Last weekend, Citi Bike was abruptly suspended, with little notice extended to its members. The bike share program announced Friday evening that it would shut down until Monday for software updates; it finished early, however, and most stations were operational by Sunday. As an olive branch to annoyed customers, Citi Bike boss Jay Walder extended annual memberships by three days, reports the Times.
Criticism of Citi Bike’s customer service has accompanied the program nearly since its beginning. On top of frequent calls for docking stations in more neighborhoods, many riders have complained about the quality of the bikes themselves, glitchy kiosks, and the reliability of the mobile app, which they say often provides inaccurate information regarding availability of bikes and empty docks.
Yesterday, Walder emailed Citi Bike members to explain that the newly installed software is the first in a series of improvements to the program, which has been losing members since its auspicious start in 2013. Walder has only been in charge of the program for less than six months, and his path to the position is convoluted: He is the chief executive of Motivate, formerly known as Alta Bike Share, an Oregon-based company that was bailed out last October by the local investment firm REQX Ventures, and subsequently relocated to New York. (Phew.) Walder was appointed shortly after the buyout, and he inherited a program beset by systemic issues and institutional mismanagement.
The new software is supplied by 8D Technologies, who have provided well-regarded back-end technology to other successful bike-share systems across the country. It will provide faster, more accurate information about availability and empty docking stations. The Citi Bike app now updates every 10 seconds.
In a press conference yesterday, Walder outlined other changes to come. According to the Times, Motivate plans to:
- • Upgrade customer-facing software, including kiosk screens;
- • Finish repairs on the city’s 6,000 bikes and install new docking technology at stations;
- • Add valets at the busiest stations, to accept bikes when there are no empty docks;
- • Open 92 new stations in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bed-Stuy, and Long Island City, with further expansions to Red Hook, Harlem, Astoria, the UES, and UWS to come by 2017.
Motivate is also in contract talks with its workers, who joined the Local 100 chapter of the Transportation Workers United union last fall. Walder described the negotiations as a “rigorous process.”
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.