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Capital Bikeshare in High Demand
Capital Bikeshare might have to add a new fleet of bicycles to its program after its popularity with LivingSocial Deals. Photo by DDOT DC.

Capital Bikeshare might have to add a new fleet of bicycles to its program after its popularity with LivingSocial Deals. Photo by DDOT DC.

LivingSocial, an international company advertising group purchase offers, presented a deal last Friday for memberships to Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, a regional bike-sharing initiative. The deal was a choice between a one-month membership for $12, or a $37 annual membership to access Capital Bikeshare’s 1,100 bicycles around the capital—a 51 percent savings off the original membership price. Although the deal is no longer available, there have already been 8,132 memberships purchased through the website, which makes us wonder if Capital Bikeshare’s fleet of bikes will be enough to supply this high-demand service. It’s also an interesting experiment in increasing ridership on public and non-motorized transportation.

We are excited to see the interest for bike-share here in the capital. Hopefully, bike-sharing’s high demand in the capital will be as contagious elsewhere in the world.

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  • cabi addict

    Balancing supply and demand is quite a challenge for CaBi. Like you I use it daily and though it was great over the winter have similarly found that with the coming of spring it is getting increasingly difficult to find a bike or dock when needed.

    It all happens on the margin: each station without a bike is a trip that can’t start (or without a dock is one that can’t end) representing a service failure for the next subscriber who comes along.

    Since system status is available as an XML feed I went ahead and put together a simple page showing bike and dock depletion updated hourly throughout the current day, as well as the previous day’s performance. If nothing else they can help subscribers and other stakeholders assess how the operator deals with the situation.

    In a way it’s a good problem to have but I do hope they can find a way to scale the system up to a level where it can satisfy this level of demand.

  • John – I second your call for someone to be on-site to manage the overflow of bikes. I also suggested, through a similar email, that CaBi purchase parking spots for their vans in key locations so they can relieve stations that typically fill up during the morning commute. There are dozens of garages near 18 & M and 19 & L, two hot-spot Dupont work locations, that are ALWAYS full by 8:50 am. They would have easier access to these spots, and could not blame rush hour traffic, if they are ready with vans in the vicinity. With their simple-enough system of adding racks, I should think Dupont and Metro Center would be prime areas to put in a few as soon as possible.

    Hopefully you don’t risk your life again when trying to find a spot!

    All the best,

  • John Smith

    Dear Itir,

    Thanks for this blogpiece about Capital Bikeshare. I used to be a VERY happy member. Not for the last 2 months. After several complaints by phone, this is what I sent them today (just a few minutes ago, actually):

    If you want to talk, let me know. No, my name is not John Smith.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    Date: Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 10:19 AM
    Subject: Please Respond
    To: customerservice

    To whom it may concern,

    I was one of your first customers in DC last fall, and converted from SmartBike – I love the concept and gained a lot from it.

    But, this morning I was almost killed while biking from station to station looking for a place to dock my bike. It’s not all your fault. But I was very stressed out about wasting that time again — for the 10th time in the last month (you have asked me to stash my bike at my office and I have done so a few times — but this is not really allowed and is not an acceptable situation). That stress sapped a lot of my concentration and I was not as focused on other cars as I would have been. It is the other car’s fault for driving too close to me. But, if I had not been so distracted by my hunt for a dock, I would have been safe. Instead, only luck saved me – this time.

    Again I am a big fan of your idea. And I understand the challenge you face at Rush Hour (esp in the morning).

    But I have been asking you for the last 2 months to either expand your docks in Metro Center…
    OR at least pay someone $10/hour for just 2 hours a day to accept bikes at key stations during Rush Hours (perhaps with an iPad to take down our member numbers).

    And I know you have opened new stations and are opening at least one more.

    BUT, the problem hasn’t yet been solved — I used to be able to park — and now I waste 5-10 minutes daily — and worse, the stress makes me less safe on the road.

    I have a busy workday and need to be able to plan my commute — I used to be able to with Capital Bikeshare. I no longer am able to and that’s a problem.

    BUT WHAT BOTHERS ME MOST — is that you have intentionally chosen to rapidly expand your membership BEFORE you have solved the shortage problem. Thousands of new members through your recent discount. I am all for the growth of this service. But first, you have to have the infrastructure ready — that should be obvious…

    It doesn’t help ANYONE (even you) to expand membership before readying the system. Or at least having a contingency plan like I suggested — hiring someone for just 2 hours a day at the key stations to accept bikes during Rush Hours (esp in the morning) when stations get full.

    It’s one thing for no bikes to be available — people can accept this and make other plans. BUT, once you have a bike, you are pretty much stuck with it — it’s not easy for me to keep it in my office and that is not a solution — not even an acceptable temporary solution. There has to be more docks than bikes at key stations — many more docks.

    Or at least someone standing there to accept bikes from us at the stations that get full almost every day at almost the same times. That contingency solution should only cost you $200 per day. That is a small price to pay while you build your capacity. I still think you should not have offered that discount before building the infrastructure. But at least you can take this small step. You could also freeze membership, but the damage is already done and I expect you to clean up this mess. Don’t be BP. Be better. For our safety and for yourselves.

    Thank you,

    ps- You have an iPhone app — but it really does not work at all during rush hour. I was trying to use it this morning and dropped my phone and another biker ran over it — going to cost me a few hundred more dollars. I would not have been using it while standing off balance half on the curb, half on my bike, if not for the stressful situation you have been putting me in every morning.