At some point this summer — although when exactly we do not know — New York City will unveil its bike share program. With a payment structure that favors short rides and long-term memberships, the 10,000-bike system run by Alta will change the way many New Yorkers commute. As I explored a few weeks ago, it should, in fact, enhance the city’s transportation network.
Full integration though remains a challenge. Right now, the city’s transportation payment picture looks a bit muddled. The buses and subways run by the MTA take MetroCards while the East Side Ferries, seemingly far more popular than I and may others anticipated, take cash while the bike share system will be membership-based for many and pay-as-you-go for others. Without integrating payment systems, these modes remain more siloed than they need to be.
New York City Transit meanwhile is slowly moving toward a new fare payment system. By around 2015 or so, the MetroCard will be ushered out in favor of a contactless debit or credit card-based solution, and the MTA may be more amenable to cooperating with the city on a unified fare system. Cody Lyon at The Gotham Gazette reported on Monday:
In the near future, subway riders may be able to use their fare cards to check out a bike from hundreds of nearby docking stations. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it is open to evaluating ways to integrate fare payment with the city’s bike share program as it moves toward a wireless, smart card-based system by 2015, agency spokesman Aaron Donavan said in a recent interview…
Department of Transportation spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said that in other cities, up to 50 percent of bike share trips are connections to other modes of transit. But he said while he expects to see the same here, the DOT is currently not working on fare payment integration at this time. “We look forward to exploring it in the future,” Mosquera said…
Mosquera said New York City’s bike share program is designed to provide sufficient bike share capacity at transit hubs, allowing riders to transfer quickly from bike other modes or vice versa. He said the bike share stations extend the reach of the transit system, making distant parts of neighborhoods easily accessible from subway stations. “The system will be perfectly suited to any potential fare integration,” Mosquera said.
The idea of integrating fare systems is hardly a ground-breaking one. Yet, at many levels, the MTA has struggled to achieve success. We can’t use the same tickets on Metro-North and the LIRR. MetroCards are useful only with the realm of subways and city buses. Even integration with the PATH system is more limited than it need be, and transportation options that operates outside of the auspicies of the MTA rely on a separate payment system entirely.
Seeing both the city and MTA be willing to discuss ways to make this work is a heartening development. The bike share system will complement the rapid transit network and making connections between the two — and the way we pay for those connection — as easy as possible should be a priority as the MTA readies the MetroCard replacement. Forward thinking and cooperation will go a long way toward attaining success and avoiding unnecessary turf wars as resources are grow more and more stretched.