Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Capital Bikeshare officially hits 500,000 trips

June 1, 2011 - 05:30 PM
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Todd Spangler never expected to be a biker. The 47-year-old journalist has served as the Washington correspondent for the Detroit Free Press for the past four years, and while he biked as a kid, his riding in recent years has been infrequent. Yet in spite of that, the Capital Bikeshare program, launched in D.C. and Arlington on September 20, 2010, won Spangler over as a customer in the last two months, and today, as he picked up a bike for his morning commute at 8:50 a.m., he made the 500,000th trip that the service has seen.

Spangler joined Capital Bikeshare around two months ago and recently started commuting to work every day. "Metro's getting more expensive," he explained. Capital Bikeshare offered a virtually free way for him to get to work, he added, depending on how quickly he arrived. He also liked the idea of exercise and the prospect that D.C. is becoming a more bike-friendly city. He always checks his iPhone app to see how many bikes are available before setting out and finds the service serves his daily commuting needs just fine, at least so far. Capital Bikeshare now sports 1,100 of the distinctively red bicycles available to rent at its 114 stations. People pay to access the bikeshare centers for a range of membership options and prices--$5 for 24 hours to $25 for a month to $75 for annual membership, with additional fees added depending on how long you rent the bike.

"I live on Capitol Hill--out past the Potomac Avenue station," Spangler says. "Every day I ride from one of the bikeshares there to one of the centers near Metro Center."

Usually, depending on traffic, the trip takes him around 30 minutes or so. At 12:05 p.m. today, three hours after his commute, he received a message from Capital Bikeshare informing him that the service had now offered half a million trips--and that he was the rider to bring it to such a landmark number.

The Capital Bikeshare Twitter account had been tweeting all morning and yesterday in anticipation of its 500,000th trip. The lucky person who made the voyage would receive a chrome messenger bag, the updates promised.

Make our 500,000th trip and consider yourself the proud owner of a Chrome messenger bag! So, grab some water and get out there. We're close!less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

The Bikeshare Twitter account finally tweeted its announcement around noon: "We've hit 500,000 trips! Thank you to all of our users. A special shout out to Todd S. who made the milestone trip."

The Free Press journalist responsible for the ride says he's been a happy customer of the bikeshare program so far. Despite initially struggling to find some of the stations, he encountered a system that exceeded his expectations. "My experience has been surprisingly good," Spangler says.

To commemorate the half-million trips, I conducted a Q&A with Chris Holben, the D.C. Department of Transportation's Bikesharing Project Manager, to find out about the future of the rapidly growing service. Since Holben's a busy man, I kept it to one question per 100,000 rides:

On Foot Blog: So now that Capital Bikeshare has reached 500,000 trips, how long before a million?

Chris Holben: An exciting date would be September 20, 2011. And we think we can make that.

OFB: Looking back at the past year since the service launched, were there any particular bursts of growth when you saw usage numbers spike? A lot of people jumped on those bikes after Osama bin Laden's death, I read at the time.

CH: Jon Stewart Rally for Insanity was big, first couple of beautiful spring days saw big jumps, and of course the day we launched.

OFB: How has the Capital Bikeshare experience improved since its launch and what challenges remain?

CH: It has improved with more stations, more bikes, and better rebalancing of bikes. We are continuing to improve on all of our services! As well as increasing [the number of] stations this summer in both D.C. and Arlington.

OFB: Which is hotter this D.C. summer--biking or slogging through the Metro?

CH: Having done both in the last few days, they are about equal. Though I didn't get to scream down 11th Street, NW on the Metro!

OFB: What's your take on the recent news that Alexandria is considering joining the Bikeshare?

CH: We love it. We want all of the surrounding areas to join, bike more, and be a big happy CaBi family.

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