The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts about Capital Bikeshare

Transit


I don't care what some people say: DC has great transportation options.

SafeTrack is pretty much Exhibit A when it comes to how frustrating the transportation options in the Washington region can sometimes be. But as my recent move to Orlando reminded me, problems like SafeTrack are somewhat of a luxury—you have to have a rail network to even have them. My message to the DC region: it's really not so bad!


X2 Bus. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

In the Orlando region, there's a fixed route bus system and new commuter rail line that provides reliable service for millions in Central Florida. And I just happen to live and work in a more transit-accessible area than I did in DC. But that is uncommon. Wait times between buses and trains are often an hour, and real-time traveler information isn't available throughout the entire system.

I recently spoke to some Greater Greater Washington contributors about my newfound appreciation for what DC does so well, asking if there's anything here that they're particularly thankful for. I really liked what Alex Baca had to say:

Metrobus arrives on time, consistently, and the frequency on the notable crosstown lines (90, X2, S buses, 50s) blows many, many other systems out of the water. I left DC for San Francisco and am now in Cleveland (car-free!). In both cities, it is a struggle to find a bus that arrives when it's scheduled. I know that the switch from NextBus has caused some consternation as far as real-time arrivals, but at least DC's buses arrive when their paper schedules say they will.

I was in New York recently and a friend warned me that "the buses aren't like DC here," so I would have to give myself a 15-minute window for my bus from Prospect Heights to Williamsburg, in case it was early or late. In Cleveland, the bus that stops outside of my apartment (a "high-frequency" line on a major route to downtown) is routinely four (four!) minutes early and only runs every 15 minutes—when I first moved here, I missed the bus several times and waited a whole headway for another, which, of course, was often late.

I left DC in 2014 but am back as often as I can be. I always, always take Metro from National or MARC from BWI, then Metro and Metrobus as needed. Often, I'm lucky to have a bike, but sometimes I don't. I don't want to undercut WMATA's problems with Metro, but even as a hot mess it's a better system than most other cities in America have to offer, and I will say that I was utterly miserable biking for both transportation and recreation in San Francisco, a city that is ostensibly one of the country's most bike-friendly. BART's role as a commuter system is even starker than Metro's. I rarely used it to get around the city in the way that I used Metro, just to get to the airport and the East Bay.

DC's transportation is comparatively incredible across the board. This is a great thing. It's also a depressing indicator of the state of transportation in the US.

In a word, Alex is right.

The Washington region has tons of options, from bikeshare to trails. Wait times between buses aren't bad when you compare them to other cities, and we've got apps that give us real time information. We've also got good wayfinding.


Capital Bikeshare in action. Photo by fromcaliw/love.

Capital Bikeshare adds to its 370 stations monthly, it seems. In just a few years, the system could have nearly 500 stations.


The Metropolitan Branch Trail. Photo by TrailVoice.

Bike commuting is easier with the region's extensive trail network, linking downtown to the suburbs. When Metro closed for a day in March, the MBT experienced a 65% increase in cyclists. That's a testament to how easy it is to bike in the area.


Wayfinding. Photo by Dylan Passmore.

Across the District, blue signs point you towards neighborhoods, Metro stations, and other points of interest. A person new or unfamiliar to an area can find their way to the Smithsonian museums or the zoo pretty easily.

Tell us your thoughts: what have you seen or experienced while traveling or living elsewhere that made you particularly thankful for the region's transportation network?

Transit


We asked and you answered. Here's a summary of the 1,380 ideas you submitted to MetroGreater.

Between June 22 and July 15, people across the region and beyond shared nearly 1,400 ideas for small, quick fixes to make riding Metro better. Below is a summary of the most popular ideas and a rundown of where they came from. We'll announce the finalists on August 8!


Photo by Beau Finley on Flickr.

Most ideas focused on Metrorail

Ideas for Metrorail topped the list with 1,042 suggestions. These ranged from small ideas like more "train ends here" stickers on platforms to huge investments in infrastructure like building a new "beltway" rail line that loops around the perimeter of the city.

