Housing Complex

New York Gets Bikeshare For Free, Still Charges Through The Nose

From the annals of everything's more expensive in New York: The Big Apple's new bikeshare system, which uses the same operator and same bikes as D.C.'s, will be mostly paid for by Citibank—hence the blue color scheme and "CitiBike" moniker—with Mastercard picking up the rest. You might consider the $41 million contribution a small thankyou for all the money Americans put into the flailing institution not too long ago. And yet, riders will still pay much more than they do here. The base rates are $10 per day, $25 per week, and $95 per year, plus $4 per hour and more beyond the first 30 minutes, which can get expensive fast.

Of course, that could still save New Yorkers money over the cab fares and short subway rides they might otherwise take over the same period. And it's definitely a good idea to have a stable revenue stream so that the city continues building the system beyond the 600 stations it's starting out with; D.C.'s Smartbike was a failure in part because public investment didn't materialize after Clear Channel's* initial installations.

Perhaps D.C. is just undercharging for the service—which makes sense, given the fact that it was such an early stage investment in bikesharing (we're only just now trying to recoup some of the costs through corporate sponsorships, but it's not expected to bring in nearly as much revenue). With the concept now proven, maybe New York figures its citizens will pay more for it. Or maybe the poor rubes are just used to paying more for everything.

CORRECTION, 2:00 p.m. - Due to a reporting error, this post originally misstated the sponsor of Smartbike. It was Clear Channel, not Comcast.

  • Lou

    i think you mean clear channel not comcast

  • tom

    I think the NYC system is designed to cover its costs without taxpayer subsidy. Personally, I would rather have users pay a little more rather than have this become another line item in the DC budget.

  • I don’t understand

    How is it more expensive in New York, they don't have a height limit on their buildings. I thought increasing the building height was a panacea.

  • will

    Not sure I like the use of two very similar fonts in the logo. Didn't they run this through some font-Nazi at an ad agency? Someone should have caught that.

  • Lydia DePillis

    @Lou - Yup. Mixed up my telecom giants. Thanks.

  • http://westnorth.com Payton

    Granted, everything's expensive in NYC, but the typical CaBi day-pass ride is 45 minutes -- which would cost $14 there, vs. $9 here. Many of the dozens of tourists I've talked to at the stations don't understand the pricing scheme; even after explaining "there's a $7 registration fee, then you pay for each ride, it's free for the first half hour," they ask how much a 3-hour ride will cost them.

    That said, maybe the tourists aren't as price-sensitive as we think: remember that CaBi daily rates were hiked by ~30% last fall, and yet ridership this spring keeps smashing new records.

    @will: yeah, that jumped out at me.

  • Inwood

    Why does everyone get this wrong? Look, New York is a dense place. No one in their right mind is going to say "hey, I have to go meet my friends for a drink. I'll just hop on a bike and pedal FOR AN HOUR." Everyone will be using these for 20-30 mins, 40 min absolute max. And in NYC, you get 45 min with your annual membership. So while a 40 min ride in DC will cost you $1.50 or $2, in New York it costs you nothing. The annual membership might be $20 more, but that differential goes away after 10-15 longish trips. So, in fact, it could be argued that thanks to the greater time allowance New York gets a bikeshare bargain, and it is DC that "charges through the nose".