NYC’s Citi Bike system is in hot water, and the program’s leaders are scrambling to raise tens of millions of dollars to keep it afloat. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bike share program ran into financial and operational challenges after its equipment was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and constant winter storms and low temperatures in the city have also put a damper on the program’s profits.
According to the WSJ, Citi Bike founders are moving forward to find a solution to help the bike share program. Although the system has over 99,000 annual subscribers who pay $95 each per year, shorter-term passes have not been attracting enough users. The number of 24-hour and weekly passes has dipped dramatically since Citi Bike’s inception.
The program has also faced numerous tech-related issues. Early computer glitches prevented users from completing their transactions and discouraged future use. And new issues keep surfacing as the organization can’t keep up with moving the bikes around the city in response to the changes in commuter patterns.
Each docking station also requires battery changes, which means sending out workers to manually change 50 batteries at the system’s 330 kiosks. As a result, Citi Bike has been forced to lay off some workers because of this financial strain. However, the cut in staff also makes it difficult to manage the sprawling network.
According to the Journal, NYC’s bike sharing program is unique in that it’s not funded by public tax dollars—yet. For now Citi Bike is primarily funded by corporate sponsorships, advertising, and usage fees. The program’s founders are looking into ways to improve the system, and expansion to new neighborhoods is still a key topic of discussion.