Arlington, DC announce 1,100-bike regional bike sharing
A new bike sharing system based on Montreal's Bixi will have 1,100 bikes spanning 100 stations in DC and 14 in Arlington, replacing DC's existing SmartBike system, leaders announced this morning,
This expansion has been widely rumored for months, since Cyberpresse reported a deal was in the works. U.S. company Alta Bicycle Share will actually operate the system and employ the staff. The system should launch in the fall.
Clear Channel created the original SmartBike system as part of a contract to run advertising on DC bus shelters, but that relationship ran into trouble because Clear Channel was not interested in an arrangement where local governments would pay directly for system expansions. They were only running it to grow their core business of outdoor advertising.
The new system will allow a wider range of membership opportunities. Annual memberships will cost $80, double the current SmartBike rate of $40, though for a much better service. People can also purchase monthly memberships for $30 or daily ones for $5. All memberships allow unlimited bike rentals, free for the first 30 minutes with usage fees (levels not yet specified) after 30 minutes.
The exact locations haven't been released yet, but Arlington is concentrating theirs in the Pentagon City/Crystal City/Potomac Yard area (the Blue and Yellow Line corridor). The Crystal City BID helped pay for this portion.
Focusing on one area will also allow for a sufficient density of stations to maximize ridership. Bike sharing is best for short trips rather than very long ones, especially since the bikes are designed for comfortable shorter rides rather than longer, higher-speed ones. Arlington hopes to next add the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
Hopefully the Park Service will allow a number of bike stations on the Mall. With poor transportation around much of the Mall, bike sharing could be a perfect way to help many people bridge the gaps if there could be stations at most major attractions (so they can return the bikes quickly upon reaching a desired memorial).
Mall stations are also close to Arlington, and a connected bike share system could let someone ride, for example, from Crystal City to Arlington Cemetery, drop off the bike, see the cemetery, pick up another bike to go to the FDR memorial, drop the bike off, get another to go to downtown DC, and so on.
Last year, we made a map together of potential locations for the new bike sharing.
The system won't be called SmartBike, which is a Clear Channel brand name. DC and Arlington have created a survey to help select among names including WeCycle, UCycle, Capital Bixi, ZoomBike, Velo2Go, Bike Around, Bikington, and more.
The stations cost about $35,000 for a small station (7 bikes and 11 docking spaces), up to $52,000 for a large 13-bike, 19-dock station. The operating cost will be $155 per bike not counting memberships; the membership revenue DC and Arlington get will go to offset each jurisdiction's contribution to operating costs.
It's great that jurisdictions were able to cooperate to create this regional system. Arlington has always been a national leader in Smart Growth and sustainable practices, and County Board members Jay Fisette and Chris Zimmerman provided strong leadership for this project. DDOT under Gabe Klein is quickly implementing some of the most cutting-edge transportation ideas. Together, the system can be better than either's alone.
When Arlington was first exploring bike sharing over a year ago, I worried about the proliferation of incompatible bike sharing systems. In the case of bike sharing, the whole is definitely greater than the parts. With this system, run by companies interested in expanding it rather than just getting ad revenue, it should be able to grow to more jurisdictions in the region, and perhaps local universities or other organizations (USDOT?) can sponsor their own stations.
A TIGER grant could boost this system from a nice start to a real showcase of what bike sharing can do for a metropolitan area. 114 stations is fantastic, but if we wanted to match Paris's Vélib's density of bike sharing, DC and Arlington should have 5,400 bikes. The original TIGER application asked for 2,250 bikes at 225 stations in DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, Hyattsville, and National Harbor, in addition to the 1,000 the District is already funding and announced today.
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