Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Millions


Photo by James D. Schwartz on Flickr.
CaBi tops 1.5 million rides: Capital Bikeshare has provided 1.5 million trips since its start less than a year and a half ago. Its success has made CaBi a model for the rest of the country. (TBD)

Metro admits blame: Metro and three equipment manufacturers will admit liability for the first time publicly for the Fort Totten crash. The admission allows WMATA to avoid costly courtroom litigation. (Examiner)

Bill encourages complete streets: The Prince George's County Council will vote today on a bill to have developments contribute to pedestrian and biking facilities and not just road capacity for cars. (WashCycle)

More seats for NoVa on transpo board: A bill that just passed the Virginia House would allocate more seats to Northern Virginia on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, giving the area more control over transportation dollars. (Examiner)

Old is the new green: While new LEED-certified buildings are great, using existing buildings can be even greener. Numerous buildings in the area have undergone retrofits in recent years and another one is about to start, converting two old EPA buildings in Southwest into residential. (City Paper, SWTLQTC)

One way around a height limit: Architects have designed a zero-foot tall, 65-story "earth-scraper" for Mexico City. The underground building would allow lots of density without violating the city's 8-story height limit. (Daily Mail)

And...: The DC area ranks third in transit use, behind New York and San Fransisco. (WBJ) ... President Obama cuts school voucher funding for DC. (DCist) ... The DC area is the second hottest condo market in the country. (Redfin)

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Steven Yates grew up in Indiana before moving to DC in 2002 to attend college at American University. He currently lives in Southwest DC.  

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""There will be no impact on our operating budget, as we have insurance to resolve these kinds of matters," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said."

Funny, I thought the increased cost of insurance was something that was hurting WMATA's budget.

by charlie on Feb 15, 2012 8:50 am • linkreport

Architects have designed a zero-foot tall, 65-story "earth-scraper" for Mexico City.

WOW! too bad we've already leased the old covention center site ... Something like this would have allowed to both have a central park for the District AND satisfy the Council's longing to monetize every square foot of developable land in the city center.

by Lance on Feb 15, 2012 9:09 am • linkreport

I have a feeling Mexico City's elevation makes things quite a bit easier than anything in DC.

by selxic on Feb 15, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

Its too bad most other cities don't have the young, wealthy, bureaucratic populations with leisure time to ride bicycles and use Cabi. In other cities where people are struggling and trying to make ends meet without hand outs and bail outs form the feds, Cabi would not be a success.

by joz on Feb 15, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

On second thought, isn't Mexico City built on lakes? I didn't give the idea much thought when I first saw it months ago.

by selxic on Feb 15, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

This is the third or so time I recall seeing the mexico city story. You'd get the same aggregate benefits by raising the height limit a floor or two without having to dig a 65 story hole in the ground. Just because it is a solution doesn't mean its a particularly good one.

by canaan on Feb 15, 2012 9:45 am • linkreport

selxic,

Too add. Most sewage and drainage systems are gravity driven. It is going to be one hell of a sump pump to get the waste out of that building. I suspect if you take that architectural design to an engineering firm you will be laughed out of the building.

by RJ on Feb 15, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

@Joz
I actualyl think cities with lots of poor people who can't afford cars CaBi would be quite succesful. A bus ticket in most cities is at least 1.50 each way. As long as you stay under the 30 minute threashhold CaBi is a lot cheaper then that.

Though your needless addition of the words bureaucratic and hand out show that you are not likely interested ina real discussion.

by nathaniel on Feb 15, 2012 10:06 am • linkreport

I've been a critic of cabi since it started, but was willing to admit my skeptisim when I started reading the linked article above.

Then I got to this gem:

"Not included are what I imagine to be rather substantial marketing and management costs."

Seriously, what in the world is the point of trying to perpetuate fiscal success when you purposely leave out what are probably the two most significant costs to the program? What a joke.

Also, their trip stats are suspect. Their use has supposedly accelerated since summer, rather than fall off which is what happens when the weather turns cold. Last winters cabi ridership fell off 40% during the winter months. Granted, this winter hasn't been "brutal", but neither was last years. Seems unlikely that cabi would increase ridership when the weather turns cold.

by freely on Feb 15, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

CaBi is a brilliant idea in its early stages which will only grow as it matures and spreads to new locales.