Next, were 176 ideas related to multiple modes of transportation, such as improvements to transfers between bus and rail or integration with non-Metro modes like Capital Bikeshare.

More than 80 ideas focused on bus service, ranging from specific route recommendations to suggestions for making ingress and egress smoother to speed up service.

There was only one entry that specifically addressed MetroAccess. The idea: use technology similar to uberPOOL so MetroAccess can provide more efficient service by picking up people traveling in the same direction. However, there were several ideas that proposed small changes to Metrorail to make it more accessible to riders with disabilities.

Lastly, there was one idea for enhancing the streetcar: Megan recommended removing parking and replacing it with a bike lane along the streetcar route on H Street. Got that, DDOT?

Top 10 categories

There were A LOT of similar ideas for improving Metro. More than half of all ideas submitted fell into these ten categories.

Where did the ideas come from?

1,061 people proposed small changes to make Metrorail, Metrobus, MetroAccess and the WMATA organization better through MetroGreater.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of people who submitted ideas (97%) live in the region. Regional participation was quite evenly distributed across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, with roughly one third of all submitted ideas coming from each.

Check out the heat map below to see which places across the region generated the most ideas. This map was created using the zip codes people entered when submitting their idea.

There were also 42 ideas from people outside the region from places like California, New York, and North and South Carolina. One idea, from Rachel, came all the way from Tokyo. Tyrion Lannister also snuck in an idea in from Meereen on the continent of Essos. Well played, sir.

What's next?

This week, WMATA will review de-duplicated ideas and eliminate those that can't be implemented in under six months for less than $100,000. We hope they'll be able to give us insights into why some ideas, which seem simple and easy to carry out, actually fall outside the scope of these criteria. We'll share these in subsequent posts.

Once we have a list of feasible ideas, a jury of transportation leaders from across the region will meet to identify up to 10 finalist ideas. Starting on August 9, each finalist idea will be featured on the blog and you will be able to vote on your favorite.

The finalist idea with the most votes when voting ends on August 19th is the winner. The winner will not only have their idea implemented by WMATA, they will walk away with some great prizes.

Although the submission period has ended, you can still comment on ideas at metrogreater.org.

Bicycling


A new bikeshare station could be a side benefit to this housing redevelopment

Plans to redevelop Park Morton, a public housing development in Park View just south of Petworth, are taking shape. Aside from adding housing options to the area for both low and middle-income residents, the project could be a chance to expand Capital Bikeshare in a place where demand for the service often outpaces supply.


An empty Capital Bikeshare station at Georgia and Columbia NW. Image from Google Maps.

The existing Park Morton housing site is centrally located in Park View, to the east of Georgia Avenue on Morton Street. The site has a total of 12 three-story walkup apartment buildings for a total of 174 public housing units. The redevelopment plan is to replaces the current structures with approximately 456 units of mixed income housing spread across both the Park Morton site and the former Bruce Monroe School site at Georgia Avenue and Columbia Road.

To accomplish this, both sites will be developed through the Planned Unit Development (PUD) process, which permits zoning flexibility—usually including taller buildings—if the project includes benefits for the surrounding community. One benefit this project will include are two new parks—one on Columbia Road and one on Morton Street (see the map below for locations).


More CaBi stations could be another benefit included in the PUD. At the existing stations, at Georgia Avenue and Columbia Road and Georgia and New Hampshire Avenue, there's often a shortage of bikes after the morning rush, and stations don't always get replenished in the evenings.

A review of this CaBi crowdsourcing map below shows that residents feel that both of these stations need to be larger because they're often out of bikes:


Capital Bikeshare's map of stations in the area, with comments from users.

"Park View needs more stations!," says voicevote, a commenter on the map. "The one at Georgia and NH is always empty

Furthermore, there has been a significant push for a new station in the area, near Georgia Avenue and Park Road. However, today there is no space that can accommodate a new station at that location

"This area needs a station!," says heckalopter, another commenter. "It's a long walk to the other stations, which are usually empty by very early in the morning. Many residents in this area are using the too-few stations further away."

