Initial Details About Bike Share Start to Emerge
In my conversation with DOT Policy Director Jon Orcutt yesterday at the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show, audience members were treated to a few details about New York’s bike sharing system, set to debut this July. Here are the tidbits, which made their way onto Twitter during the talk:
- An annual membership will cost $95.
- A one-day membership will cost $10.
- The first 45 minutes of any ride will incur no additional charges to annual members beyond the initial subscription fee.
- Lower membership levels, such as one-day and multi-day options, will have a shorter “free” ride limit: 30 minutes.
One major caveat to all of this: since no official announcement has been made about the system all of the above could change at any time. With that in mind, what follows are some notes, comparisons with what I know about other systems, and my own personal opinions on it all.
First up, the annual membership:
- The $95 annual membership is $9 less than the cost of a monthly MetroCard, which had for a while been the standard measure for approximating bike share membership’s annual cost.
- The annual membership fee for DC’s Capital Bike Share is $75. Boston’s Hubway runs $85 per year. When one considers that DC currently has just 1,200 bikes and that Boston’s 600-bike system shuts down for the winter, New Yorkers are getting a relative bargain.
- If one exclusively uses bike share for an entire year and incurs no additional charges, the cost of getting around New York City will cost just 26 cents per day. Even if bike share is largely used to supplement other transit trips it’s still a marginal cost if it brings the user added convenience.
- Ninety-five dollars may be a relative bargain when compared to other annual transportation costs, but it can be a lot for some people to pay in one lump sum. Orcutt mentioned that DOT and the system operator, Alta, will work with city agencies such as NYCHA to offer discounted or installment-based membership plans in order to reach lower-income New Yorkers.
The 24-hour membership:
- $10 for 24-hour access may seem steep, but it’s only three dollars more than what Capital Bike Share charges. It’s double the 24-hour charge in Boston, but spending twice as much money to get access to nearly seventeen times the number of bicycles still seems like a fair deal in my book.
- $10 for 24-hours of potentially unlimited “free” trips is still less than the cost of even two extremely short taxi rides.
- That being said, a $10 fee means that casual users will be subsidizing a somewhat disproportionate share of New York’s system. But as I pointed out, regular straphangers subsidized tourists on the subway for a long time until the one-day “Fun Pass” was phased out. I also don’t think tourists or other visitors will mind paying slightly more if bike share delivers a convenient, reliable, and fun way to get around town.
The initial ride time period:
- Forty-five minutes should give someone picking up a bike in Brooklyn plenty of time to make it to Midtown–and certainly almost anywhere below 14th Street–without incurring any additional charges. Orcutt said that the typical Brooklyn-to-Manhattan commute was part of the calculation in determining that amount of time.
- It seems like it would be very hard for an annual member taking an intraborough trip to rack up additional fees. A ride from Penn Station to Wall Street with no stops would probably take about 30 minutes at a slow pace.
- The 30-minute free period for lower membership levels will help not cut into existing bike rental businesses. Orcutt didn’t discuss fees for using bikes beyond that initial time limit, but in other cities they tend to get progressively more expensive to the point of being nearly punitive for all-day rentals. Tourists are still going to want to use Bike-N-Roll for all-day rides.
I couldn’t take notes on everything we covered during our talk since I was focused on hosting and playing Phil Donahue with the mic during the Q&A, so if you attended and picked up any other bits of information that I didn’t list here, please feel free to leave a comment below.
Many thanks to Jon for providing such great insight into the system and to everyone who came for their interesting questions.