Bike-Share Arrives in Queens as Citi Bike Marks Its First Expansion

Elected officials, transportation chiefs, and Citi Bike investors were all smiles at the launch of Citi Bike's first-ever expansion station. Photo: Stephen Miller
Elected officials, transportation chiefs, and investors at the launch of Citi Bike’s first expansion station this morning in Long Island City. Photo: Stephen Miller

Citi Bike’s first station in Queens is now up and running, with 90 more coming to Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, and Bedford-Stuyvesant by the end of August. It’s Citi Bike’s first expansion since launching a little more than two years ago.

This morning, officials gathered for a ribbon cutting and celebratory bike ride in Long Island City. “This moment was a dream come true,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who has long pushed for Citi Bike in Queens. “This has been a more than three-year odyssey… But we never, ever stopped believing this would happen.”

Crews will work over the next three weeks to install 91 stations, starting in Long Island City and ending in Bed Stuy by the end of the month. Then in the fall, Citi Bike will add 48 stations in Manhattan between 59th Street and 86th Street.

Expansion to Harlem, Astoria, and Brooklyn neighborhoods from Crown Heights to Red Hook is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2017, doubling the size of the system to 12,000 bikes and about 700 stations. “Today is the first step,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Citi Bike parent company Motivate. “We are delivering on a bigger and better Citi Bike.”

Walder pointed to technological fixes his company has made since taking over the bike-share enterprise last October. Many of those upgrades are underpinned by Canadian firm 8D Technologies, which Motivate brought back into the fold, reversing the disastrous decision by Citi Bike’s original equipment supplier to dump the firm’s successful tech platform and build a glitchy replacement. “There was no way we could talk about expansion if we didn’t address the issues that were plaguing Citi Bike,” Walder said.

With new stations going in the ground, ambitions are high. “Mayor de Blasio has given us at New York City DOT a homework assignment, which is eventually to get to all five boroughs, which is where we’re headed,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “But today at least we’re in borough number three.”

One of the shortcomings in Citi Bike’s next wave of growth is that new stations are being spread too thin, with expansion zones getting fewer stations per square mile than the existing system. This threatens to reduce Citi Bike’s reliability and attractiveness to riders. I asked Trottenberg about this problem. “We had agreed upon in the contract that was negotiated a certain number of stations, and we’re keen to put those in and have them cover all the neighborhoods we’ve talked about today,” she said. “Over time, we’ll see how the system operates, and we’ll be filling in more stations as needed.”

The expansion stations are identical to those already installed in New York, with one exception: All the docks feature a new docking mechanism that automatically pops out a bike once it is unlocked. Along with 91 stations, Citi Bike is adding 1,400 of its new Ben Serotta-designed bicycles to the Citi Bike fleet, bringing the citywide total up to 421 stations and 7,400 bikes by the end of this month.

Yesterday, Motivate announced a 35-station, 350-bike bike-share system for Jersey City, launching in September, which will also be called Citi Bike. While users won’t be allowed to bring bicycles across the Hudson, customers of either system won’t have to pay extra to access bikes on both sides of the river.

“It’s all within one membership,” Walder said. “What’s going in in Jersey City is exactly the same system. The only difference is the look of the kiosk. New York has a specially-designed kiosk.” Stations in Jersey City will look like those used for Motivate’s bike-share program in Seattle, with curved kiosk fronts and flat solar panels instead of the angular kiosks and pole-shaped solar arrays used in New York.

To celebrate its New York expansion, Citi Bike is offering a $25 discount to new annual members who sign up before the end of August. Membership typically costs $149 a year for the general public and $60 a year for New York City Housing Authority residents.