City Council Wants More Transparency From Citi Bike

April 24, 2015 | Liam Mathews

A bill recently reintroduced in the City Council by Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Transportation Committee, and Brad Lander, would require the private corporation that runs Citi Bike to publish “revenues generated by the Citi Bike program, whether the program had a deficit or a profit and how much such deficit or profit was, and the amount of revenue that was allocated to the department and separately to the operator of the program.”

Jay Walder, the president and CEO of Motivate, the company that runs Citi Bike, is not interested in doing that, however. “We put out a tremendous amount of financial information already,” such as gross revenue, ridership and membership numbers, he told Crain’s.

Citi Bike is a private corporation that receives no public subsidies, and as such is not required to disclose much financial information. But Rodriguez and Lander believe that Citi Bike, as a public utility, should have the transparency of other public utilities (Walder used to be the head of the MTA, which publishes comprehensive annual financial reports).

“Our city and our citizens have invested so much in our new bike share system,” Mr. Rodriguez said in a statement. “As is typical with all public goods, our citizens deserve the knowledge that their investment is both sound and stable.”

Citi Bike, as it is, wants to have it both ways, operating as a public good but without the transparency that public operation requires.

(Photo: Shinya Suzuki)