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Capital Bikeshare introduces new 5-day pass

Capital Bikeshare has quietly added a new rental option: a 5-day pass, priced at $15. A formal launch is expected in connection with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which begins March 26.

Photo by alykat on Flickr.

The pass appears in Capital Bikeshare's rental agreement (PDF), which it recently updated, and DDOT spokesman John Lisle confirmed that the 5-day pass is indeed now available to users.

Currently, Capital Bikeshare advertises only three pricing options: a 24-hour pass for $5, a 30-day membership for $25, and an annual membership for $75. The addition of this new pass is a great way to make Capital Bikeshare appealing to more visitors at the start of DC's tourist season.

Other bike-sharing systems, including Paris' Vélib', currently offer 5-day passes (PDF) in addition to 24-hour and annual memberships. Vélib's pricing scheme makes sense without the 30-day option. Tourists are not often in town for a month, and people who live here would likely find the annual membership to be a greater value, though having an extra membership level available certainly isn't a negative.

Even though the launch of the 5-day pass is intended to coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the closest Capital Bikeshare users can get to the Tidal Basin is the rental station at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW. This is due to the National Park Service's exclusive vendor arrangement with Guest Services, Inc. (GSI), which currently prohibits Capital Bikeshare stations on NPS property.

This new membership option, aimed at casual and visiting riders, is necessary for Capital Bikeshare to continue its growth and momentum. Letting residents and visitors rent and drop off bikes on NPS property would be the best way to encourage more people to give Capital Bikeshare a try, but the new 5-day pass is a welcome start.

A native Washingtonian, Adam currently resides in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland where he studied political science and he has a keen interest in local governance. 


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That exclusive vendor arrangement is such a shame. I walked all the way down the Mall, around the Tidal Basin, and back again yesterday, and there were hordes of people out on CaBi. This, when the weather was still a chilly 60 degrees and there were no blooms out yet. There were also a number of families on Bike and Roll rental cycles - I wonder how that competition is shaking out between the two?

Obviously, CaBi already seems super popular, but I can only imagine how much more business they would do - especially with tourists - if NPS let them have several prominent stations right on or near the Mall.

by Bryant Turnage on Mar 14, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

CaBi is going to do a mobile station on the Tidal Basin (well, at the Dept of Agriculture) during the Cherry Blossom festival, but NPS really does need to get it together.

by jmg on Mar 14, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport


The bike station at 12th and Independence is at the Department of Agriculture... so were they intending to put another rake on the other side of the building? Even still, not quite the same as being able to have a station near the Jefferson Memorials so people could swing around the Tidal Basin.

by Adam L on Mar 14, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

People spoke out against expanding CaBi to Alexandria this past Saturday at the Alexandria City Council public meeting.

by Kevin Beekman on Mar 14, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

@Kevin Beekman: Who did, how many were there, and what were their reasons? Curious if @froggie has anything to add on this, as well.

by Stephen Miller on Mar 14, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

The 5-day pass is a nice addition, but the lack of stations on NPS land is the biggest problem to fix.

+1 to Bryan Turnage. There is going to be a huge excess demand for CaBi as the weather improves. It's already building.

The National Capital Service Area (Mall + surrounding parkland) has too little parking, too little transit, and thanks to the Evil Pact between the National Park Service and Guest Services, Inc., too little bicycle infrastructure.

by Ward 1 Guy on Mar 14, 2011 4:07 pm • linkreport

What arguments were given at the Alex city council meeting against expanding CaBi?

by ksu499 on Mar 14, 2011 4:20 pm • linkreport

This pricing option makes good sense for CaBi, but it's going to put the tourist bike rental companies out of business - or at least make them significantly lower their prices. Why would anyone pay $25/day when they could pay $15 for 5 days.

by Dan on Mar 14, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

CaBi only lets you get a bike for 30 minutes, though. It's for point to point travel. If you want to rent bikes for a long ride along a trail, CaBi doesn't meet your needs.

by David Alpert on Mar 14, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

"This pricing option makes good sense for CaBi, but it's going to put the tourist bike rental companies out of business - or at least make them significantly lower their prices. "

Maybe, maybe not: that $25 only buys you a subscription. Trips over 30 minutes still incur additional fees that rise with duration. Though some users might try to game the system by swapping out bikes at a station, the CaBi fees seem to have been set to deliberately price it out of the all-day market.

by cabi addict on Mar 14, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

The 5 day pass is a good thing.

