Why is Citi Bike So Successful?

By Lily Gordon-Koven

In its first six months of operation, Citi Bike riders took more than 6 million trips from bases in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and by January, nearly 100,000 enthusiasts became annual members. Nearly one year in, Grand Central has become the busiest area in both mornings and evenings. The system is used by both New Yorkers and tourists alike. At the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, we’ve been observing the system closely and have conducted the first academic investigation into Citi Bike’s use.

One marker of success: Even as the city weathers one of the worst winters in recent memory, Citi Bikers continue to pedal through slush and ice every day. On January 7, the coldest day on record in over a hundred years in New York City, hearty New Yorkers took nearly 7,000 trips on Citi Bike. The system's continued use through the winter months, despite snowed-in stations and treacherous riding conditions, is a strong indicator that Citi Bike is not just a passing trend or summer pastime.

Our analysis shows that the key ingredients of Citi Bike's success are urban density and proximity to mass transit, two of New York’s most valuable urban assets. Other bike share systems in Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC (as well as other American cities) move plenty of riders, but none do so with the same scale and intensity of Citi Bike.

This is, of course, due in part of New York’s population size and tightly knit street grid, but it’s also about something else - connections. Citi Bike thrives in New York because of the many ways it connects to other modes New Yorkers use everyday – subways, buses, taxis, commuter rail, ferries, and their feet.

We have mapped the busiest stations and their connections to the City’s economic and transit hubs, including the Financial District, Midtown, and Downtown Brooklyn. While Citi Bike at this time covers a limited portion of the city, its connections to transit make it accessible for New Yorkers from all five boroughs and commuters from the entire region.

The busiest stations are at Grand Central and Astor Place in the mornings and Grand Central and 17th and Broadway in the evenings.

Click on the map below to explore the busiest origin and destination stations during morning and evening rush hours.


Our forthcoming report maps out exactly how Citi Bike has successfully become a part of the transportation system in New York. The system isn’t just for tourists or leisure riders; it has become an integral part of the transportation network.