But, with that said, how many people does Metro transport on the average day? I think it is around 800-900K. How many people drive into the city every day? (I have no clue but I bet it rivals or is greater than Metro #s)

CaBi moving 1.5M people over the course of about 18 months is a huge milestone for CaBi but a small milestone in our transportation network.

Something interesting to look into would be the growth/adoption of different transit methods over time and compare CaBi's growth to them. How quickly did the auto become adopted? How quickly did Metro's ridership #s grow? How about the trolleys?

I hope the next 1.5M comes in a far shorter timeframe for CaBi; I'd love to see exponential growth.

by CaBi Lover on Feb 15, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

That Mexico City project is definitely one of those projects that keeps popping up the past few months, canaan. I guess I'll believe it when I see it.

by selxic on Feb 15, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

Re: the Mexico City project ... If it comes to be, expect a severe construction labor supply here in DC ... ;)

by Lance on Feb 15, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

*expect a severe construction labor supply contraction here in DC ... ;)

by Lance on Feb 15, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

@freely

Last winters cabi ridership fell off 40% during the winter months. Granted, this winter hasn't been "brutal", but neither was last years. Seems unlikely that cabi would increase ridership when the weather turns cold.

Um, last winter the system was brand new. Ridership didn't fall off last winter at all because there was nothing to fall off from - there was no baseline. That ridership is higher this winter is merely a sign of a system that's been around for a year.

by Alex B. on Feb 15, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

There are many cities with bikeshare systems around the world (and a few in the US -- Boston, Denver, Minneapolis). Have any of them NOT been successful as a form of public transit? I can't think of any examples.

One day, I'm sure there will be an example of a bikeshare city or expansion that didn't work (it's NOT going to be the 10,000 bike system in NYC that's about to start -- that I'm sure of). At that point, the bikeshare detractors will have at least one data point on their side. Until then, they're grasping at straws.

by Falls Church on Feb 15, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

The increase in ridership over the last four months is also connected to the fact that (due to initial success of the system), CaBi has expanded by nearly 30% in terms of bikes, stations and docks.

Once the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor expansion is completed, and it reaches beyond just Wilson and Clarendon Blvds, I would expect to see an even more significant ridership increase.

by Jacques on Feb 15, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

@Alex,

Yes it did...its day to day and month to month numbers fell of precipitiously (minimum of 40%) from the warm fall months to the winter months. Bike share usage is highly weather dependant.

http://thecityfix.com/blog/bye-bye-bikeshare-see-you-next-spring/

I am just saying, that cabi obviously doesn't have any problem "finesing" their numbers (see fiscal performance above), reading between the lines is probably in order.

by freely on Feb 15, 2012 11:01 am • linkreport

Exactly Jacques. If we can continue aggressive expansion I think we can get to 10 million rides a year in a few years.

by H Street Landlord on Feb 15, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

@Freely

Don't be obtuse.

Obviously, you'd expect higher ridership in the summer than the winter. But that's not the point.

There's no finessing of the numbers. You can see them for yourself:
http://cabidashboard.ddot.dc.gov/CaBiDashboard/

Go to ridership, select 'all available data.' December 2010 trips: 28,800. December 2011 trips: 87,300.

The point is that ridership has increased because the system has expanded. The data does not support the claim you are trying to make. Yes, ridership decreases during the winter (compared to summer highs) but that doesn't mean it can't increase in absolute terms (because the system is expanding).

In short, I don't know what your point is. What's 'unlikely' about this data?

by Alex B. on Feb 15, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

and i am guessing 2 million rides for 2012 alone. anyone care to engage in a gentleman's bet? (poor capitalization due to having a sleeping baby on me...)

by H Street Landlord on Feb 15, 2012 11:14 am • linkreport

Alex,

January and Feb are missing.

