STUYVESANT TOWN — Commuters and a local politician want to see more Citi Bikes at stations around the complex that often sit empty or severely understocked — with recent construction on a nearby subway station reducing the amount of bikes even further.
A Stuyvesant Town resident who became a Citi Bike member when the service launched four years ago said he has gotten very little use out of the program during his morning commute, when he has to travel to the nearest subway station at East 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue.
More often than not, he ends up trekking to the station foot.
"I originally joined Citi Bike to use it every day — I thought I would be able to ride that to the subway. But it's been in existence four years, and most of the time there are not bikes available in the morning," said Christopher Simonetti, who lives near East 20th Street and Avenue C. "It's a 15-minute walk, and I don’t mind doing it. What I do mind is I am paying for this membership that is not available to me."
Simonetti said he calls in to complain about the empty docks between three and four times a week, but hasn't seen any improvement.
On August 2, Councilman Dan Garodnick penned a letter to Motivate, which runs the bike-sharing service, asking the operator to more effectively fill up the docks around the residences.
The councilman said he recently had staff members check out five stations — at 20th Street and FDR Drive, First Avenue and East 23rd Street, First Avenue and East 18th Street, First Avenue and East 16th Street, and Avenue A and East 13th Street — between 9 and 10 a.m. on a handful of weekdays and discovered that the majority of the stations were completely empty during those hours, while others had only one bike.
"I urge you to take steps to replenish and rebalance the bikes at the STPCV stations more quickly in the morning rush hour," Garodnick wrote. "Citi Bike is a great resource for Peter Cooper and Stuyvesant Town because of the limited subway access in this area — and I look forward to working with you to better match Citi Bike supply with the demand."
The nearest subway stations are the 6 train at 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue or the L train at 14th Street and First Avenue.
Motivate said it simply can't keep up with demand at the stations, and partially blamed the shortage on construction connected to the First Avenue L train station that started last month.
"Despite our efforts... we recognize that demand does outstrip our capacity in the area during the AM rush hours of 7AM-11AM," Simons said.
But problems with the Stuyvesant Town docks far outdate the onset of the MTA's construction, which began less than a month ago, Simonetti said.
"The problem has been going on since its inception in that area," he said.
Even on a recent Tuesday afternoon, the dock at 20th Street and FDR Drive sat empty, with one lucky commuter making off with the very last bike.
But that cyclist — who takes a train from Philadelphia to the city every morning and uses a Citi Bike to get around — said he rarely has such luck in the mornings.
"On any given morning if I come out, there won't be a bike for blocks," Kevin Kall said.