That Citi Bike Was Poorly Run Is Not A Surprise!

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A woman checks a bike out from a Citi Bikes station in lower Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

A woman checks a bike out from a Citi Bikes station in lower Manhattan. (Natalie Fertig/WNYC)

The new owners are trying to remake Citi Bike.

“Things were broken when we came in,” said Jay Walder, the CEO of Motivate, which took over the bike share program last year. “The system wasn’t really built to handle the demands of this city.”

Those blunt words were a tacit acknowledgment that despite the system’s popularity, Citi Bike has left a trail of frustrated users in its wake. Its previous owner was called out by the city’s Comptroller for “shoddy management.”

“‘It feels like a game of whack a mole,’” Walder said one Citi Bike employee told him, describing the problems with the system.

Now, new owner Motivate is taking aim at one big mole: the system’s buggy, often inaccurate software, which was replaced this weekend during a 24-hour service outage.

“We now have, for the very first time, accurate, real-time information,” Walder said. The number of available bikes and docks is updated every 10 seconds and displayed on the mobile app and website.

He said Motivate dumped original software provider PSBC, whose problems were evident even before Citi Bike launched in 2013. The new software is being provided by 8D Technologies, a company which also supplies software for other bike share programs around the country.

That was welcome news to bike share advocates, including Transportation Alternatives’ Caroline Samponaro, who said her experience with the PBSC software left her with “a bitter taste in my mouth.”

She added: “I think it’s great that they’re making a change and looking to fix the problems that have plagued the program.”

Motivate is also overhauling all 6,000 bikes and outfitting them with new pedals, gears, bells and seats. (Walder also said the company is in the process of developing a new bicycle, and “we’ll have more to say on that in a little while.”) To relieve docking anxiety, Citi Bike stations are also getting new docking technology (“bikes will easily click into place, and the green light will give riders confidence that the ride is closed”), and the busiest stations will have valet parking.

Walder said the system’s expansion is on track to begin later this year, when the bikes will stretch into Brooklyn neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. “We’re already beginning community engagement with the Upper East and Upper West Sides,” he said, although those neighborhoods won’t see bikes until 2017.

“We are creating a Citi Bike for New Yorkers that is up to the demands of New York,” said Walder.


Chicago’s Divvy has had similar problems.