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Privately-funded Citi Bike could get public funding for expansion

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Local officials are debating on whether the program should be supported through government funds

Citi Bike is working hard to increase its fleet to 12,000 by 2017, recently expanding into Park Slope and nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods as well as parts of Upper Manhattan. But now, City Council members are entertaining the idea of providing public funding to the privately-funded bike sharing program, reports Gothamist.

Despite being the nation’s largest bike sharing program, Citi Bike has operated solely on funds from private investments and earnings. However, local officials believe that because if this, many of New York City’s less prominent neighborhoods are disregarded and miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the program.

“The network has expanded to predominantly affluent areas, with thoughts that others wouldn’t be financially sustainable,” stated Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez. He claims that the program has been more of an amenity and sign of gentrification than a public good. In order to make the program accessible to all, local officials are calling for a publicly-funded comprehensive bike system.

Rodriguez declared that he would be willing to contribute $25 million from his budget into the program, however, Manhattan Council member Helen Rosenthal didn’t share his enthusiasm for the idea. “[W]e don’t know whether or nor there will be cuts to our federal dollars,” she stated.

A full bike system into all five boroughs would require almost 80,000 bikes, states the Department of Transportation, with each bike costing about $6,000 to deploy. Add to that, new bikes take time to deploy with a maximum rollout of roughly 2,000 bikes per year. Even if public funding kicks in, getting the bikes into the city’s less-than-trendy neighborhoods would take some time.