The operators of Citi Bike are set to open facilities in the Jacob Riis Houses in Alphabet City, a move that they hope will bring more low-income riders to the bike-share program and make it easier for existing users to score a ride.
The new base of operations is located in what the New York City Housing Authority describes as “an existing facility in an underutilized space,” at 152-154 Avenue D. Motivate, the operators of Citi Bike, hope it will lead to a more balanced system, meaning no more showing up to stations to find there are no bikes to rent. Citi Bike general manager Kris Sandor also hopes it will help with community outreach. “We are again looking to support and engage with everybody, especially for ridership, but then also for our hiring practices,” Sandor said. “We’re really looking to make sure that we’re engaging with lower-income communities.”
When it opens this fall, the 3,200-square-foot facility will accommodate bike repair, storage, and office space. “Most of the rooms are empty and we’re working with NYCHA to figure out what’s the best way to modify the space and set it up so we can use it best for our purposes,” Sandor said. The partnership with Citi Bike, announced yesterday, is part of NYCHA’s ongoing 10-year plan to make neighborhoods cleaner, safer and more connected.
Citi Bike offers a yearly membership to NYCHA residents for $5 a month and waives the $1,000 stolen bike fee to encourage residents to try the program. Still, in 2014, we noted that NYCHA residents weren’t exactly flocking to the blue bicycles. At the time, Citi Bike’s program director said riders were “mostly white, male, and live in households with six-figure incomes.” In March of this year, a study found that just 18 percent of Citi Bike stations are located in areas with median household incomes of less than $50,000 a year.
NYCHA says that the number of residents that actively use the discounted Citi Bike program– some 1,500 people, compared to a total of 130,000-plus active annual members— has doubled in the past year. “What’s happened in the last year is there’s been more proactive promotion, which we’re continuing with partners now,” said Andrea Mata, director of health initiatives for NYCHA.
Citi Bike also has an ongoing summer program that employs residents as “Citi Bike Community Champions” who promote the program, especially the discounted membership for NYCHA residents. This season’s community champions were paid $15 an hour, and got free membership and a helmet, plus $10 each time they got a resident to sign up.
While the Champion program only lasts through the riding season, Citi Bike wants its new facility to help with creating and expanding equity programs. “It’s fundamental to our organization to try to make sure that we can make the system accessible for everybody,” Sandor said.