John Ransom

Citibike is a success. Unqualified. Raving. Success.

“Citigroup, who was the recipient of over $476 billion dollars of taxpayer bailout money,” wrote Alex Garcia on Townhall Finance in 2012, “has joined forces with the City of New York to sponsor a $41 million dollar bike share program.”

That program became Citibike.

The goal wasn’t quite as ambitious as Obama’s target of a million electric cars on the roads in eight years. But still the program aimed at putting 10,000 bikes in 600 locations around New York City for commuters to share in the name of environmentalism, health and being hip.

And so far the bike sharing program that sold it’s naming rights to a bank that at the time owed the United States Treasury for bailout money received, is living up to it’s storied moniker.

They’ve only put out 6,000 bikes at 325 locations. So at $6,833 per bike that’s a lot like other bailout math we’ve seen in this administration.

Oh, but that’s not all.

“New York City's Department of Transportation has held more than two dozen public meetings aimed at introducing Citi Bike to low-income New Yorkers,” reports NPR, “and it's given away more than 100,000 free helmets.”

Helmets aren’t cheap either. Even assuming a big discount, the city has spent at least a million dollars on free helmets.

But according to the city of New York, bike aficionados, and the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) the program has been an unqualified success.

“The past year has seen sustainable transport flourish,” notes ITDP, “with programs like New York Citibike receiving widespread attention. ITDP has worked with dozens of cities around the world to take steps toward building a better environment for their citizens, and millions of residents are feeling the benefits.”

CNN calls Citibike one of the best-run bike programs in the world noting: “NYC's CitiBike system averages 8.3 trips per bike and 42.7 trips per 1,000 residents.”

And according to internet site “Since its launch, we’ve seen entertainment stars like Seth Meyers, Lindsay Lohan, Mackelmore, and Leonardo DiCaprio riding Citi Bike,” adding “Anthony Weiner made headlines after taking one for a spin.”

I presume they meant Weiner took a bike for a spin, not one of the celebrities.

But underneath the surface there is still more bailout than there is bike to New York City’s bike sharing program.

John Ransom

John Ransom’s writings on politics and finance have appeared in the Los Angeles Business Journal, the Colorado Statesman, Pajamas Media and Registered Rep Magazine amongst others. Until 9/11, Ransom worked primarily in finance as an investment executive for NYSE member firm Raymond James and Associates, JW Charles and as a new business development executive at Mutual Service Corporation. He lives in San Diego. You can follow him on twitter @bamransom.

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