There is no way CaBi can -- or should -- try to accommodate the demand that something like cherry blossom can bring. How many bikes can they bring down -- 10, 20? Maybe 50?

by charlie on Mar 14, 2011 5:11 pm • linkreport

In addition to the general point-to-point nature of CaBi, the current lack of stations on the Mall means that it's still not a good comparison to a 4-hour or full-day rental from Bike & Roll or the like.

And until/even if CaBi is eventually able to place stations on the Mall, there are still a significant number of tourists who will be much more comfortable with the straightforward nature of a timed rental. (Just like there are tourists who have varying levels of comfort with metrobuses, metrorail, cabs, etc.).

It will likely have some impact on the bike rental companies, but there is also a secondary benefit, in that the more visible bikes are in DC, the larger the bike rental market (either for traditional or CaBi models) will grow.

by Jacques on Mar 14, 2011 5:30 pm • linkreport

One or two more stations near Iwo Jima and along Mt Vernon on the Va side also on NPS land would be great as long as we are asking..

Another question is will Arlington County allow CaBi to be placed anywhere along their extensive trail system? Who owns the Virginia trail system? CaBi is expanding slowly this spring into the R/B corridor and a couple key station along the WoD/4 mile run paths and they would tie in nicely with Shirlington and Crystal City. You could get into DC in under 30 minutes no problem. I was thinking Alexandria as well but why did they not want the stations?

by Chris R on Mar 14, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

@stephen I generally don't go to the City Council meetings, and there hasn't been ANY indication of opposition to CaBi expansion at the Transportation Commission meetings. I'll have to inquire.

by Froggie on Mar 14, 2011 7:24 pm • linkreport

There is no way CaBi can -- or should -- try to accommodate the demand that something like cherry blossom can bring.

I disagree. This is precisely what I'd expect out of a modern and flexible bike-sharing system. We should be doing everything possible to enable people to come down and enjoy the cherry blossoms while leaving the car at home.

by JeffB on Mar 14, 2011 8:24 pm • linkreport

@JeffB: as a general rule, I would wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence. However, CaBi's business model, as evidenced by their pricing structure, doesn't lend itself well to leisurly strolling amongst the blossoms for a couple hours. The only way I see CaBi being of benefit here is to quickly get people from Metro to the blossoms/events/etc etc that are part of the festival, as long as there's an empty CaBi dock near the destination. Then getting them back to metro afterwards.

by Froggie on Mar 14, 2011 8:50 pm • linkreport

GGW and WashCycle reported that was that there was going to be a CaBi corral at the Tidal Basin. I think this means they can handle a large number of bikes dropped off, but I may have misunderstood.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 14, 2011 9:21 pm • linkreport

Yes it is CaBi's ability to setup a manned coral that allows them to service events such as this. I believe one simply hands off your bike to the station attendant and he checks you in using a hand scanner.

This works well for members. I don't know how it works for daily users who use pin codes.

by JeffB on Mar 14, 2011 9:50 pm • linkreport

@JeffB; sorry, I don't buy it.

A "coral" doesn't' sound more efficient than docking. It might have the advantage of not being limited to a docking station and could expand out.

To what -- say 100 bikes? at 30 minutes a pop, that is a grand total of 2400 people a day. For crowds of 50,000 a day?

Having more bikes down there is not a bad thing. I've said on washcycle that a bike-only day (or no car day) might be interesting. However, it isn't cabi's place. Being there has some PR value, and I get that, but it doesn't fit in with the overall business plan.

by charlie on Mar 14, 2011 10:14 pm • linkreport

charlie: I think you might be misunderstanding the purpose of the corral and Capital Bikeshare.

Bike sharing is not for taking a bike out and riding around and returning it, unlike a bike rental like the NPS concession.

Bike sharing is for traveling quickly between one bikeshare station and the next. The 30 minute limit is not because they expect you to use a bike for 30 minutes; often, it's just 5 minutes.

The purpose of this bike corral is to get people to and from the Mall quickly. Someone can take Metro to Foggy Bottom, or Gallery Place, or L'Enfant Plaza, and pick up a bike there.

They ride less than 5 minutes to the Tidal Basin. They drop off the bike. They then go see the cherry blossoms.

Meanwhile, someone else who's done seeing the cherry blossoms picks up the bike, rides it to one of the Metro stations, and drops it off. There, another person can pick it up and take it to the cherry blossoms.