I understand the system has expanded in real terms but ridership has been dropping off significantly (31% per month) since its year anniversary, it has declined 12% since a 20% increase in the number of bikes in the system. Ridership was at 87K in December for a total of 1,310,326 trips. For them to have reached 1.5 million already, and add the remaining 190K trips in the past 6 weeksJanuary and Februarys numbers would have had to grown a minimum of 15%, and considering the weather in January and February has been colder than Decembers, I am taking their number skeptically.

CABI has been "streeeetch" the truth since day one. What it costs to operate, proposed operational "break even numbers" and date, current fiscal performance (see above).

There is nothing wrong with treating their current "claims" with doubt.

by freely on Feb 15, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

@freely

Not sure where you got the idea that ridership has "accelerated" since the summer but that's not true. ~140,000 trips in each of June, July, and August. 87,000 in December.

It took 8+ months to reach the first 500K trips (June 1), a little less than 4 to reach the second 500K (Sept 20), and around 5 for the 3rd 500K (~Feb 13).

by MLD on Feb 15, 2012 12:07 pm • linkreport

@CaBi Lover: yes, Metro does carry up to 1M people on the very busiest event days, but do keep in mind that [a] it was designed to carry that every day, and [b] each one of its trains can carry about as many people as the entire CaBi fleet can carry.

Hm, critics keep saying that either bike sharing only works for poor people in China (where the largest systems are) or for rich people in DC, Denver, Boston, and Minneapolis (all among the wealthiest cities in the country) or Mexico City (where it's only in some rich neighborhoods). Or... maybe... get this... it works for everyone, rich and poor! Wow.

I don't see the economic feasibility of digging quite that far underneath the Zócalo, particularly given the muddy and unstable dirt underneath. However, I would be curious to see just how far underground sunlight could penetrate using a similar design.

by Payton on Feb 15, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

@Freely

Jan and Feb are not 'missing,' they just haven't been added yet. Not sure how you'd expect to add month-long data for February when we're only halfway through the month. It's a reporting tool, not a real-time update.

and add the remaining 190K trips in the past 6 weeksJanuary and Februarys numbers would have had to grown a minimum of 15%, and considering the weather in January and February has been colder than Decembers, I am taking their number skeptically.

Why? The 2010 data showed increases in usage from a December low, with both January and February 2011 posting increases more on the order of 30%. Given that context, why would a minimum of 15% be out of line?

There is nothing wrong with treating their current "claims" with doubt.

By all means, please do. All I ask is that you use some actual math and data. You haven't presented anything here that's remotely fishy.

If you want to talk about opaque finance data, fine. But the ridership numbers are right there, in plain sight.

by Alex B. on Feb 15, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

It seems to me that the time is approaching for CaBi to start increasing its prices for long-term members to better recoup the value those members are getting. In part, CaBi will effectively be doing so for the LivingSocial annual memberships that will come up for renewal in the next couple of months. But over time, it will make sense for CaBi to try to capture some revenue for the longer trips that effectively substitute for a pricey ride in a private car or by Metrobus or Metrorail. It made sense to make CaBi as inexpensive as feasible to lure an initial, critical mass of riders. And it may still make sense given the need to do the same in the new geographic areas to which it is expanding. But when there are 2 million or 10 million rides a year, it makes no sense to leave money on the table, given that riders' willingness-to-pay (particularly for the longer trips that are substitutes for a mode other than walking) is significantly greater than zero.

by Arl Fan on Feb 15, 2012 12:47 pm • linkreport

@ArlFan, good point, but the devil is the details.

I forget how much my inital membership was ($50?) then the LS deal to renew (37?). That is 87 for two year, or about 43 a year.

Right now membership renweal is 75. Not sure you can push it up more. At 75 it is going to be tough to renew. Not sure I've gotten $75 in one year (maybe about 200 trips in a year in a half?)

I'd rather see a multiyear member (outside of LS); say $100 (or $125) for two year. If you broke it in monthly billings, you could do $25 a month for half a year.

by charlie on Feb 15, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

Or, looked at another way - the subsidy for use is either extremely low (or it is profitable) and thus we want to push CaBi use as much as possible since it is the most cost efficient mode we have.

by H Street Landlord on Feb 15, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

I don't know about the rest of you, but there's no way I am getting on a bike when the temperatures are in the 90s or 100s. During July and August I prefer a nicely air-conditioned bus.