A review of available bike availability at Bikeshare stations supports comments on the crowdsourcing map. In reviewing the Bikeshare station map shortly after noon on Monday, June 20, many of the stations in the area had fewer that two bikes, and many had no available bikes.

The significant exception here is the station at the hospital center, which is a commuter destination rather than a point of departure.


Image from Capital Bikeshare.

Because the Park Morton development effort includes new dedicated open spaces, new sidewalks, new streets, and other improvements as part of its master plan, it creates an opportunity to enlarge the Bikeshare station on Columbia Road and establish a new station on Morton Street as part of that plan. These stations ideally would be located near the new parks and could be established with minimal impact to either the design or overall budget.

Bicycling


Capital Bikeshare members ride here, bike lanes or not

Over half of the miles that Capital Bikeshare members ride are on streets without any sort of bike lanes. This map shows you which of those streets are the most popular:


Heat map of where Cabi members ride when there aren't bike lanes. Image from Mobility Lab.

Jon Wergin, of Arlington's Mobility Lab, put together the map after checking out data from GPS trackers on a number of CaBi Bikes, which showed what specific routes riders actually took between taking and returning a bike.

Wergin then separated data from riders who were regular CaBi members and those who were casual, less frequent users. Wergin's map focuses on the regular users, as the more casual ones overwhelmingly stuck to off-road paths close to the Mall and Monuments.

Only about 10% of DC's roadways have some sort of cycling infrastructure, but those routes still got about 1/3 of the bike traffic from regular CaBi members. Even more frequently, though, regular riders took the most direct route possible, which is why the long state avenues seem to have some of heaviest usage. Thick bands dominate Massachussetts, Florida, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania Avenues. M Street in Georgetown, K street near NOMA, and 14th in Columbia Heights also see heavy usage.

Some of these streets are due for new bike infrastructure in the next few years. Louisiana Avenue is slated for protected lanes that would connect existing protected lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue and First Street NE, and new bike lanes might also go in west of the White House.

But plans for Massachussetts and Florida Avenues are more vague. This map shows that DDOT may want to think about more specific plans for these and other roads since they're proving popular with cyclists, even without bike lanes.

What do you notice about the map? Tell us in the comments.

Bicycling


$2 will now buy you a Capital Bikeshare trip

Starting Saturday, Capital Bikeshare will allow users to buy a single trip for $2. The move will help a lot of people get around during SafeTrack in the short term, and it's likely to encourage more riders well after Metro service is back to normal.


Photo by DDOT DC on Flickr.

Until now, Bikeshare has only been available on a membership basis. You "join" the system for a set period of time (as short as 24 hours or as long as a year), and get unlimited access to bikes during your membership. Provided all of your rides are under 30 minutes, you'll never pay more than the cost of your membership.

If you're a year-round daily Bikeshare commuter, this works great. If you're a tourist who wants to take multiple trips while sightseeing for a day on the Mall, this works great. But if you're someone who's just been dumped off a broken train at Cleveland Park and want to make it downtown for a meeting, and you're not a CaBi member, you're unlikely to spend $8 (the cost of a 24 hour membership) to take just one ride.

The $2 fare, however, which is only slightly more than the cost of a bus ride, makes Bikeshare a much more compelling option.

Bikeshare does have a daily key option, where $10 gets you both a key and a 24-hour pass. After you use that first pass, 24-hour passes cost another $7 each time you use the key (which you pay for with your credit card, which CaBi files after that initial purchase).

That $7 charge, though, is pretty steep. The new single-trip fare makes much more sense if you're using Bikeshare for just one ride or two.

Ideally, Bikeshare will one day find a way to incorporate single-fare pricing into the Day Key option and users could load money onto their keys, much in the same way they might with their SmarTrip cards.

Bikeshare isn't always the answer for every commuter. But more pricing options are better than fewer and during SafeTrack, when regional Metro woes will prove disruptive for so many people. Bikeshare's willingness to make its fleet available to as many potential riders as possible is laudable.

