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Citi Bike needs investors, riders amid growing pains

As New York's bike share program approaches its anniversary in May, Citi Bike is losing money, seeking millions from investors and in need of more riders -- particularly tourists using daily and weekly passes, where the real money is, officials and observers say.

Further, its original technology and equipment provider is in bankruptcy and NYC Bike Share's general manager resigned last month.

Transportation and bicycling experts said NYC Bike Share -- the subsidiary of Oregon-based Alta that manages Citi Bike -- can ride out its growing pains.

Possible ideas include a change in rates and soliciting more corporate sponsors. And while city officials are applying the brakes on using taxpayer money, advocates and lawmakers say a bike share system is a public good that deserves public funds.

For now, Alta is trying to get $20 million to expand the system to about 600 stations and 10,000 bikes.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said she expects NYC Bike Share to resolve its issues by improving software and making sure docks have a proper balance between bikes and spaces.

"Everything is under consideration, from improving operations to new sponsorships to additional financing," Trottenberg said in a statement.

Despite these bumps on the road, Citi Bike will remain part of the streetscape as New Yorkers clamor for more locations outside of Manhattan's central business area and the Brooklyn waterfront, where most bikes are docked.

"I believe it'll be expanded. It's wildly popular," said Sarah Kaufman, an assistant adjunct professor of planning at NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. She added that Citi Bike's perceived problems are "only the fault of its success."

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