Mind your own rack!
Tension erupts over Hoboken, Jersey City bike share programs
by Al Sullivan and Steven Rodas
Reporter staff writers
Nov 22, 2015 | 15023 views | 4 4 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Jersey City and Hoboken’s relatively new bike share programs – which were once supposed to be linked but ended up being run separately – have had their ups and downs throughout their first couple of months.

At the outset in January 2014, Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City announced a collaborative 50-station system throughout all three towns. But ultimately, Jersey City opted to be included in New York City’s CitiBike program, which allows riders to link to the popular system in use in Manhattan. Hoboken launched Hudson Bike Share instead, while Weehawken chose not to pursue a bike share at all.

As Hoboken’s program has been slower to start, it hit some bumps in the road.

A Jersey City official was enraged recently when she found out that the vendor supplying bicycles to Hoboken’s Hudson Bike Share program appeared to be placing bikes in public racks in Jersey City. A resident of Jersey City complained to Councilwoman Candice Osborne that a rack in Jersey City was completely filled with Hoboken bicycles.
“I think there is room for collaboration with Hoboken. But it must not be done in secret.” – Candice Osborne
Osborne told The Reporter that when she contacted Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer about the issue, Zimmer offered to broker a deal that would allow Hoboken bicycles to be stationed in Jersey City, and offered Jersey City the option of locating some CitiBike stations in Hoboken.

But Zimmer may just be spinning her wheels in trying to make such a trade. Osborne wasn’t having it.

“[This is] totally, 1,000 percent wrong and will be addressed,” Osborne posted publicly on her Facebook page. “Jersey City has a bike share program, CitiBike, which has locations that do not impede on the existing bike racks for use by the public. It is telling that the bike share program chosen by Hoboken and Weehawken can’t work without Jersey City. Regardless, their bad decision is not our problem. They can approach us with an alternate solution that 1) doesn’t include taking existing public bike spaces and 2) compensates us for use of our space. We aren’t here to subsidize private business at the expense of public use.”

Osborne told The Reporter, “We made an informed decision to do what was best for Jersey City residents. Obviously joining the largest network that is available all over NYC makes the most sense, with the potential to cut daily commuting costs in half or sometimes up to two thirds. In the long term we want our riders to experience the largest network effect possible, without needing to purchase two separate services. I think there is room for collaboration with Hoboken. But it must not be done in secret, without permission and by taking up bike racks currently in use by the Jersey City public. If Jersey City public space is going to be utilized for Hoboken bike share, then it is only fair that Jersey City get an equal number of public spaces for our bike share in Hoboken. I think that would be a win-win.”

Zimmer, who was at the League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City last week, did not respond directly to a question about Osborne’s comments. But city spokesman Juan Melli said, “The assertion that our bike share operator is bringing bikes to Jersey City is false. Mayor Zimmer is working directly with Mayor Fulop to resolve this amicably with the overall good of providing more bike parking options for residents in both Jersey City and Hoboken since residents from both communities would benefit from greater connectivity.”

The Hoboken program does have significant ridership among Jersey City residents, according to statistics issued by Hoboken.

“To date, more than 100 Jersey City residents have registered for Hudson Bike Share, and many Hoboken residents are using the system to get to work in Jersey City,” said Hoboken city spokesman Juan Melli.

Osborne said she is almost certain that the bike company supplying Hoboken had deliberately parked the Hoboken bikes in Jersey City.

“Bikes don’t just randomly end up on one rack all next to each other like that,” she said. “That isn’t normal distribution at 6:30 in the morning. They claimed they didn’t do that - but I don’t believe them. Look at the picture on my [Facebook] wall and you can make your own judgment. The one bike that isn’t Hudson Bike is from the resident who sent me the picture. All the rest are theirs at 6:30 a.m. I don’t believe in that kind of chance.”

How it works

Hoboken bike share members can pay a fee to join the program. They can pick up or leave any bike at the docking stations throughout the city.

CitiBike users must lock their bikes at a CitiBike station but can choose to ride to the PATH station, leave their bike at a stand there, and pick another up one in New York City.

There are also special no-fee zones in Jersey City and Weehawken for Hoboken bikes. In seven locations including Liberty State Park, the Grove Street PATH station, and Lincoln Harbor, Hudson Bike Share users can drop off and essentially pick up bikes from normal racks for no extra charge.

Hudson Bike Share charges $95 per year and daily/weekly memberships are $9.95 and $25 respectively. The Citi Bike program charges an annual fee of $149.

Both programs hope to expand

Jersey City has 35 stations and 350 bikes. Hoboken totals 29 stations and 250 bikes.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, during a brief interview in early November, said the CitiBike Jersey City program is doing so well he is already hoping to expand it. Since being launched on Sept. 21, the Jersey City program has signed on more than 2,079 Jersey City residents according to Motivate, the company that operates the bike share. More than 19,000 bike trips have been taken so far, with one-third of trips starting or ending at transit hubs.

Since Hoboken’s launch date on Oct. 9, nearly 10,000 trips have been taken, estimated their bike share operator, Bike and Roll, and as of Nov. 6, as many as 1,400 subscribers have signed up.

“Initial membership and usage has substantially exceeded expectations, and the response from the public has been enthusiastic, including requests for additional station locations,” said Melli.

Keller Williams will sponsor an additional 25 bicycles and the city is currently working to secure a sponsor for a new station at 1600 Park Ave. Hoboken is also working with Rutgers University to apply for grant money in order to improve the access to bike share for undeserved communities in Hoboken.

Happy to see it

“The numbers prove what we expected all along: that Jersey City would welcome a bike share and wanted a system that connected with New York City, as well,” said Mayor Fulop. “Now, we’re looking forward to expanding the system and working with the community to figure out where we should move and add stations.”

“In just a short amount of time CitiBike has become a part of how Jersey City residents and employees are getting around,” said Jay Walder, Motivate President & CEO.

As expected, much of the bike share traffic is occurring along the PATH system.

“Mayor Zimmer has offered for CitiBike Jersey City to have a station at the end of Observer Highway next to the PATH entrance and has requested to place official stations at the Grove Street, Newport, and Exchange Place PATH stations,” said Melli.

The program isn’t without its flaws though. Although Hoboken bike share organizers boasted of the bike’s technical prowess, since the launch residents have reported mechanical issues with the German-engineered bikes. The Hudson Reporter has also encountered residents at bike stations complaining that many of the bikes were not functioning.

During a recent City Council meeting, council members Michael Russo and Peter Cunningham said they were also hearing from residents about issues with the bikes.

Melli said despite some “startup technical issues,” the system is operating smoothly and the operator will continue to monitor the program for further issues.

Housing Authority discounts unused so far

Among the more lucrative attractions to potential bike-share riders when the Hoboken program was near its launch was the city’s offer to the first 100 Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) residents to sign up a free membership.

But so far, no one has taken advantage of it.

“We are reaching out to several HHA residents who have expressed interest in the program, but so far no one has signed up,” said Melli. “At this time, HHA residents and recipients of Section 8 vouchers should know that there are still free memberships available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

After the first 100 sign up, all HHA and Section 8 residents in town can take advantage of a discounted membership of only $60.

Jersey City has also launched an affordable membership program in the past month, which allows all residents of the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) to receive annual memberships at a reduced rate of $60 per year. JCHA residents interested in signing up for the program should contact their local tenant services office to register.

Steven Rodas can be reached at srodas@hudsonreporter.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
December 07, 2015
I have been riding Citibike for the past 2 1/2 years since inception. Sure, it had some growing pains, but nothing compared to Hudson Bike Share.

Hudson Bike Share been a complete disaster. Rarely is a bike fully operational. Technical issues are continuous and expected, and many of the bike seats, a key piece to a bike, are cheap and bend backwards. Unacceptable for a new program.

We were also promised 29 stations when we signed up. The article should be corrected..there are about 17. The City of Hoboken stated all stations would be completed in the coming weeks back in October. Nothing to date.

No communication with its riders either via email or social media on the unrelenting problems is the icing on the cake. First step to proper management - acknowledge the problem.

This system is extremely disfunctional and should like at Citibike and JC as an example to strives towards.
November 27, 2015
Zimmer does not broker deals - she scams. This sounds about right. And Mello is paid to create denials and spins - along with about eight other hench people. When stakes get even higher appointed members of Hoboken board begin their attacks.
November 23, 2015
"The Hudson Reporter has also encountered residents at bike stations complaining that many of the bikes were not functioning."

Translation - al Sullivan claims he overheard a conversation but did not actually speak to anybody on or off the record but he posted it on Facebook. He has no idea what the supposed malfunctions were, how widespread they were, whether they've been fixed or even ever existed at all.

My guess is the quality of the bikes is better than the quality of the Hoboken Reporter's journalism but that's a pretty low bar.

November 27, 2015
Watch Council meetings in Nov. There are many mechanical problems with the Hoboken bikes.