Citi Bike Encounters Financial Trouble

Few details are available about just how troubled the financial situation is at the country’s most recognizable bikeshare program, but it’s possible that Citi Bike will need a cash infusion or a new model to stay in business.
March 21, 2014, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Laura Kusisto, Eliot Brown, and Andrew Tangel share the distressing news about the financial situation of Citi Bike, New York City’s bikeshare program. Although few details are available, here’s what has been reported so far:

  • “The program's leaders have approached officials in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration about raising Citi Bike's rates…”
  • “One issue is that Citi Bike has proved more popular than expected with annual users who generate comparatively little revenue. Some 99,000 people pay $95 a year plus tax to be able to use the bikes for 45 minutes at a time.”
  • “The potential for far greater revenue, however, is with short-term users. Many of those were expected to be tourists, and they haven't used the bikes nearly as much as officials had anticipated, people familiar with the matter said.” According to the article, “managers don't believe it can survive if it doesn't become more appealing to tourists and expand to new neighborhoods.”
  • Finding additional sponsors has proved challenging because the program has become so closely associated with its eponymous supporter, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The article has a lot more information and analysis of Citi Bike’s financial situation, including a discussion of whether Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike through a subsidiary, will have to seek public money to stay afloat. So far, it seems, the program has only requested permission from the city to raise rates.

After initial delays, Citi Bike had been touted as a model of bikeshare success, while bikeshare programs in other parts of the country and in London have struggled. 

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Published on Thursday, March 20, 2014 in The Wall Street Journal
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