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Posts about Capital Bikeshare

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.

Transit


10 things my internship taught me about transportation in DC

Every year, thousands of up and coming leaders come to DC to intern. Knowing how to get around can be difficult at first, but if you follow this advice, you'll steer clear of lighter pockets and grumpy mornings.


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

In early January, I arrived in DC with two suitcases and a small budget for transportation. Being a full time student and an unpaid intern who lives just a mile from work, I spend most of my time walking.

There are, however, a lot of times when I take Metrorail. Irvine, California, where I'm from, doesn't have a subway system, so using Metro ("Metrorail" is the official name, since there's also Metrobus, but everyone just calls the train system "Metro") has been a new adventure filled with ups and downs.

Now that I've been here for a while, I can tell you ten things about Metro that will help any intern who's new to DC:

1. Understand the map: DC is divided into quadrants that center on the US Capitol—Northeast (NE), Northwest (NW), Southeast (SE) and Southwest (SW). Be sure to orient yourself properly so you don't end up at, say, 10th Street NE when you meant to go to 10th Street NW. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the Metro map. Before your first day of work, mark the route that you plan to take so you don't miss your stop.

2. Prepare for traffic: The Metrorail crowds can be a big hassle. Go towards the ends of the platforms, as commuters tend to group towards the middle.

3. Different time, different price: The students in my internship program who take the Metrorail every day, spend around $40 per week. However, the fares vary by station and during peak times, they're more expensive. On weekdays, these are in effect from 5:30 AM to 9:30 AM, and 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM. On the bright side, the trains will arrive more frequently at this time of day.

4. Consider a Metro pass: If you use the Metro enough, a SelectPass can save you time and money. This calculator helps to determine which pass will save you the most. Even if you plan to walk or use Capital Bikeshare to get to work, there are going to be times when you'll want to use Metro, and for those, it's important to have a SmarTrip card.

5. Register your SmartTrip Card: Don't forget to register your Metro card just in case it is misplaced or stolen. This is especially important if you've loaded a large amount of money on to it.

6. Know to behave on the Metro: A lot of Metro stations have long escalators. If you're standing while riding them, stay to the right to allow room for those who would prefer to walk. Also, Metro doors do not operate like elevator doors, so putting your arm out to keep the door open will not end well.


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Once you're on a Metro car, be sure to move towards the center to make room for others. If you're inside an already packed train, don't underestimate another rider's ability to force their way in too. After being shoved into the armpits of several tall strangers, I've learned to position myself away from corners in order to prepare for the "sardine can" type of morning.

7. Running Late? Metro vs. cab: During my second week of interning, I woke up 10 minutes before work started and figured that taking a cab would be the quickest option. Unfortunately, I was stuck in traffic for twenty minutes. Lesson learned: cabs and ride hailing aren't necessarily the solution when you're running late—they're expensive and can just as easily get stuck in traffic. I've found that most of the time, when you're late, the reality is simply that you're out of luck.

8. The weather can affect your commute: This past February, I experienced my first snow storm. I had often heard jokes that DC residents panic at the mere thought of snow, yet I was still surprised by how cautious the city was about transportation during the blizzard. During this time, the Metro didn't service my area for nearly a week. If you'll be in DC during the winter, frequently check Metro alerts to see if there are any operational changes to the Metrorail.


Photo by Samir Luther on Flickr.

9. Ask your supervisor for a transportation stipend: As an unpaid intern, every penny counts. Since DC has some of the highest fares of transit in the US, I suggest that interns at least ask if their work sites offer a transportation stipend. At my previous internship, I received $150 at the start of every month to cover my estimated transportation costs, which helped significantly. A friend of mine kept receipts of her fare purchases, gave them to her supervisor, and was compensated at the end of each month. Some internships, like those on Capitol Hill, do not offer this option. But it never hurts to ask!

