Capital Bikeshare and me: One man's troubled relationship
An earlier version of this story misspelled DDOT's Chris Holben's name. We regret the error.
That’s happened a few times now. I see a bike I want, but the attraction is no longer mutual. Keeping Capital Bikeshare’s three-speed geishas humming — which is to say, keeping me happy, which is to say, keeping me mobile — is an 18-speed operation for which DDOT relies on Alta Bicycle Share, a contractor (though the bikes and docking apparatus belong to the District).
Alta’s one-year contract with DDOT — with annual renewal options for another four — requires their maintenance crews to touch every bike in the system at least once every two weeks. Though their six-month post-launch grace period gives Alta until March to get performance up to snuff, so far the service is hitting its numbers: In December, says Holben, Alta staffers performed 1,480 bike inspections and 220 repairs. There are only about 750 bikes on the street at present, according to Holben, because Alta pulls some out of circulation to protect them from the elements during the winter months, when demand is expected to be lower anyway.
Maybe I should tell Alta about my 20-degree-and-no-bike experience.
As far as usage goes, Holben says a predictable pattern has emerged, with downtown stations, like McPherson Square, filling up early each morning, while neighborhood stations, like the one in Petworth from which he begins his five-minute a.m. commute to DDOT’s office at 14th and U, hitting capacity at night. So far, says Holben, most stations in the system have been racking up a roughly equal number of check-outs and check-ins each month, beguiling any assumptions that large numbers of riders would slide their keys in Northwest, coast downhill to work and take other avenues back uphill in the evening. That’s a pattern Holben says he sometimes follows, biking to DDOT HQ, catching the Circulator to his childrens’ school in Columbia Heights, and then walking them home. "I’m the multi-modal transit poster child," he says.
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