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The Ups and Downs of the Bike Sharing Economy

What makes Capital Bikeshare, the largest such program in the U.S. with nearly 2000 bikes, a success? What are its shortcomings? Mohana Ravindranath investigates.
May 22, 2013, 8am PDT | boramici
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From its user friendliness to its business plan, Ravindranath takes a close look at how D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare, the largest bike sharing system in the country, operates.

Ravindranath provides a first-hand view into how individual members interact with the system, its successes and failures.

With 22,000 active members annually, Capital Bikeshare has seen an increase in 24-hour memberships and a decrease in annual and 3-day access demand.

This could be in part because regular users prefer to purchase their own bicycles for added flexibility in their schedules. Users at many of the District's busy stations, especially downtown, find that they cannot always find available bikes during peak hours or that docking space is not always available.

To maintain the system, D.C., Arlington County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia operate a bike redistribution service, call center and a website. 

Last year, Arlington County was able to recover its costs completely with left-over revenue, while D.C., with operating costs of $54,000 per station, just fell short of cost recovery. There is no data yet for Alexandria, which joined the program less than a year ago. Montgomery County in Maryland plans on joining the fray with 50 new stations.

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Published on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in The Washington Post
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