This winter, however, has been very mild and I have been taking a lot of CaBi trips.

by Max on Feb 15, 2012 1:15 pm • linkreport

I don't know about the rest of you, but there's no way I am getting on a bike when the temperatures are in the 90s or 100s.

I guess it's all a matter of how you look at it. I'd rather take bikeshare to go from Lincoln Park to Union Station than walk in 90-100 degree heat. Or wait 20 min for a bus for that matter. At least you get a breeze.

by oboe on Feb 15, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

Arl, I think you're slightly mis-informed about CaBi's pricing structure. The $75/year membership only covers rides up to 30 minutes. If someone is replacing a "longer, expensive" trip that would normally be taken using a car or transit, they're already getting charged the "over 30 minutes" premium (pricing is available on their website). Your average casual bicyclist is only going to make it 5-7 miles in a half an hour, on the best of day under the best of circumstances (limited waits at intersections, no obstructions such as detours or construction, level terrain, etc.), so you're competing with the cost of a bus trip or short-distance Metro trip (most of the time, less than $2). The baseline "operational costs" of a car are also around $2 for a 5-mile trip. So, you've gotta beat $2/ride. I'll admit that my per-ride bikeshare cost is under $.50 (I take about 2 round-trips a week), and I would pay more, but not that much more. In my mind, bikes are inherently cheaper than trains, buses (vehicle purchases, maintenance, operational costs, staff), and cars (vehicle purchases, maintenance, operational costs), and therefore shouldn't be priced the same as these modes. I can't imagine that I'm the only person who thinks that it should be cheaper to take a bike than a bus...

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 2:57 pm • linkreport

Should also add that we need to know the habits of the "typical user" to determine whether price increases are warranted and how much. If the "typical user" is *averaging* a small number of trips (I would be totally unsurprised to see this number come out to 1 RT a week or less on *average* over the entire year), the cost per-trip is higher, and any increases are more substantial on a per-trip basis. Do you have people who commute daily using bike share and are getting a really sweet deal? Yes. But if that's not the "typical user" the only thing you can do to reduce the benefit to "high volume" users is create a tiered structure, or else you'll end up scaring off the typical users with too-high pricing. You could have casual use (max 2 rides a week or 8 rides a month or something) and commuter use (unlimited) plans, if you wanted. Again, *I* wouldn't be opposed to this, but public perception and simplicity of use would have to be gauged so as to keep people comin'.

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 3:09 pm • linkreport

@Ms. D

You won't be charged the fee if you switch bikes partway through your trip! I think a lot of annual members do this on longer trips.

by MLD on Feb 15, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

Gosh, imagine the livability issues in Mexico if there were no height limits! It would turn into some outsized megalopolis that wasn't build to a "human" scale!

by JustMe on Feb 15, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

@Mrs. D -- an analysis of the data from the first 15 months of Bikeshare shows that 88% of all rides were less than 30 minutes long. (And a much higher percentage of rides taken by members, rather than casual users).

The data is here: http://jdantos.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/capital-bikeshare-data-part-2/

Personally, I've used bikeshare almost 250 times since 0ctober 2010, and I've incurred about $20 in total usage fees (half of that when I did the 20-mile BikeDC ride using only CaBi bikes). My usage has included trips that encompassed places including Nationals Park, Georgetown, Downtown, Capitol Hill, Rosslyn/Courthouse and more, and the rides longer than 4-5 miles usually included at least one bike switch, which was not remotely inconvenient.

I wouldn't be personally opposed to some type of tiered-usage pricing scheme (a 25 to 50-cent per ride surcharge for rides in excess of 10 per week, perhaps?), but I do think it would mess with the simplicity of the pricing, and the appeal.

by Jacques on Feb 15, 2012 4:11 pm • linkreport

Who needs Mexico City? Kansas City has a massive underground storage and office complex in an old limestone mine. The complex even has its own road and rail network.

http://www.huntmidwest.com/subtropolis/index.html

by dcdriver on Feb 15, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

That might be a concern, MLD, though I never even thought to do that myself...5-ish miles gets me pretty much so everywhere I'm willing to bike to. I'd still like to see some numbers on all these issues.

