"Big software projects almost never work very well, especially projects where there are as many different things which can go wrong as we have in the NYC bike-share program," says Felix Salmon. "And so when the CitiBike program launched, there was a certain amount of trepidation: would it actually work?"
"The answer, it seems, is that it does work; it just doesn’t work very well. Or, to be a bit more precise, when it works, it works fabulously. But when it doesn’t work — which is all too often — it doesn’t work at all."
Salmon details his own problems with stations that fail to dispense or accept returned bikes properly. Such problems, he says, seem to be widespread.
"Bikeshare is all about being convenient at the margin: being able to leave your house that much later, and arrive at your destination that much earlier, because the bikes are just sitting there waiting for you to use them. If you can’t be sure that you’re going to be able to rent one of the bikes, because the system is glitchy and often entire stations just don’t work, or if you’re worried that the stations near your destination won’t accept returns, then all that convenience simply disappears. So this is a very important issue."