Jamaica councilwoman slams Citi Bike expansion plan after it excludes southeastern Queens

Adams CitiBike
Image courtesy of the Mayor’s Office and the City Council/John McCarten

After New York Communities for Change published a report last week revealing that Citi Bike serves the city’s wealthiest and whitest residents who already have more transit options, two things happened.

On Monday four Council members, including Adrienne Adams of Jamaica, penned a letter to Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg accusing Citi Bike of monopolization and demanding that the DOT release details of the contract the agency announced with Citi Bike in November.

A day later, the de Blasio administration announced the boundaries of its Citi Bike expansion over the next five years, which is aimed at bike share system to a larger and more economically diverse range of communities.

The New York Communities for Change report identified Rockaway and Jamaica as two of the most economically vulnerable neighborhoods that could benefit from Citi Bike, as it would connect a massive population to the subway. However, Citi Bike snubbed these southeast Queens neighborhoods in its plans.

Ridgewood is the only Queens neighborhood that will receive any bike lanes over the next year as part of an existing expansion of Citi Bike in the L-train corridor. Sunnyside, Maspeth, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona will receive the expansion somewhere in between 2020 and 2023. 

After de Blasio’s announcement, Adams shot back with a statement that slammed the program for not prioritizing the equity of its service over its profit motive.

“The many transportation deserts and communities of color in Queens have already waited far too long for Citi Bike and many neighborhoods are still being denied,” said Councilwoman Adams in a statement. “There are so many New Yorkers that could benefit from access to this program designed to expand transportation options. We need a plan that will serve the interests of all New Yorkers or a company that will make equity a priority.”

Without any public subsidy, Citi Bike maintains it designs its stations in a manner that will supply just enough subscription income for the system to function. In the letter to Trottenberg, the Council members pointed out that while Citi Bike is a private entity, it is fulfills the role of a public service, and therefore it should have the same obligations to be accountable to the public as any other public transit service program.

The program, owned by Lyft, will invest $100 million for the expansion. It will add bikes to the existing coverage area, doubling its service area and bringing the total size of its fleet to 40,000.