Every model like this is going to have "free-rider" problems, where someone figures out how to pay less/get more service than others. If the "free-rider" issue is substantial (which CaBi's data should be able to easily tell us...how many people get off a bike and then pick up another one within a minute or two? shouldn't be hard to figure out), then something needs to be done to address it. Your proposed issue could easily be mitigated by instituting a few minute "time-out" between rentals to frustrate those stringing together short trips into longer ones. Will some people still do it? Yes, there are some sorry people out there who will do anything to save a buck. Will *less* people do it? Yes. Programming change, rather than charging honest users more, mitigates this particular free-rider problem.

Again, I'm not opposed to examining the pricing structure, just pointing out 2 things. (1) A "next-lowest-cost" comparison for the pricing structure, as proposed by Arl, not only reveals a pretty low comparison point, but is not entirely appropriate. Car and transit travel is far more luxurious than bike travel, and we should consider that when pricing bike share rather than just looking at dollars and cents out of pocket. Outside of making sure we don't *exceed* the next-lowest-cost mode, I'd say it's a wholly inappropriate model for bike share pricing. (2) We shouldn't punish the class for the poor behavior of a few, and I speculate that we have a lot of casual users of bike share who would be turned off by a *substantial* fee increase to help cover the costs from regular users/abusers of the system. Not that we can't/shouldn't raise prices for some/at all. Price increases may be justified for some/all users, but there are various ways to do this without decreasing the use of the system. First we need to know the median behavior of a bike share user and what the distribution looks like, then we can decide how to best change prices. Just encouraging some careful thought rather than yelling "rawr CaBi should be self-sustaining my tax dollars for fancy bikes you're stealing from the system hurp a durp." We haven't gotten to that level of discourse, but I'd like to contribute something that people can really chew on rather than simplistic too much/not enough analysis.

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

Sorry, by "casual user" I meant a member who only uses the bikes occasionally. Someone who doesn't use them to commute daily/several days a week. Dag nabit, multi-tiered system.

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 4:55 pm • linkreport

Jacques, your data provides speculative support for my theory that we don't have a free-rider *problem* of people switching bikes to make longer rides. The share of rides over *20* minutes is pretty small. I know that, in some cases, it would be more convenient to ride for less than 20 minutes and then switch bikes to achieve the best routing and travel time while still getting a "free" ride over 30 minutes, but MLD's theory is less plausible (though still possible) than if there were a huge number of 25-30 minute trips. That slight bump at 26-28 minutes may represent *some* free-riders, but it might not. Again, I don't think CaBi is obligated to or even should release data on how many people switch bikes within a very short time frame, but we can use good data and elegant solutions to solve these types of problems, rather than clobbering people who use the bikes once in a while to run to the store with substantially higher fees.

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 5:05 pm • linkreport

@Ms. D: I do think there are a lot of heavy users who "daisy-chain", as MLD describes, which can convert even higher-fare Metrorail trips into zero-cost CaBi trips. But even a 2-mile commuter riding CaBi three times a week, one-way, instead of the bus avoids $4.50 in Metrobus fares -- over $200 per year. As for those substituting for car trips, the "operational costs" for cars that you cite leaves out parking, which can be $2 or more even for a Saturday errand that requires a meter, let alone for daytime commuting. And trips during commuter hours run much more than the average in per mile operational expenses because traffic is so heavy. So there's a lot of value to unlock from riders substituting away from cars.

CaBi usage is very "sticky," and once people have tried it, they're unlikely to switch away. I agree that cheap memberships and unlimited pricing are important to get people to try the service. But in a world of stiff competition for government transportation dollars, CaBi will be a much better model if there is a plan in place to diminish the level of subsidies once the system is established.

@charlie: Absolutely -- the details are important and any pricing changes should be thoughtful. I doubt $75 is very far off from the optimum annual membership price and I don't think it's worth changing.

