September puts a capstone on what has been a record-breaking summer for the Citi Bike program. Since May, we’ve topped our single day ridership record a whopping nine times, most recently with 135,005 rides on September 11. This month, we’re averaging several thousand more rides per day than last year’s all-time record of 103,159.
At the same time, the surge in ridership has strained the system and created a frustrating experience for some riders. Thank you to our Citi Bike members for your loyalty and your appreciated feedback on how we can improve your riding experience. We’re regular riders of the Citi Bike program, and we feel it too. We wanted to provide some insight about why this is happening and what we’re doing about it.
Ridership of the Citi Bike program has changed drastically since the beginning of the pandemic. Riding patterns are more complicated and unpredictable than ever, with hybrid work schedules layered on top of schools reopening, and warm weather recreational rides that don’t follow traditional commuting patterns, creating imbalances in the system. That is why it’s been more common recently for riders to encounter stations that are either full or empty as we update our rebalancing algorithms to match a growing number of new ridership patterns.
We‘re actively adjusting to these changing patterns, using technology like machine learning to help optimize the time of our operations team so they can be as efficient as possible moving bikes across stations. That means they’re more likely to have the right number of bikes just before the algorithm predicts they’ll see a spike in demand.
In the short term, we also implemented increased valet service (that’s when a Citi Bike team member staffs each station to increase capacity for our riders) for expanded bike and dock availability at high-volume stations during peak periods near Penn Station, Central Park, Midtown East, the Financial District and TriBeCa. We also continue to reward our Bike Angels with points — redeemable for things like membership extensions, ebike minutes, and swag — for bringing bikes from stations with too many bikes to stations with too few.
There are two other pandemic-related factors that are out of our control and affecting the system: supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. When more people are riding bikes more often, the bikes have more maintenance needs. Our team is working around the clock to address a current backlog of bikes that need repairs. We don't take shortcuts when it comes to safety, so the repairs need to happen — and when they do, it'll be a big help to the rider experience.
We also hear the frequent requests for more ebikes, and we have good news: they’re on the way. We’re expecting a delivery of 1,500 additional ebikes in the next few months. In the meantime, we’re working to keep the current fleet available. Here’s the challenge: Our ebikes are seeing more than 10 rides per bike per day, which is more than triple the daily rides on our classic bikes. Between battery swapping, maintenance needs, and pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, we’re facing a number of challenges that require creative solutions. We’ll continue to work on that as we await the delivery of the 1,500 new ebikes.
Like many employers, our operations partner, Motivate, needs more help: they implemented an aggressive hiring campaign to meet the system's unprecedented demands, working to hire more rebalancers and maintenance workers who play a critical role in keeping the system running smoothly. Join us!
We also recognize one of the best structural solutions to all of these issues is to expand existing stations with more docks and to add new stations in the neighborhoods seeing the highest demand (technically, this process is called “infill”). Along with our city partners at NYCDOT, we’re working on it and will have news on that front very soon.
Running a bikeshare system is uniquely rewarding and challenging, especially one as large as the Citi Bike program. Our mission is to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation and we’re proud to have a community of riders that is as passionate about bikeshare as we are. You push us to be the best we can and we want you to know that we’re working hard to deliver on that promise.