Forum Discussion

th's avatar
Resourceful Rider
21 days ago

Addressing Service Disparities in Citi Bike: A Personal Perspective from Eastern Queens

The NYC Comptroller's office recently published a report titled "Riding Forward: Overhauling Citi Bike’s Contract for Better, More Equitable Service" highlighting performance disparities within the Citi Bike program. One key issue identified is the disparity in service levels between the Manhattan core and the outer boroughs, particularly in neighborhoods predominantly inhabited by Black and Hispanic residents.

I want to share my personal experience supporting this issue.

As a frequent rider starting in eastern Queens, I often encounter a lack of available dock space at nearby stations. Unlike the midtown commuting stations, which are regularly drained and repopulated, these stations remain perpetually full. This morning's view is a case in point:

Many stations are completely full, which artificially suppresses demand as it becomes impossible to dock bikes. Additionally, some stations show 1 or 2 available docks on the app, but in reality, they are also full, misleading the algorithm and exacerbating the problem.

I downloaded the real-time GBFS status at 6 AM this morning and examined a random station (99 St & 38 Ave) as a boundary. There are 51 stations to the east of this station, 19 of which are completely full (excluding stations falsely showing 1 or 2 available docks). That's 37% of stations being unusable, far exceeding the 2% or 4% requirement per Citi Bike's contract with the City. If I explored further, this percentage could easily rise to 50%.

These 19 full stations have 411 bikes docked. These bikes are underutilized compared to others. By redistributing just half of these bikes (around 200) to Manhattan, we could potentially increase revenue by $36,000 per month (based on May 2024 figures). This issue is not isolated to Queens; Red Hook, lower Manhattan, and other outer boroughs face similar neglect. We're likely missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to inefficient bike usage. Additionally, addressing this problem could help avoid potential penalties.

Citi Bike uses a combination of trucks, treks, and Angels to rebalance bikes, but this effort seems absent in my neighborhood. Community outreach to increase usage is futile if Citi Bike remains unusable for these residents.

One possible solution is to adjust the Angel reward program to prioritize redistributing bikes from congested areas. However, the current point system incentivizes Angels to work in Manhattan, where they can earn 12-15 points by moving bikes a few blocks, as opposed to half a mile or more in congested areas.

I would love to hear from the program managers at Citi Bike about their thoughts on this issue and potential solutions to address it.

2 Replies

  • th's avatar
    Resourceful Rider

    Let me further share some graphs that might help.
    This is an intraday chart of bike/dock availability for Central Park South on 5/30 and 5/31.

    One can see that 90 bikes get cycled in and out intraday. The problem with this station is the size of station just not sufficient to cope with the demand. We would need a bigger station to handle the peak (or add more nearby stations).

    On the other hand, this is Eastern Queens:

    There is just not that much demand for bikes, and 20 bikes sit idle and blocking access to others. 

    Most of the Manhattan core looks like demand is outstripping available supplies:


    This one is a bit more well balanced, but probably need a few added:

    But then there are a few are also quite out of balanced:

    I appreciate that balance such a dynamic system is tricky, but it seems like the system could use some tweak instead of blindly relying on blackbox algorithms.  Perhaps better data availability ( eg dynamic forecast of demand / bike-angel points ) would help.



    • Jess's avatar
      Bike Angels Team

      Hello, ththank you for posting your experiences here in the community. I apologize for the delay in reply to your recent posts. Your perspective is invaluable, and we are always interested in feedback about the system. Your detailed and thoughtful post sharing your experiences with Citi Bike in Eastern Queens helps add context to the larger picture as we work to make improvements to the overall system and the Bike Angels program. I've tagged this post as feedback to share with the Citi Bike and Bike Angels Team.