10. Know your options: Capital Bikeshare will let you get some exercise while you commute, but it's also often just as fast as Metro, or even driving. CaBi allows you to rent a bike from over 300 solar powered stations in the DC area. You can also enjoy a view of the city and save a few bucks by riding the busif you regularly do this, definitely buy a pass. The Circulator is another great option, and riding only costs $1! However, this does not service all areas of DC. Last but not least, if you live close to where you need to go, there's one option that almost never fails: walking!

Got any transportation advice for people that are new to DC? Comment below.

Bicycling


The Metro shutdown changed how people use Capital Bikeshare. Here's how.

When Metro shut down on March 16th, it made life tougher on thousands of commuters. But there was a silver lining: the opportunity to see how other parts of our region's transportation network would handle new demand.

Capital Bikeshare data from that day informed a mapping tool and several animations by Mobility Lab's senior tech advisor, Michael Schade, which provide some insight on how the bikeshare system fits within the broader regional network.

The map gives an idea of which bikeshare stations had major jumps in ridership (such as those downtown and in NoMa), and which ones were negatively affected by the lack of Metro riders.


Graph from Mobility Lab.

Looking broadly, the overall bikeshare ridership grew by 21 percent compared to the previous Wednesday, March 9. (It's worth noting, for comparison purposes, that both days had unseasonably warm and sunny weather.) Almost all of this increase came from a more-than-doubling of casual bikeshare trips: registered trips grew by only 1 percent.

One possible explanation for the low increase in registered trips could be the higher likelihood that registered riders own personal bikes. In an effort to make more bikeshare bikes available, those with their own bikes were encouraged to ride those instead. Additionally, Capital Bikeshare made casual trips, normally $8 for 24 hours, free for the day.

While tourists and visitors to the DC area are typically the ones considered as "casual" bikeshare riders, on the day without Metro the category grew to include a massive number of residents trying out the system for the first time.

On a station-by-station scale, 223 (or 63 percent) of all 354 stations saw a jump in traffic on March 19. Trip decreases from certain bikeshare stations could offer a possible insight into where Capital Bikeshare riders typically connect to Metrorail. Some stations near Metro, such as a few in the Golden Triangle area of DC near Farragut West, saw decreases, but the decrease was not uniform or widespread enough to show any particular relation to Metro.

Other factors, such as schools canceling classes or employers allowing telework, would have had a major impact on bikeshare ridership as well.

Given the multitude of factors, and the unique situation of the shutdown, it is difficult to determine some of these exact patterns behind ridership. But the overall jump in casual ridership does make clear: without Metro, many commuters explored a new transportation option through bikeshare.

For more Capital Bikeshare-based data projects, you can check out Mobility Lab's upcoming Transportation Techies meeting on April 28.

Bike counts in the interactive map courtesy of the BikeArlington Counter Dashboard.

This post originally ran on Mobility Lab.

Bicycling


Low-income residents can now buy cheaper CaBi memberships

If you qualify for need-based services in the District, you can now get a year-long Capital Bikeshare membership for $5 rather than the regular $85 fee. DC's Department of Transportation hopes the initiative will encourage more people to use bikeshare and make transportation more accessible for the District's less affluent residents.


DDOT director Leif Dormsjo announcing the new Capital Bikeshare Community Partners Program. Photo by James Huang.

The new Capital Bikeshare Community Partners Program offers qualifying residents significant savings off the regular annual membership fee, as well as a free helmet and introduction to the system.

In addition to the savings, members in the program will also be able to use a bike for 60 minutes instead of the normal 30 minutes before incurring additional ride fees.

"It is critical that those with the most need are able to travel quickly and economically to and from their appointments, jobs, training and classes," said Leif Dormsjo, director of DDOT, in a statement. "By including need-based Capital Bikeshare annual memberships, we are ensuring that all District residents can use this healthy, affordable and efficient means of travel."

