Back in early August, GSB posted a story about the early days of CitiBike share during its early days. Last night, Baruch College (part of the City University of New York system) and the Sustainability Practice Network (SPN) hosted a panel discussion that provided a progress report on the almost 4-month old program.
The three main partners in the CitiBike venture were represented on the dais:
- Justin Ginsburgh, Project Director of NYC Bike Share, LLC, the for-profit company that runs the program
- Jon Orcutt, Policy Director at NYC Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Jon Sellman, Vice President, Consumer Marketing & Advertising at Citi, the title sponsor of CitiBike
CitiBike which is solely funded by the users and sponsors (no taxpayer dollars nor government subsidies) (Citi is paying $41 million over 6 years to be the title sponsor), launched to great fanfare and some controversy–mainly from conservative media, summarized in this clever NY Magazine piece–over Memorial Day. So far, by most any metric, the program has been a big success–far bigger than even the three folks on the dais could’ve expected:
- 28-29K trips per day (44K trips on August 17, the busiest day to date)
- 6 uses/bike/day, far more than Barclay’s Cycle Hire in London and that program has been up and running for 3 years
- Annual membership, projected to be 60K by the end of Year 1, has already surpassed 80K in 4 months.
CitiBike Kiosk (Photo credit: CitiBike)
GSB’s interest in CitiBike is, not surprisingly, from the sustainability/environmental/green point of view. Sustainability was not part of any of the speakers’ presentations–their focus was on 1) showing how the program has exceeded expectations, 2) expansion plans (South Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy and Long Island City are next up, timing uncertain) (Upper East and Upper West will be in the 3rd wave so I cannot join yet), and 3) economic development aspects of the program ($36 million in economic activity, 170 new jobs, etc.).
So, when asked by GSB, if there is any data regarding CitiBike’s impact on the city’s carbon footprint (reduced cab rides taken, fewer cars into the city), Mr. Orcutt said there is none so far but that a comprehensive rider survey is being fielded now with results expected by the end of the year. DOT and NYC BikeShare will analyze that data from a carbon footprint point of view. That analysis will include the effect on carbon footprint of “rebalancing”–in which NYC BikeShare uses trucks to shuttle bikes around to kiosks where the supply of bikes is too small at a given time.
Rebalancing, according to Mr. Ginsburgh, is perhaps the biggest challenge facing NYC Bike Share. The need to rebalance (when a kiosk is empty or full) is most acute during rush hours and that’s when it’s most difficult for a bike-filled truck to get from full kiosk A to empty kiosk B (see this story about DC’s rebalancing problem). And of course rebalancing during rush hour burns a ton of excess fuel.
NYC BikeShare is piloting a program in which cyclists will tow CitiBikes to rebalance the system. It’s hard to visualize (how do you keep the towed bikes upright when the tower stops?) but if they can pull that off, that might be the greenest aspect of NYC BikeShare.