“Thousands of New Yorkers have already embraced the city’s bike share program as a viable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective form of public transportation,” Crowley said at a Jackson Heights press conference. “That is why I’m introducing legislation that further encourages participation in the program by making it more affordable for commuters.”
City commuters are currently able to claim up to $130 per month for public transportation usage or parking costs as part of a commuter benefit package in New York City. The Bike to Work Act of 2014 would expand this program to all bike shares in the nation by amending the Internal Revenue Service Code to consider bike shares a method of public transportation.
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who lauded the bill for its health benefits, joined Crowley in support.
“Biking to work is good for the environment, good for relieving chronic traffic congestion, good for public health and good for the wallets of New Yorkers,” Stavisky said. “I hope that the influx of revenue will speed up access to Citi Bike in Eastern Queens, especially in extremely congested areas such as Flushing and Jackson Heights.”
While Citi Bike is currently planning to expand into Astoria, Jackson Heights is not on the list of locations for docking station installations as yet.
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said he hopes legislation such as the Bike to Work Act will help push commuter biking further into the mainstream.
“Even before the bike share’s instant success, bicycling was the fastest growing form of transportation in New York City,” White said. “Now, bike share is accelerating that growth even more with more than 100,000 members to date.”
The city's bike share program has been plagued with issues from the start, including equipment damage suffered during Hurricane Sandy and software glitches. Detractors of the program also claim Alta Bike Share, the company that operates the Citi Bike program, hasn’t done enough to improve and adapt the system to serve real-world commuters in the city.
Perhaps the biggest issue faced by Citi Bike is its lack of day-to-day use by tourists, forcing the system to rely on long-term commuter subscriptions.
All of these issues combined led to the resignation of the head of the NYC Bike Share program in April. Mayor Bill de Blasio has stated publicly that city funding is off the table, and is currently seeking a private partner to help support the program.
A representative from the Department of Transportation who attended the press conference said no new information is available regarding the search for private backing.
After taking a short cruise around Jackson Heights with White while riding a Citi Bike acquired by one of his constituents from Brooklyn, Crowley said he hopes the bike share will make it to his district in the near future.
He also said that was his central motivation behind introducing of the new bill, citing the lack of north-south public transportation options throughout Brooklyn and Queens.
“Increased connectivity is fundamental to the growth and development of our city, and it is imperative that we meet the needs of those communities that have long been underserved by transportation options,” said Crowley. “To do that, we need to ensure that the city’s bike share program finally makes it to Queens.”