|Owner||Arlington, Alexandria, District of Columbia|
|Locale||Washington, D.C., Arlington, Virginia, Alexandria, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland|
|Transit type||Bicycle sharing system|
|Number of stations||300+|
|Operator(s)||Alta Bicycle Share, Inc.|
|Number of vehicles||2,500+|
Capital Bikeshare (also abbreviated CaBi) is a bicycle sharing system that serves Washington, D.C.; Arlington County, Virginia; the city of Alexandria, Virginia; and Montgomery County, Maryland. Its over 300 stations and 2,500-plus bicycles are owned by these local governments and operated in a public-private partnership with Alta Bicycle Share. Opened in September 2010, the system was the largest bike sharing service in the United States until New York City's Citi Bike began operations in May 2013.
Washington's first bike sharing service, SmartBike DC, debuted in 2008 with 10 stations with 120 bicycles. The system was the first of its kind in the United States. However, SmartBike DC never expanded beyond its initial pilot program, due in part to the expense and difficulty of installing new stations, which required the local utility company to bring electricity to each station. SmartBike DC officially ceased operations in January 2011.
The D.C. Department of Transportation then joined with adjacent Arlington County, Virginia, to create a new service owned by the local governments but operated in a public-private partnership with Alta Bike Share, Inc. Capital Bikeshare launched in September 2010 with 400 bicycles at 49 rental stations. By February 2011, Capital Bikeshare had expanded to 100 stations in the District of Columbia and 14 stations in the Pentagon City, Potomac Yard, and Crystal City neighborhoods in Arlington. Transportation agencies in each jurisdiction select the location of the rental stations, as well as the number of bike docks, depending on planners' estimates of local demand.
Planning and implementation costs for Capital Bikeshare totaled $5 million, with additional first-year operating costs of US$2.3 million for 100 stations. The District's share of planning, implementation and first-year operating costs was partially financed by a $6 million grant by the United States Department of Transportation. Arlington County's operating cost share of the plan was $835,000 for the first year, funded by public contributions including a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation as well as subsidies from Arlington County Transportation, Crystal City Business Improvement District, and the Potomac Yard Transportation Management Association. In April 2011, Capital Bikeshare administrators said they expect earned revenue to cover 50% of the system's annual operating costs. The District of Columbia also plans to sell advertising on Capital Bikeshare stations with the goal of raising US$500,000.
Capital Bikeshare has grown steadily, which has driven demand for more stations and bikes. Most of the system's users live in or near the city center; stations in the poorer eastern portion of the city are comparatively underused. In September 2011, Capital Bikeshare announced it had reached 18,000 members and one million rides in its first year of operation, doubling initial expectations. In early March 2012, the Arlington County government gave away 550 red Capital Bikeshare helmets and twice as many flashing safety lights as part of a promotion.
The National Park Service originally prohibited Capital Bikeshare stations on the property it manages, including large areas such as the National Mall. However, the agency later reversed itself and said that it would work to include new stations in future expansions. The first two of five approved Capital Bikeshare stations opened on the National Mall on March 16, 2012, shortly before the start of the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival.
In 2010, a local transportation official said that the system could be expanded further throughout the D.C. area and have as many as 5,000 bicycles within a few years.
Arlington County also announced plans to add 30 stations in fall 2011, primarily along the densely populated corridor between the Rosslyn and Ballston neighborhoods, and 30 more in 2012. In October 2011, the neighboring city of Alexandria, Virginia, approved plans to deploy 54 bicycles at six stations in the Old Town and Carlyle neighborhoods in 2012, then add six more stations in 2013. The cost of the first year would be $400,000, including operating costs of $100,440.
Montgomery County, Maryland, similarly approved plans to install 20 stations and 200 bikes in the Rockville and Shady Grove areas near Washington Metro stations and high-traffic destinations such as Montgomery College and Rockville Town Center. The expansion will be paid for by a $1.288 million grant from the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board with a $688,000 local match. Officials also cited plans to add 50 stations and 400 bicycles in southern areas of the county, including Bethesda, Silver Spring, Friendship Heights, and Takoma Park. However, bicycling advocates caution that clusters of stations in the county could be too far from each other as well as the larger network of stations within neighboring Washington, D.C. There is also concern that the county has too few bike lanes and trails to support the expected number of users, although cyclists in Montgomery County are considered to be vehicle operators and have full access to the road, as is the case in all of Maryland.
By September 2012, these additions and expansions were to have brought the network to 288 stations and 2,800 bikes in four jurisdictions.
Rental stations are automated and powered by solar panels, allowing them to be located anywhere space is available. A wireless data link connects the docks and station kiosk to a central bike-tracking and billing database. Riders can use the Capital Bikeshare website and smartphone applications to see where rental stations are located and how many bikes and empty docks they have.
Each bike dock has a repair button; users press this to report a damaged or malfunctioning bike and take it out of service. Riders are expected to notify Capital Bikeshare if a bike is unable to dock at a station and are responsible for the rented bike until it has been returned.
The red-colored aluminum unisex bicycles have three gears, an adjustable seat, and a front basket as well as a headlight and twin red taillights that are powered whenever the bicycle is in motion.
Alta Bike Share vans redistribute bikes among stations and pick up bikes for maintenance. Unlike some other networks, Capital Bikeshare maintains service year-round except during severe weather.
In May 2011, it cost $41,500 to install a station with six docks and $49,300 each for larger stations with 14 docks. Each bicycle cost about $1,000, and the annual operating cost per bike was $1,860.
Capital Bikeshare has five payment options. Casual riders may purchase a 24-hour pass ($7) or a 3-day pass ($15) at any bike station. After swiping a credit card at the station's kiosk, a rider gets a code to unlock a bike. Riders may also sign up online for monthly ($25), annual ($75), or annual installment ($84, paid in monthly increments of $7) passes; these riders are mailed an RFID key that can unlock bikes without entering a code.
Any rider may take unlimited trips of up to 30 minutes, as measured from the time the bike is withdrawn from a dock to the time it is returned. Longer trips incur fees for each additional half-hour on a scale that rises from $1.50 to $8.00. This pricing structure is designed to encourage short trips from place to place instead of longer leisure rides. If a destination station is full, riders can use the kiosk to get 15 more free minutes to return the bike to another location.
A replacement fee of $1,000 is charged to the credit card on file if a rented bike is not returned within 24 hours.
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