Bikeshare has indicated that this is a pilot program, but incorporating the single-trip fare as a permanent option has the potential to woo even more riders to the system.

Transit


DC's plans for SafeTrack are underwhelming

DC's plans for helping people travel during SafeTrack include expanded restrictions on on-street parking during rush hour, more taxi stands and places to meet up and carpool, and more officers to help control traffic. There's currently nothing about expanded bus or HOV lanes.

DC mayor Muriel Bowser, WMATA Chief Operating Officer (and former interim General Manager) Jack Requa, and District Department of Transportation director Leif Dormsjo laid out these changes at a press conference on Thursday.

In May, we wrote about how important it would be for transportation departments to consider bus and HOV lanes along major transportation corridors. It could be tough to pull off, but getting through SafeTrack isn't going to be easy, and asking people to carpool won't be enough.

Let's hope that with maintenance surges only beginning now, leaders will find more solutions than those currently on the table.

Details on plans for Arlington and Fairfax should come out of a 1 pm press conference today.

Bicycling


Falls Church hopes to add Capital Bikeshare in 2017

The City of Falls Church hopes to join Capital Bikeshare in 2017. But first, it needs the money to make it happen.


Photo by DDOT DC on Flickr.

The City of Falls Church has applied to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for $2 million that would go toward buying and installing up to 16 stations.

NVTA is the infrastructure agency that gives Northern Virginia the ability to raise and spend its own money on what it thinks is most important. Next Thursday (June 9), NVTA will consider the Bikeshare funding along with a slate of other FY2017 program requests.

A 13-dock station, the expected size in Falls Church, has an up-front cost of approximately $50,000. Falls Church expects to supplement its NVTA grant with developer contributions, Falls Church principal planner Paul Stoddard said in an email to the Falls Church News-Press.

Falls Church has also applied to a different agency, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), for $850,000 to fully fund the first three years of operating expenses. NVTC is responsible for planning and funding Northern Virginia transit. It will consider Falls Church's request tonight.

Both agencies have shown they can be be swayed by public comment in favor of or against projects. The City of Falls Church has produced a flyer informing residents how to weigh in with the NVTA and NVTC.

Bikeshare would be part of Falls Church's expanding bicycle network

Last July, Falls Church adopted a new Bicycle Master Plan, which identified a city-wide network of existing bike and future bike routes, established a "Request a Rack" bicycle parking program, and specified that Falls Church wants to join Capital Bikeshare.

Now, city staff are working to implement the plan. So far, the city has gotten the Request a Rack program up and running, and is refreshing routes on Park Avenue, South Maple Avenue-Little Falls Street, and Cherry Street-E. Columbia Street.


Falls Church bike route refreshes. Map from the City of Falls Church.

As part of its Bicycle Master Plan, Falls Church has also identified three priority corridors for the initial Bikeshare network: the Broad Street corridor, Washington Street corridor, and W&OD Trail. Bikeshare would provide an easy and cheap way to get to the East Falls Church and West Falls Church Metro stations.


Priority Bikeshare corridor. Map from the City of Falls Church.

The plan identifies a fourth corridor, Roosevelt Boulevard, as a priority for future expansion, providing a last-mile connection to Metro for thousands of residents.

Today, nearby Arlington has 84 stations, and Fairfax will roll out its first Bikeshare stations later this year.

If you live in Northern Virginia, you can tell NVTA and NVTC you support Bikeshare funding for Falls Church via this Coalition for Smarter Growth action.

Bicycling


There's bikeshare in College Park now, but it isn't Capital Bikeshare. Here's why.

College Park just debuted its own bike share system, called mBike instead of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi). Some say not going with CaBi was a mistake, but it looks like College Park made a rational decision.


One of College Park's new mBike stations. Image from the University of Maryland.

The mBike system has 14 stations and 125 bikes, including a few two-seater tricycles. The docking stations require a smartphone app to unlock a bike, and the bikes come with their own locks so you can stop and lock up somewhere other than a dock.

