike–has also inhibited membership among low-income New Yorkers. According to a FDIC report, 13 percent of city residents are “unbanked”–that is, do not have a bank account (the nationwide average is 8.2%).
A recent study by the National Association of City Transportation Officials suggests that subdividing memberships into smaller time periods, such as monthly or weekly subscriptions, is less prohibitive to low-income users. It also recommended diversifying payment methods.
Socioeconomic complications aside, the most pragmatic explanation for Citi Bike’s absence in the Bronx is its distance from the existing network, which currently extends as far north as 86th Street in Manhattan.
Prior to the Citi Bike’s inception in 2013, the Department of City Planning released a study in 2009 detailing the logistics of deploying a citywide bike share program.
All five boroughs are included in the plan, but Citi Bike is privately owned, and its adherence to DCP’s design is principally a choice, rather than a requirement. And with a doubling of its network size by 2017, Citi Bike must maintain enough revenue to cover its increased operating costs. Expanding to Jersey City, which has a 76% higher average median income than the Bronx, is a safer bet for Citi Bike and their acquisition of new members.
Nonetheless, Bronx cyclists remain hopeful.
“The Bronx is not a place that has been getting a lot of attention for bicycling” says David Guerrero, Bronx organizer for Transportation Alternatives. “But working people have to travel.”
To date, Citi Bike has never publicly announced plans to expand its network into the Bronx.
Percent Bicycle Commuters per Capita by Borough: