As neighboring towns prepare to launch bike share programs like Hoboken’s, local users are struggling with malfunctions in the two-year-old program.
Hudson Bike Share launched in 2015 and offers members access to bikes all over town, but there are no places to leave bicycles outside of town (contrary to a 2015 website post promising such). Users pick up a bike at a location around Hoboken, punch in a code or use a card to unlock it, and return it to another bike share location.
Annual membership costs less than $100 for unlimited 45-minute rides in town. Longer rides cost an extra fee.
A year ago and then last week, the Reporter published videos of all of the bikes at one location failing to work when a user typed in a code. Also, a user has to sometimes wait a while each time for the bike to tell them it’s unavailable.
When using the bike for short trips in a mile-square town, the holdup can become frustrating.
Last week, Hoboken resident and Stevens Institute of Technology graduate student Allison Dillon said “I probably use the bikes five or six times a week to get around town or go to the gym. I’ve had a lot of issues with the bikes. Sometimes they don’t lock and you have to call customer service so they can lock it on their end, sometimes the seats fall as you’re riding them, sometimes the touchpads don’t work, and sometimes the gears are unreliable.”
She says she’ll keep using the system, though.
“It’s still convenient,” she said. “I have no space to keep a bike where I live. I live across town and it gets me from point A to point B. For all of its problems, it’s still the easiest way to get around town.”
Liam McAdam, who joined in February, said, “The app doesn’t always work, but the big issue is, it doesn’t always register it’s been locked up and returned.”
He added, “It takes me about eight minutes to get up town and I’ll lock up the bike and get a text three hours later that I still have the bike. It’s annoying because it is automatically linked to your debit card, so you have to call the customer service and they return the money. I’ve had to do that about five or six times.”
But he said the company has returned the money every time. He said he saves money on cabs by using it.
Another user, Joe B., said, “I use the bike share every day, but they don’t work very often. I don’t have my own bike so I still use it. It’s still the most convenient.”
Kyle Peluso, a five-year Hoboken resident, said, “I use them daily and I’ve only had it about a month. It’s usually pretty convenient. Customer support answers rather quickly. I’ve been billed because it didn’t mark that a bike was returned when it was. There have also been a couple of times during popular hours when there have been a few bikes left [at the train station] and they didn’t work.”
Can’t share with other towns
Peluso added that he wished the bikes linked to other towns or that the city used CitiBike, as they do in Jersey City and New York.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer chose to go with a different program than CitiBike in 2015. In September of that year, Hudson Bike Share posted on its page, “With the advantage of advanced technology, Hudson Bike Share will extend into Jersey City (including Liberty State Park) and Weehawken.”
But two years later, there are no places to return the bikes out of town.
Are they fixing the problems?
The company’s contractor is P3 Global Management. P3’s director of business development, James Murphy, said the connection error when trying to rent the bikes occurs “due to a communication error between the board computer and the cellular network used to operate the system, similar to the loss of service on a personal cell phone.”
He said the company is working to fix the various issues reported by customers.
“To address issues as we continue to expand, we have increased the size of our ground ops team by 50 percent,” he said. “Nearly one third of the fleet is checked per day to identify and prevent hardware and software issues.”
He added, “Staff has performed 1,831 inspections month-to-date for August. With the fleet at its current size, it breaks down to the entire fleet being checked every 3.5 days.”
When asked in a followup email why the drop-off locations were not added in other towns, the company did not respond by press time.
City spokesman Juan Melli said, “Hudson Bike Share has been breaking ridership records month after month, and as with any equipment that gets such high usage, there is always a percentage of bikes that need maintenance.”
Hoboken has increased the size of its bike fleet in recent months, with 57 new bikes in June. There are now 300 bikes available and 32 stations across the city.
Murphy said, “We saw record high usage in July, ending the month with 22,091 rentals, bringing system life-to-date rides past 275,000.”
He added that there were 1,569 new registrations in only July. The total is 18,589 registered users.
Waiting in nearby cities
In March, Bayonne awarded a five-year contract to P3 Global Management and expects to implement its bike share program this year.
In August the North Bergen Board of Commissioners awarded a two-year contract to the same company, and in June Guttenberg did as well, but the program has been delayed. North Bergen’s Art Schwartz said that Guttenberg is still waiting for the bikes to be delivered.
In July, Guttenberg Mayor Gerald Drasheff had a positive outlook. He said, “Hoboken went through the bumps first. This is going to go smoothly for us.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.