A few weeks back, the DC Department of Transportation and Arlington County announced plans to replace DC’s SmartBike bikesharing program that it instituted in 2008. They announced that they’ll expand the program this fall from 100 bikes at 10 stations to 1,100 bikes at 114 stations. 14 of new stations will be in Arlington. They christened the more ambitious program two days ago as “Capital Bikeshare” after a public vote. According to DDOT:
The new system will be similar to the one the Public Bike System Company (PBSC), based in Montreal, produced, commonly known as BIXI. The BIXI system has been running in Montreal since 2009 and will be arriving soon in Minneapolis, London, and Melbourne, Australia. BIXI bike sharing stations are solar powered and use wireless technology to allow for easy installation and adjustments. It may look different, but the BIXI bicycle has many of the same features as the Smartbike: 3-speed, internal hub gears, fenders, chain guard, lights, and a front rack. Annual, monthly, and daily memberships will be available for area residents and visitors.
A grant may expand the program even further. We noted back in February, that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments(MWCOG) did not win the $10 million for bikeshare expansion that it had applied for through a federal stimulus program called TIGER. UMD and the City of College Park were a party to that grant application, but unfortunately that money was highly competitive and grant requests outstripped available funding by 38 times. MWCOG will submit another application for a second round of TIGER funding. They’re proposing to add an additional 2,250 bikes to the 1,100 already in the works. It looks like CP will be a party to the grant application again and so will UMD presumably. Unfortunately, things will be just as competitive this time around and 20% in local matching dollars are now required. That match may be tough to come by in this economy… especially since the system isn’t expected to break even for some time.
Interestingly, Prince George’s County as a whole has not and is not considering jumping on this opportunity. Since all the bikes in Capital Bikeshare would be interoperable with different racks across the region, the College Park bikes would in theory exist in their own bubble… it’s hard to imagine that they will ever leave the city. Membership would cost $80 a year and the first 30 minutes the bike is out would be free. The nearest non-CP rack would be miles away, but we think if there are a critical mass of bikes such a program could be quite popular intra-city.