The Long View
Surprising no one, Alta Bicycle Share just won Portland’s $4 million bike share contact. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland has an interview with Mia Birk of Alta Planning + Design, who offers a tiny slice of insight into Citi Bike’s delay. Birk says that New York’s “software testing is going well, and we’re on schedule for the March launch.” She also mentions that her experience in government and planning has taught her that “It’s not surprising that things have taken longer than initially envisioned.”
Officials tend to publicly pick launch dates before having everything worked through. For example, funding issues — often a mix of federal and local dollars and sponsorship — tend to create a longer timeframe than officials (and the public) initially hope for. Capital Bike Share launched quickly because they had all government money and DC as a unique sovereign entity had complete control of the funding. The other cities don’t have that; most are using federal dollars that flow through state DOTs and/or regional agencies –with very complex and challenging bureaucratic requirements – AND they are raising private funds as well. In NYC, which wanted a completely privately financed system, we had to secure not just an underwriting sponsor but a large bank loan. It’s awesome that we were able to do this in such a short amount of time, as anyone involved in fundraising will tell you, and a real testament to the dedication and brilliance of Janette Sadik-Khan and ABS [Alta Bicycle Share] President Alison Cohen.
Then, besides sorting out funding issues, you also have to do site plans and secure permits, hire staff, buy equipment, and work though a long list of hundreds of other details. In other words, short delays are not surprising given the complexity of issues. We try to take a long view, and believe that it’s important to get it right on the front end in order to ensure long-term success.
I know Birk is toeing the company line here and isn’t likely to give much more info than what we already know, but I agree with her about the long view. This time next year no one will remember the six-month delay.
UPDATE 11:33 AM: After chatting with a DOT contact, I should add that much of what Birk is talking about here does not apply to NYC. Almost all of the siting issues surrounding Citi Bike have already been worked out with community boards, City Council Members, the MTA, private property owners and other stakeholders. Once the software issue has been worked out, getting the system up and running will be as simple dropping the stations into place. The bigger point, that the “long view” is what matters in the end, stills stands.