Citi Bike riders in New York City are getting bad service, and the problem is worse in low-income neighborhoods, the city comptroller said in a report released on Wednesday.
The Citi Bike program has soared in popularity in the past decade.Credit…Karsten Moran for The New York Times
The Findings: Citi Bike service is unreliable.
The report from the office of Brad Lander, the New York City comptroller, found that riders at times can’t return their bikes because docking stations are full. Others come across empty stations or find broken bicycles.
The report found that the problems are worst in neighborhoods that are largely populated by Black, Latino and low-income residents on the outer edges of the city.
The trend was most noticeable in the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Flatbush and Crown Heights, according to an analysis by the comptroller in June and July. The Bronx had higher rates of unusable stations compared with other boroughs. Citi Bike is operated by Lyft, the ride-hailing company, and is regulated by the city’s transportation department.
Why It Matters: Citi Bike has become vital to getting around.
The bike-sharing program has soared in popularity in the past decade but has struggled to keep up with demand.
According to the comptroller’s study, riders took 30 million trips on Citi Bike in 2022 — five times as many as when the system launched in 2013.
In the report, Mr. Lander said that “preserving Citi Bike as a high-quality transportation service is a matter of public interest.”
Quotable Quote: Citi Bike disputes the findings.
In a statement, Citi Bike questioned the accuracy of the report.
The service provider also noted that the report focused on data from June and July rather than a more comprehensive time frame of the system’s performance.
It noted that in September and October, the Bronx had the second highest access of all boroughs. Queens was first.
The company also noted that earlier this month it announced plans to more than double its fleet of electronic bikes to meet surging demand.
“A larger service area and unprecedented ridership — all in the wake of a global pandemic and shifting commuter landscape — have brought new challenges that require creative solutions,” Jordan Levine, a spokesman for Lyft, said.
The city’s transportation department said it would review the report.
Background: Citi Bike is legally required to maintain its fleet.
The analysis by Mr. Lander’s office found 11,000 instances where stations remained unusable for at least one hour. In 2018, Citi Bike had a significant service decline with only 57 percent of bikes available to riders because of repair needs, even though the company is contractually obligated to keep 97 percent of its fleet available.
The comptroller, who serves as the city’s chief financial officer, criticized the transportation department for not levying fines against Citi Bike.
Mr. Lander said that the company’s violations could have added up to millions in fines that the city could have collected.
What’s Next: City officials want Citi Bike to take action.
Mr. Lander’s office recommended that the city overhaul its contract with Lyft to include stricter performance standards as well as oversight and incentives to achieve them. His report also encouraged the company to report more detailed performance data.