Several models are possible. The "simplicity is king" path might be a simple, $.10 charge per rental. Hardly enough to deter anyone from riding, easy to understand, and worth some real dollars when ridership gets high enough.

Alternatively a "heavy user surcharge" might look like a flat, per-trip fee of $.25 or $.50 on <30 minute trips, but with the first 200 trips (of 30 minutes or less) free with the annual membership. "200 trips free with membership" is easy to understand, and most people riding more than 200 trips per year are probably invested enough/savvy enough to see that it's still a great deal.

And the "Pay Extra to Trade" might be to impose a $.50 fee each time an annual user connects 2 trips of 1 mile or more within, say, 5 minutes. (Logic: not penalizing <1 mile rides which are likely either 1) walking substitutes, or 2) "trade-ins" on an uncomfortable/squeaky/wounded bike; having the charge be cheap enough that people won't be too incentivized to game the system -- or stand around twiddling their thumbs -- to avoid it; not penalize quick round-trips for a single errand).

by Arl Fan on Feb 15, 2012 5:24 pm • linkreport

a bunch of hard to understand fees will bring negative press and may kill the golden goose. per published reports it is already revenue positive.

by h street landlord on Feb 15, 2012 5:30 pm • linkreport

"Most sewage and drainage systems are gravity driven. It is going to be one hell of a sump pump to get the waste out of that building. "

Why is that challenge any greater than ensuring a 600 foot tall building has adequate water pressure on the top floors?

Big containment tank at the bottom, allowing gravity for everything else, with a pump to take it up--and multiple backup generators to power it.

by ah on Feb 15, 2012 5:58 pm • linkreport

Ensuring water pressure in a tall building is fairly easy. You pump the water to a big tank on a periodic basis, and gravity takes care of the rest. In the worst case, you lose water pressure for a bit. It's extremely unlikely to clog.

The sewage in a hole problem is harder. More prone to clog, you're fighting gravity constantly, and the worst case is that your building fills with poo. Pumping a semi-solid mess up 65 stories is harder than pumping plain water. Even if nobody is using water you're probably filling your holding tank continuously with groundwater seepage. (Probably a separate tank, but same problem.)

by Mike on Feb 15, 2012 7:01 pm • linkreport

I do appreciate your openness to alternatives, Arl. I don't like to study stuff out of existence, but I do think that CaBi has the right data, easily accessible and sort-able, to optimize the membership fees and assess whether daisy-chaining is a real problem or simply a reasonable-sounding enough potential issue. I just don't want to end up in a situation where the naysayers can put the kibosh on the service because fees were raised too much for casual users like me to see it as a good value. I'm probably more rational than most, so I would consider dropping my membership if it got too expensive. What's too expensive? For me, more than $125/year, but a well-designed survey could suss out the general sentiment better. I'm concerned with those not yet signed up, as (a) the system's new-ish, and (b) DC is transient and needs a constant stream of new subscribers to maintain it's membership.

As I mentioned, my average of 2 round-trips a week run a little under $.50/leg (I round up fairly generously as I don't track my usage, but I do go on vacation and work trips and don't ride as much in the winter, and only *regularly* use it for 2 specific round-trips most weeks), so $.10 is probably too low. 200 free rides sounds good enough to consider, but I'd probably say 400 since that's 2 round-trips most weeks, which seems pretty typical of me & my friends. A transfer fee might work, as might my suggestion of having a "time out" for transfers, perhaps coupled with a mid-tier for people who aren't *sure* they'll make their destination in 30 minutes so as not to discourage use (15 extra minutes for $.50 or something). I don't think most people have trouble understanding Zipcar's 2 membership options, or those pesky new data limits on smartphones, so my 2-tier system idea might also work. All good ideas, and easy enough to explore by sorting some existing data and maybe conducting a few surveys. It's hard to pin down an optimum membership fee right now (on a cost, not substitution, basis), however, given the newness of the system and the continued expansion. Sure, we can amortize the costs of stations and bikes over their expected life-span, but a few more years of data would be nice to make sure the expected costs are fairly accurate before putting our foot down and saying fees *must* match cost targets. One should also consider that with more stations and longevity, advertising costs will decline (I advertised CaBi for free when I rented my apartment, and as it becomes a known good, more of that kind of word-of-mouth will take hold). Smart business people would have no trouble making these types of calculations and culling the proper data in the right ways.

