Here’s Why Citi Bike Is Losing Money

April 1, 2014 | Andy Cush

At first glance, the video below seems to show a thriving enterprise. Using Citi Bike’s openly available rider data, Jeff Ferzoco and Sarah Kaufman of NYU’s Rudin Center visualized two days in the life of the cash-strapped bike share program: over September 17 and 18 — two 60-degree, non-rainy days — we see 75,000 trips happening across the city, as the little dots that represent individual bikes fling around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The problem, however, is that nearly all of those dots are blue. In Frezoco and Kaufman’s visualization, blue dots are riders with long-term memberships, and yellow dots represent the considerably more profitable pay-per-trip rides. Citi Bike’s current dire financial situation could be at least partially alleviated if more people (read: tourists) opted for single rides, but for now, it’s mostly commuters with monthly and yearly passes.

Or, of course, we could funnel the privately funded program some taxpayer dollars, like most other bike share cities do. Buses and subways receive plenty of public funding — why shouldn’t a considerably healthier and more environmentally friendly option get some, too?