I visited New York City two weekends ago for a Streetsblog writers conference. I was there for three nights and four days. To get around I put a bunch of cash on a Metrocard to use the subway and JFK Airtrain and I bought a 7-day pass for the Citibike bike-share system.
Citibike and Divvy in Chicago use nearly identical equipment from the same manufacturer, and Alta Bicycle Sharing operates both systems. Citibike sells the 7-day pass for $25, a relative steal for personal transportation costs in New York City – probably any city. Divvy only offers 24-hour and annual passes.
Citibike stations have maps of a better design that matches the walking wayfinding stanchions that New York City’s Department of Transportation has installed. The stations integrate the ad+map board onto the kiosk while Divvy has separated them. I don’t see an operational advantage to either design, but there does seem to be less material used in Citibike’s integrated design which uses one fewer solar panel.
I’ve never used Divvy’s touch-screen kiosk to obtain a single ride code as part of using a day pass so I can’t compare it to interacting with the Citibike kiosk to obtain the ten or so ride codes I needed on my trip. This was the most infuriating part of the experience, which annual members don’t experience because they have a key: the kiosk is very slow in responding to a tap and sometimes the docking bay wouldn’t accept my brand new ride code. You can’t get a replacement ride code for two minutes, preventing quick dock surfing.
The bicycles seem exactly the same: too small of a gear ratio which means a slow top speed and an easy-to-reach “over pedaling” threshold. This may be more important for New York City to have because you must climb 140 feet up the bridges to cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens while Chicago has no significant slopes. I eventually stopped using Citibike in favor of the subway and walking. I like riding trains almost as much as I like riding a bicycle and cycling in downtown Manhattan is difficult if you’re unsure of a good route to get to your destination. I prefer to not use an app for directions because of how frequently the turns appear meaning I have to inspect the app just as often to ensure I made the right one.
I’d like to see my Divvy key work in other cities where Alta operates bike-sharing. Just charge my bank card on file, applying the lowest-cost pass and letting me bypass the user agreements before purchasing a pass in another city.