Say they mainly come from the 20 stations nearest the Mall, and each has about 20 bikes (some more, some less). That's 400 bikes. Each one can take someone to or from the Tidal Basin in 5 minutes, and 5 minutes back, so they could be making up to 48 round trips per bike per day, or 20,000 total round trips.

They won't really be busy all that time, but they could serve a significant portion of the people. Even if they only transport 5,000 people, that's 10% of the people going to and from the festival on CaBi, which is huge.

Even your 2,400 people a day is 5% of the people, which is still a whole lot.

by David Alpert on Mar 14, 2011 10:33 pm • linkreport

I don't know about CaBi's business plan, but this temporary corral idea sounds great, especially if you can check bikes out of it too. They could tack on a surcharge to use such corrals during special events to pay for the cost of staffing it and to generate extra revenue for the system. I would pay extra for this. I don't know how they can generate enough revenue to be sustainable under the current model. As a CaBi user it has always seemed too good to be true.

by Ward 1 Guy on Mar 14, 2011 10:33 pm • linkreport

@dave alpert; I'm quite familar with the CabI model, thanks.

You idea that it might be 20,000 round trips is a bit optimistic given, well, Cabi has been a huge success and has about 5000 members right now. Each member is going to do that trip four times? Or are they projecting a huge number of day members?

And the idea of corral is something that hasn't been tested. What are you going to use --scanners? people? day passes?

Moving 2500 to 5000 people would be nice, but I strongly suspect a few more circulator buses would do so far better.

Let's not get enamored of biksharing as a hold-all solution.

by charlie on Mar 14, 2011 10:45 pm • linkreport


Or are they projecting a huge number of day members?

They are expecting a lot of day members.

And the idea of corral is something that hasn't been tested. What are you going to use --scanners? people? day passes?

Not true. It's been tested, just not here. I think they've done it in Montreal several times. They use hand held scanners run by an employee or two.

CaBi is being paid by goDCgo to run this service, so it's sort of a moneymaker right out of the gate. Any day membership funds are just gravy. I seem to recall their busiest day at one point (since surpassed) was the Rally for Sanity, and they didn't even have the corral then. This should crush those numbers.

by David C on Mar 14, 2011 11:46 pm • linkreport

As the Marketing Director for Bike and Roll Washington DC, it¡¦s interesting to see this conversation. ƒº

@David Alpert ¡V yes exactly. CaBi is intended for short trips and not really for all day sightseeing expeditions. Capital Bikeshare even calls this out on their website and provides a link to our website as well as other rental shops. From ¡§If you would like to take a bike for an extended period of time, we recommend that you rent a bike from a local bike rental location.¡¨

Bikeshare and bike rental (and tour) companies serve very different purposes; there is a real need for education as people tend misunderstand the pricing structure as well as the true purpose of bikeshare as an integrated part of our transportation. While Cabi makes it easy for people to get from point A to point B; Bike and Roll offers a wide variety of equipment for all ages (ie families with children to dedicated cyclists desiring a high end road bike); and provides renters with locks so that they may ¡§museum hop¡¨ or take a leisurely ride to Alexandria without having to keep an eye on the time or find a kiosk to which to return while they lunch or visit an exhibit.

@Dan as @cabi addict points out, the $15 is only for the 5-day subscription and does not include additional usage fees. Bike and Roll offers a 5-day extended rental of our 2011 Trek 7300 28 speed comfort hybrids rent is $91 and includes a helmet, u-lock, rack with bungee, water bottle cage, handlebar bar, flat kit and city map. ($65 for kids bikes as well or Trek beach cruisers)

@Jaques ¡V you nailed it! we believe that the increase on people on bikes in DC as a result of bikeshare will heighten awareness and in fact increase interest for locals and tourists alike.

We love that the bikeshare program is being well utilized but we want tourists and locals alike to have full understanding of the different benefits we both offer ¡V an on-going mission indeed!

by Catharine Pear on Mar 17, 2011 9:30 am • linkreport

I am an owner of BicycleSPACE. We are all for CaBi - we are a founding member and give discounts on helmets and gloves. I used bikeshare bikes myself twice in the last week when I didn't have a lock with me for my own bike. Repair customers routinely drop off their bikes and take CaBi home as we have two stations within a block. And finally, the more bicycles on the street the greater the awareness by auto drivers, and the safer the streets become for all.

Plus the guys who run the system in DC are all very talented ex-colleagues and do a great job with it.

by Erik Kugler on Mar 17, 2011 9:49 am • linkreport

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