Separate systems can make it harder to travel between neighboring places

mBike's provider company is called Zagster, which is different from Motivate, the company that runs CaBi. Some have said that this will be a problem because the mBike network is simply much smaller than the CaBi one, which has over 300 stations.

Another concern is that separate systems in places so close to one another will make each system less useful to potential riders. If someone routinely goes from one town to another and would consider using bikeshare to do it, they don't have that opportunity.

To illustrate this point, imagine if Fairfax or Arlington decided to introduce its own fare card for its bus systems and stopped accepting Metro SmarTrip cards. Many people who primarily use Metrobus or rail would likely hold on to their cards, and the hassle of getting a new card for a specific location might discourage them from using the bus to go there, or from going there in the first place.

Separate systems can lead to artificial barriers between neighboring places. For example, in New Jersey, the cities of Jersey City and Hoboken are currently in a bitter conflict stemming from a decision to not go in together on a bike share system. Jersey City decided to join Citibike, which is the system that New York City uses, while Hoboken went with Hudson Bike Share.

It's gotten ugly, as both cities have taken steps to try and prevent users of one system from riding in the "territory" of the other—there are even laws that say Hudson Bike Share bikes can't be parked near PATH Railway stations in Jersey City.

Locally, Car2Go seems to have recently recognized the pitfalls of walling systems off from one another. It used to be that users couldn't drive the vehicles from Arlington into DC and vice-versa because of various parking rules and the fact that each government had to negotiate separately with the company. Car2Go lifted that rule last week.

College Park had logical reasons to go with its own system

There are, however, reasons to think mBike was the right move. For starters, the system's biggest purpose is to serve people needing to get around the University of Maryland—there likely wouldn't have been a lot of people riding bikeshare between College Park and stations inside DC or other areas.

It's also possible that College Park really didn't even have a choice. When the city began planning for a bikeshare system in 2013, it set out to use Alta (now Motivate), the company that runs Capital Bikeshare. But when one of Alta's main bike suppliers went into bankruptcy, production halted on all of the company's systems, including CaBi. That left College Park in a lurch.

After Alta reorganized and emerged from the supplier squeeze as Motivate, the price for new bikes and docking stations jumped. College Park put its plans to use CaBi on hold, and eventually canceled them. Instead, the city asked other bikeshare companies to enter bids, which eventually led to Zagster.

In the end, Zagster's bid turned out to be cheaper on a bike by bike basis, which allowed College Park to purchase more bikes and docking stations than it had been planning to do with CaBi. Even though mBike is a small system, there are more bikes available in the immediate College Park area than there would have been with CaBi.

Switching between mbike and CaBi could one day be pretty easy

For now, mBike has the summer to get itself established before the next school year. If the system is successful, College Park may choose to expand it around town on the Maryland campus.

Meanwhile, the rest of Prince George's County and its cities are still studying their own bikeshare options. The results of that study may still lead to the county going with CaBi in places like National Harbor or other communities along the Green Line. In places like Hyattsville, which is in between College Park and areas in DC that have CaBi, the dynamics will be a bit more complicated.

Hopefully, the outcome will be that the two systems can co-exist. Options for that might include passes that are interchangeable, docks right next to one another, or something else.

In the interim, both College Park and the governments that work with CaBi should work together to make things easier for members so no one feels like they have to choose one membership over the other. Reciprocity could be granted for members or a discount on certain types of membership. This has also been an idea floated for current CaBi members who may travel to other cities with bikeshare systems operated by Motivate.

And even CaBi members and fans may want to pay close attention to Zagster. The bikes themselves are a little different and maybe future CaBi models could incorporate some design features like a bigger basket. Accessibilty advocates and people interested in different models of cycling may also want to pay attention to how the tricycles are used. If those models prove popular it may behoove CaBi to improve its own accessibility and even possibly introduce its own different types of bikes.

Right now only time will tell if College Park ultimately made the right decision. But what we do know suggests that the city wasn't totally crazy to not wait around for CaBi.

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