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Citi Bike expansion to Bronx and Staten Island remains elusive

DOT officials say there’s “no timetable” to expand the program into the two boroughs

Since its launch in 2013, Citi Bike has expanded to include more than 10,000 bikes at 610 docking stations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens—and that’s not even counting the ones across the river in Jersey City, where the program launched last year.

But so far, not a single docking station has been built in the Bronx or Staten Island, and that’s not about to change any time soon. At a City Council meeting on Monday, DNAInfo reports, DOT officials said there was currently “no timetable to extend into the two boroughs.”

At the meeting Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Manhattan’s District 10 that includes Inwood and Morningside Heights, pitched a plan that would add public funding to the system to help it expand to new neighborhoods. This would be a significant change from the current model, which relies entirely on private funding and membership fees. “Working, middle, and upper class communities should have the ability to enjoy this resource equally,” Rodriguez said, according to AM New York. By using public dollars earmarked for expanding the program, he argued, the city could get bikes to every community, including the underserved outer boroughs, by 2020.

Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., agrees. “Bike sharing, we are told, works best not as an alternative to buses and subways, but as a piece of the total transit puzzle—an integrated part of our existing public transit system,” he wrote in a statement. The rest of the city’s public transit is publicly subsidized, he noted. Citi Bike ought to be treated the same way—as “an important part of our public transportation infrastructure and network.”

But of course, there are problems. DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said it would take at least 70,000 to 80,000 bikes to meet Rodriguez’s goal, AM New York says. That’s a lot: as of now, the agency has been able to install about 2,000 bikes per year for an annual cost of $12 million.

And while Trottenberg agreed the public funds would likely be necessary for such an expansion, bringing in tax dollars would require the city to change their relationship with Motivate, the private company that runs Citi Bike.

“Many program factors, such as the ownership of equipment, funding sources, percentage of revenue share, siting and maintenance will need to be carefully considered and renegotiated as part of any new agreement,” Trottenberg said.

Then there are the limitations of geography. “I'd hate to have us be in far-flung areas and we can never get the bikes there and people aren't getting the quality of service that we want them to have," said Trottenberg at the meeting, according to the Staten Island Advance. The most likely solution, she added, would be for Staten Island to have its own self-contained system, as Jersey City does.

The plan has long been to build out a true five borough system. “It has to get to all five boroughs,” de Blasio told the Staten Island Advance in 2015. Diaz echoed his sentiment with the question on all of our minds: “How could Citi Bike go to New Jersey before it goes to all five boroughs?”