The program works through local non-profit and social service organizations, including Back on My Feet, Community of Hope, the DC Center for the LGBT Community, Unity Healthcare and the Whitman Walker Clinic. Clients who qualify for those organizations' services can qualify for the Community Partners Program.

The program is available now to DC residents, and CaBi hopes to expand it to Alexandria, Arlington County, and Montgomery County in the future.

Removing barriers could mean more riders

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) found that paying for an annual membership can be a barrier for lower-income people to using bikeshare systems, in a 2015 report.

The low upfront cost—$5 is less than the cost of three Metrobus trips—will hopefully remove this barrier for low-income residents in DC.

In addition, CaBi's estimates that members saved an average of $710 each in transportation expenses annually in 2014, in its most recent member survey.

NACTO also found that extensive outreach is important to the success of low-income bikeshare membership programs. In 2014, about 18% of the 12,673 members of Boston's Hubway bikeshare system joined through the city's $5 low-income membership program—the highest in the USA—after heavy marketing, according to the report.

A big question for the new program is whether it will expand CaBi's reach to a more diverse group of users. Bikeshare use has grown regularly in recent years, with monthly trips surpassing 360,000 for the first time in 2015, its data shows.

CaBi trips peaked at around 330,000 a month in 2014 and 300,000 in 2013, according to the data.

However, users are "on average, considerably younger, more likely to be male, Caucasian, and slightly less affluent" than commuters in the Washington DC region based on US census data, CaBi's 2014 member survey found.

The new community partners memberships should help shift these demographics. However, more will be need to be done, including marketing the program to those who can benefit from it and expanding CaBi's presence in low-income neighborhoods - there are only 20 docks east of the Anacostia River - to ensure its success.

Bicycling


Here's where Reston and Tysons' CaBi stations will go

Capital Bikeshare is coming to Fairfax County this fall. Reston will get 132 at 15 stations, and Tysons will get 80 bikes at 14 stations.


Reston Bikeshare locations.

The county's Board of Supervisors approved a $1.7 million plan to bring Capital Bikeshare to Fairfax late last year; the county bought bikes, docks, and related equipment after the deal was originally announced. Fairfax plans to have the stations installed and online later this fall.

In some Twitter Q&A earlier on Tuesday, the County noted that there are no current plans to expand the program to Vienna or Huntington "at this time."


Tysons Bikeshare locations. Image from Fairfax County.

Phase one of bringing Bikeshare to Reston is focused on the north side of the city since there's more of a mix of businesses, homes, and shopping areas above the toll road around Reston Town Center.

While shown as one on the above image, the Wiehle-Reston Metro station will have two Bikeshare stands. They'll be approximately a mile away from the next-nearest station, which is down Sunset Hills Road towards Reston Town Center.

Future expansion of the program within Reston will bring bikes to the south side of the Toll Road and "village centers," according to the County's Twitter.

The Bikeshare locations in Tysons will include a stand at all of the Silver Line stations, several at both halves of the Tysons malls, and a few other stations interspersed along other thoroughfares with new housing developments or business establishments. Five streets in Tysons received new bike lanes last year to help make biking in the area easier.

While Fairfax's new stations won't be densely packed in, they should make shorter trips through some areas easier, and likely more enjoyable than by car.

Roads


How was your commute?

Traffic this morning was a little worse than usual, but not horrible. More people were bicycling as well. It seems that having advance notice of the Metro shutdown helped many people adjust their plans.


Photo by Kyle Gradinger on Twitter used with permission.

Or, as Adam Lind put it, "Fear mongering = best form of TDM [Transportation Demand Management]." It's true—remember how Pope Francis' visit didn't cause "traffic apocalypse"?

Not to say that roads were clear like during the pope's visit. Ned Russell reports: "The 14th St Bridge and Mount Vernon Trail had more cyclists, especially inbound. My outbound commute was about the same. However, the GW Parkway northbound was backed up to Alexandria from the bridge."