I certainly think it can be a self-sustaining system in the long-run with a few tweaks, so I'm not arguing it should continue to be subsidized with transportation funds indefinitely. But I've also convinced many the reluctant person that it's a good deal that will improve their life. It took me a good long time to sign up, even.

I won't belabor my point about what the proper substitution-based pricing would be (the trips I substitute for are a long walk and a car trip w/free parking...not sure if I'd pay for parking...I'd be carpooling so the cost would be pretty low per passenger - my neighbors shop at the same store, but CaBi gives me the freedom to go when it's convenient for me - but could also Metro). Long story short, I prefer a cost-based fee system. It doesn't need to be profitable, it's ultimately a form of semi-privatized public transportation, and break-even is good enough.

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 8:21 pm • linkreport

Oh, and speaking of "gaming the system," you neglected to consider free bus-to-bus transfers. If substituting for a bus ride, so long as your errand is under 2 hours traveling to, completing, and getting back on the bus, you pay only $1.50 for the round-trip. I do this all the time...and one of my trips avoids a short bus trip. Blargh...no more substitution models, k? Too complicated, too many permutations, no consideration of the utility curve involved with the difference between pedaling a bike in the elements versus driving/having someone drive you in a sheltered vehicle, and an utter blindness to the public value of removing cars from the road and having a complete transportation system that gets people where they need to go most efficiently. Cost model, that's where it's at, at least for this particular topic. :)

by Ms. D on Feb 15, 2012 8:43 pm • linkreport

freely,

"what in the world is the point of trying to perpetuate fiscal success when you purposely leave out what are probably the two most significant costs to the program?"

marketing and management are not the two most significant costs, and the marketing costs will go down over time. In the beginning a lot of marketing is needed.

" their trip stats are suspect. "

No they aren't. Are you accusing CaBi of fraud? That's a pretty serious charge. You better have more to back that up then false evidence.

by David C on Feb 15, 2012 9:42 pm • linkreport

The purpose of public transit, whether bikeshare or bus or metro, should be to provide the greatest transportation value for a given level of public funding (a proxy for value is number of trips). Why would we raise cabi fares when it has better cost recovery than metro or buses (by far). Seems like we should hold cabi fares steady and if anything raise rail/bus fares so they don't eat up so much limited govt funding.

by Falls Church on Feb 15, 2012 10:11 pm • linkreport

Falls Church wrote just what I was thinking. But let me add. Unlike driving, we actually WANT people to over-consume bike share. The system, with ad revenue, will basically break even. At that point we want people to use it as much as possible. The marginal health benefits likely exceed the marginal maintenance expense. [For example we may get 2 cents in health benefits per mile and pay an extra penny in maintenance]. If that's the case, the benefit of over-consuming exceeds the costs. Not to mention added trips probably mean more business and social interaction, etc... Over-consuming of exercise/recreation is a public good.

by David C on Feb 15, 2012 10:44 pm • linkreport

I may be completely wrong but I thought the financing thing with CABI was that since the various DOT's are on the hook for operating cost its up to Alta to pay for the marketing which is why they're separated. I may have this backwards or wrong, I think that's what I read on housing complex.

by Canaan on Feb 15, 2012 11:07 pm • linkreport

To clarify the 1.5 million trips:
Total trips at the end of December were 1,361,074.
Trips in January were 96,950.
41,976 trips in the first half of February brought the total to 1.5 million.
Chris Eatough, BikeArlington Program Manager.

by Chris Eatough on Feb 16, 2012 7:51 am • linkreport

Man I shouldn't do math on the fly...200, not 400, is the right number for 2 round-trips most weeks. Ask me to calculate something complicated and I'm good, but basic arithmetic obviously escapes me, these days. :)

by Ms. D on Feb 17, 2012 1:51 am • linkreport

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