Sunday, February 24, 2008

SmartBike DC Program Website


At a recent presentation about the SmartBike DC program, it was announced the program will launch in Spring 2008. The program had been set for a March launch, however, there had been some minor setbacks due to the local power company wanting to meter each individual station rather than charge a flat rate per station.

According to the new SmartBike DC Website, bikes will be available from 6am - 10pm daily. While equivalent in operating hours with a bus or rail transit system, these hours are curious for an automated system and I could only guess what the rationale is - alcohol, crime? The bikes are certainly equipped with dynamo lights on the front and rear for safe night riding. As The Bike-sharing Blog reported on February 8 with data from Paris officials, a quarter of Velib's use is during the hours of 9pm - 3am. So it would seem prudent if D.C.'s program were kept open at all times with the goal being to encourage greater use as 25% is a substantial portion of ridership.

Customers will be able to use the bikes for up to 3 hours at a time. If returned after 3 hours, a penalty point will be assessed to the individual's account. After 3 penalty points, the customer is prevented from checking-out another bike. Additionally, there will be a $200 replacement fee for lost or stolen bikes. This is a generous policy for customers as it's more time than most of this program's sister cities offer. The downside of a longer check-out time is less turnover of the bikes and therefore fewer uses. Velib' data reports the average trip duration is 20 minutes for their 30-minute free period.

Stations will be located at Logan Circle, Metro Center, Dupont Circle, U Street, Shaw, Foggy Bottom, Gallery Place, McPherson Square, and Mt. Vernon Place. The closest distance between adjacent stations is about 0.2 mi (0.3 km), the furthest distance is 0.9 mi (1.5 km).

image credit: Wikipedia

21 comments:

Melissa Esposito said...

I think that shaving a third of the day off of the bikes' available hours is pretty short-sighted, especially since Metro isn't an option during the majority of that time. Hopefully enough residents and supporters of the program will speak up and get that limitation revised -- or at least find out what the concern is.

mediocre bad guy said...

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

I live in Paris right now and the ONLY time my friends and I ride Velibs is at night when it's impossible to get a cab or wait for the nightbus and the metro is closed.

Why wouldn't I want to take the metro if it's running?!

ugh DC makes me mad.

Justin said...

I'm a DC resident/native and I'm hoping on getting the local bloggers to speak up and get the word out to residents about who we need to contact to get this changed. Another option other than cabs is needed for after 12pm (or 3pm on weekends).

Paul DeMaio said...

Justin, I recommend expressing your views directly to Clear Channel at the email address and phone number provided on their Website - SmartBikeDC@clearchannel.com and 1-800-899-4449.

gwadzilla said...

hello paul

response to these people...

why take a cab, the metro, or your car... when you could ride your bike?

when I am on a bus or in a cab I feel like I am sleeping with the enemy

-jg

Anonymous said...

Just curious about helmet usage among bike-share bikers (not sure where to fit this topic in).

I imagine the majority are riding a bike share bike as an impulse, point of purchase decision? Or do users really plan their rides? I know it's a personal decision to wear a helmet, and I'm not advocating one way or the other, except ride however you feel safest out there. Certainly in all of my time visiting Amsterdam, I saw very few helmets in one of the cycling heavens on earth.

Wondering if automated vending of helmets could work for those inclined to use one. ???

-pedal power

Paul DeMaio said...

I'm not aware of a survey with data about planned vs. unplanned bike-sharing trips. I imagine both types are common. People with planned trips may choose to wear a helmet while those with unplanned trips will not.

Sharing helmets is tricky with cleanliness and liability issues of potentially cracked helmets. I'm not sure if helmet vending machines would work, however, I don't why someone would want an SUV either, so I could be wrong.

lucre said...

It seems like they're intentionally doing this all wrong so that they can argue what a failure bikesharing is in the US. Only 3 hours at a time, and only useable within the downtown core and only during the day? Why not walk and save $40?

Paul DeMaio said...

Lucre, I don't think this is the case. If Clear Channel believes it can be profitable I have a feeling that they would want to corner the market, not kill it. Their competitors are interested in bike-sharing too, so Clear Channel would be giving up markets if it didn't offer bike-sharing that it wouldn't want to lose.

The DC contract was very specific about what it wanted with 50 bikes. As the tender was written many years ago (well before Bicing and Velib'), 50 bikes didn't seem so small. I'm sure Clear Channel and DC will ramp up the number of bikes as soon as they can. It could be a bumpy ride until then based on the likely high demand and low supply of the bikes.

Adrian said...

Are they really shaft-drive (chainless)?

AHands said...

How about LOCKS? Most bike rental places I've used include a lock, do I have to bring my own lock for smartbike?

Paul DeMaio said...

Adrian, there is a chain. See http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/BicicletaBicing.JPG for a close-up.

Ahands, unfortunately locks will not be provided.

Paul

Anonymous said...

I agree with all the comments about the hours. We need to speak up and get that changed.
But what about the locations? They are all within easy walking distance of eachother and easily accessible by other means. Wouldn't it be useful to spread them throughout the city to places like Van Ness, Columbia Heights, Brookland, Capitol Hill, Southwest and even Georgetown? I would think one major point is to reduce car trips and traffic congestion, not to reduce transit ridership. So I have to ask, is this another gimmick for tourists, or a real alternative for DC residents?

Paul DeMaio said...

Stations cannot be spaced too far apart or people won't use the bikes. The same is true for a bus line with stops spaced every mile versus every two blocks. I'm sure as the program grows, there will be more stations in more neighborhoods.

Also, as one needs to register to become a member of the program, it takes time to receive a smartcard. While tourists could do this, the program is targeted to Washingtonians.

Paul

Mark Ludwick said...

Hi Paul -
Any update on the launch date? The most recent DDOT estimates I've seen are "early June" and "Spring"...

Paul DeMaio said...

Latest I've heard is June.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if this launched before winter....
Any rumors when launch will be?

Paul DeMaio said...

Due to a problem with PEPCO (the local energy company) metering each station, the launch has been postponed to, you guessed it, July. A month from now I hope I'm not saying August.

Anonymous said...

Has Clearchannel offered any indication of whether there will be an hourly usage fee?

-eric

Paul DeMaio said...

There will be a $40 annual membership fee and each trip must be made within 3 hours. There is no hourly fee.

Jasper said...

So who is liable if a bike "malfunctions" and someone breaks their collarbone. ClearChannel, the Feds?