Mitch Wander: "Traffic on inbound Constitution coming off Roosevelt Bridge is at least three to four times normal at 0630. Yes, I'm on a bicycle."

At 8:30, Gray Kimbrough wrote, "I'm sitting at 8th & Van Buren NW in Takoma (story: I got a flat tire last night picking up my daughter from daycare) with a view of Piney Branch. Traffic is much heavier than usual heading downtown here."

Chris Slatt made a page where you can compare the typical traffic to today's. Here's the traffic at 8:30:

This is nothing compared to January's midweek snowstorm, where poorly-forecasted snow caused massive backups in the evening commute.


Traffic congestion in the evening of January 20. Image by Brendan Casey from Google Maps.

Capital Bikeshare, not surprisingly, is seeing heavy use, with few bikes at neighborhood stations and many downtown. Rebalancing crews are working nonstop to try to move bikes outward. There are also three corrals in the downtown area to ensure riders can drop off bikes.

Does this mean we don't actually need Metro? Some people are asking. But as Canaan Merchant noted, "Traffic in town was a bit heavier than usual but not gridlocked. I've seen worse. But there are very few people here in the office today. For anyone questioning why we "need" Metro after today, the answer is that maybe we don't, except that it could mean a big hit to productivity and greater subsidy for other transit options."


Empty parking lot at Grosvenor Metro. Photo by Svet Neov.

How was your commute?

Bicycling


Can you guess which CaBi stations these are?

Capital Bikeshare is hosting another round of "Where's that Bikeshare?" Can you identify the CaBi stations pictured below?


Images 1 (left) and 2 (right). All images from Capital Bikeshare.


Images 3 (left) and 4 (right).


Image 5.

Here are the rules:

Answers must include both streets in the intersection name (Example: 14st & D St NW) OR the major nearby attraction (Ronald Reagan Building). For DC stations, you must include the quadrant. The order of the streets does not have to be exact (D St. & 14th NW is also acceptable).

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil it for the rest of you. We'll post the answers next week.

We at CaBi are having a drawing for some great Bikeshare prizes. If you comment on this post and are one of the people who gets the most right, we'll send them your email address to enter you in the contest. If you don't want to do that, you can say so in your comment and we'll leave you out. (Your email address will not be visible to anyone else regardless.)

Want to suggest a station for the next quiz? Email a picture and the station name to CaBi at marketing@capitalbikeshare.com and we'll consider it for future editions. Good luck and enjoy!

Bicycling


Two Congressmen want to give bikeshare programs more federal money

Federal law doesn't define bikeshare programs as public transportation, which means they aren't eligible for the sustained funding that most transit is. If a new bill becomes a law, that would change.


Photo by Chris Reed on Flickr.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), both members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, introduced the Bikeshare Transit Act last week. The law would make bikeshare eligible for funds dedicated to public transportation, clearing up confusion that both local communities and the Department of Transportation often face when it comes to keeping bikeshare programs up and running.

There are over 50 bikeshare programs in the US, with our very own Capital Bikeshare being the biggest. While many were started with federal money, funding continued operations has been a challenge. The Bikeshare Transit Act will help pay for everything from bike repairs and keeping rebalancing vans on the road to system expansions and new technology.

In addition to defining bikeshare as public transportation, the bill proposes to make bikeshare an eligible project under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which supports surface transportation efforts that work to improve air quality. Since bikes are powered by people and emit no pollution, it makes sense for bikeshare programs to receive CMAQ funding.

The American Planning Association is one of many organizations that support this bill.

"Bikeshare programs are helping communities large and small create new and needed transportation options while also improving local economies and quality of life," said APA President Carol Rhea, FAICP. "Bikeshare has become a proven tool for building stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient communities. APA and the nation's planners applaud the introduction of the bipartisan Bikeshare Transit Act. This legislation will make sure that federal policies and investments recognize what residents and cities already know: that bikeshare works."

Crossposted at American Planning Association's Policy News for Planners.

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