Citi Bike expansion will serve more public housing locations

by Emily Wade, Guest Blogger

Crews install a Citi Bike station. (Photos courtesy of Citi Bike)

Citi Bike’s program that offers discounted memberships to some low-income New Yorkers is getting a big boost, thanks to system expansion.

Since the bike share system launched in 2013, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents and members of select Community Development Credit Unions could purchase a Citi Bike membership at a discounted rate of $60 a year. Even with recent price hikes, Citi Bike will continue to offer these discounted memberships at the $60 rate.

“This program was developed in partnership with the City of New York and has always been a core part of Citi Bike’s mission,” said Dani Simons, Citi Bike’s director of communications and external affairs.

Critics pointed to lackluster overlap between public housing developments and Citi Bike station locations. While every NYCHA resident is eligible for the discounted rate, many can’t ride in their neighborhoods.

“A resident of NYCHA housing isn’t going to want to get a Citi Bike pass, because where are the Citi Bikes around them?” Council member Ydanis Rodriguez’s office remarked. “Right now there’s no incentive. It wouldn’t help them get home, it wouldn’t help them get to work.”

Over the next two years, that will change for some residents.

Beginning this summer, Citi Bike plans to dramatically increase its service area, doubling the number of bikes and stations by 2017. Citi Bike’s expansion funding ensures that at least some of these stations will be placed in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods with limited access to public transit.

Five million of the expansion funds come from the Partnership Fund for New York City, a Manhattan-based nonprofit led by some of the city’s top CEOs. This expansion will improve access for many NYCHA residents, particularly those in Upper Manhattan.

“Our relationship with The Partnership Fund has evolved to allow Citi Bike to expand more quickly into underserved communities, expanding opportunities to participate in the economy to all of the city’s residents and neighborhoods,” Simons said.

Councilman Rodriguez’s district serves Washington Heights, Inwood and Marble Hill. He is excited by Citi Bike’s upcoming expansion and ongoing partnership with public housing. But he is more excited to see Citi Bike expand beyond the Phase II Plan.

That’s because significant portions of the NYCHA community will still remain off the grid, including several living in developments in his district.

Bringing bike share to the councilman’s district is still part of the longer-term plan for bike share in New York. In November the New York City Department of Transportation even confirmed their commitment to eventually reach beyond the Phase II service area. Yet with Phase II just beginning, Phase III will take time, and funding.

“Citi Bike will only truly be a success when we reach more of New York City,” Simons said.

Emily Wade is a cyclist and feminist living in Minneapolis. You can find Emily’s other work on Feministing, Planned Parenthood Minnesota Advocate and the Nice Ride Minnesota blog.

The Better Bike Share Partnership is a JPB Foundation-funded collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write