John Ransom

“The financially troubled company running the city’s bike rental program is considering raising its rates,” reports New York Daily News, “so it can stay afloat, new Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said Thursday.”

Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps a company doing business for merely 100 days, and subsidized by a private gift, should be doing better than just trying to stay afloat.

The NY Daily News noted that some residents are now calling for the city to subsidize the bike sharing program as they do other forms of public transportation.

That’s because despite the success touted by the ITDP, bike sharing remains largely an amenity of the rich and privileged.

"The rates of low-income ridership of all bike-share programs around the world is pitifully low. So we can only do better," Caroline Samponaro, of Transportation Alternatives in New York told NPR. "The demographic information I've seen to date is that it's more men than women, and only 0.5 percent are low-income New Yorkers."

That’s because behind the feel-good façade are economics that just don’t add up.

For a $95 annual fee bike-share members in Manhattan get all-you-can-use access to the silly looking Citibikes in 45 minute increments.

That’s about half the price of a moderately priced bike at Walmart, and when you buy the bike at Walmart, you get to keep your bike, if you like it.


You do.

That’s how private property works in America. And that way you can use your bike all the time.

So while the program remains very popular for metro-testicled males in Manhattan, who apparently have money to burn in the quest to remain hip, presumably those with less discretionary income are little wiser with their money. They look at transportation as a way to get from point A to point B, cheaply and efficiently.

But expect NYC to spare no taxpayer expense to keep the program going no matter how little financial sense it makes.

This is more than just a bike program. We’re saving the planet here people.

“We’re talking to them,” Trottenberg told the Daily News about keeping the bikeshare company afloat. “I would put it this way — all options are on the table. I think everyone agrees it turned out to be a real bargain for New Yorkers, who used the system twice as much as users of other cities.”

And when politicians say that that mean taxpayers will eventually get taken for a ride to subsidize the feel-good hippiness of those who know better than you.

Not coincidentally, these are people who often live in Manhattan.

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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