NYC bike-share fees to rise with new ownership; company also runs programs in other cities

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NEW YORK — New York City's bike-sharing program is getting new owners who will improve service and double the system's size within three years, officials announced Tuesday.

An annual membership in the program, Citi Bike, will rise from $95 to $145 but officials said better service will justify the higher costs.

"Anyone who uses Citi Bike regularly knows that it should be more reliable, it should be easier to use and it should be accessible to more of the city," said newly minted bike-share CEO Jay Walder, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "Citi Bike has the potential to be so much more, and today we are committing to make that potential a reality."

Citi Bike started in May 2013 and has been plagued by problems such as docking stations not working and bicycles not being available where they are needed.

The system has been managed by a subsidiary of Portland, Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share, which also operates bike-share systems in Chicago, Boston, Toronto, Washington and other cities.

Under the new agreement, a private investor group headed by Jeff Blau, the CEO of real estate firm Related, is buying Alta Bicycle Share and will move its headquarters to New York City, with Walder in charge.

Walder said he would be meeting with officials in the other cities where Alta runs bike-sharing programs in the coming weeks.

In New York, Citibank will increase its commitment to Citi Bike by $70.5 million and extend it sponsorship through 2024.

"In order to help expand and improve the system, we are significantly increasing our sponsorship in terms of dollars and length," said Edward Skyler, Citibank's executive vice president for global public affairs. "It will now go an additional five years and the bikes will stay blue through 2024."

Officials said Citi Bike will grow from 6,000 bikes to 12,000 by the end of 2017 and will expand to new neighborhoods including Harlem, Brooklyn's Park Slope and Long Island City, Queens, where they gathered for Tuesday's announcement.

They said the date of the price increase would be announced later.

At least one Citi Bike user said he would probably pay the $149 a year.

"I might reluctantly pay that," Todd Sentz, 44, said as he picked up a bike in midtown Manhattan. "I definitely get my money's worth. I use it almost every day."

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