Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Update on DC SmartBike Program
The goal for launching Washington, D.C.'s bike-sharing program, "DC SmartBike" is in March 2008. This will likely be the first 3rd generation (high-tech) bike-sharing program in North America. The pilot will include 120 bikes, 10 stations, and is to be run by Clear Channel Adshel, the provider of Bicing.
The annual membership fee is likely to be $39 and the first 3 hours of each rental will be free. This fee seems reasonable, however, with 3-hr rentals, turnover and therefore ridership will be limited as individuals will likely keep the bikes longer.
The proposed station locations include: Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, U Street, Shaw, Mt. Vernon Square, Metro Center, Logan Circle, McPherson Square, and Gallery Place. The District Department of Transportation has produced a map of the proposed locations for more detail.
As the program is a pilot with fewer bikes and stations, there is a need to space the stations out more to cover a greater area and serve a larger population. However, I'm concerned that the stations will be spaced out too much. The service area is about 4 square miles (10.4 square kilometers) and in some cases the nearest station would be 1 mi (1.6 km) away. If I'm riding and my destination station is full, I'd be frustrated if I had to return the bike at the next closest station and figure out how to get back to my original planned destination. European programs aim to have stations every .2 mi (.3 km) and the DC program will have 5 times this.
I predict that DC SmartBike will be popular with Washingtonians, however, I'd like to see a few tweaks to make it even moreso.
image credit: Washington, D.C. District Department of Transportation