Capital Bikeshare restarts expansion plans


( James A. Parcell for The Washington Post )
April 2, 2013

The Washington region’s Capital Bikeshare program set a ridership record Saturday, and the District is gearing up to restart a major expansion that should greatly increase the numbers of stations and red bikes on city streets.

With throngs of tourists in town for the Easter holiday, there were a record 9,669 Capital Bikeshare rides Saturday. And for the first time since its inception three years ago, the majority of those rides were taken by day-trippers instead of annual members, said Chris Holben, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation bicycle program.

The milestone underscores how rapidly Capital Bikeshare has become a key transportation option downtown and around the Mall.

“As you can imagine, Cherry Blossom weekend, the most beautiful day of spring, a lot of out-of-towners are using the system,” Holben said.

City officials say another record could be set this weekend, when the cherry blossoms are expected to be in peak bloom. “I think Saturday, we could break 10,000,” Holben said.

The surge in use comes as District officials have struggled to keep pace with their plans to upgrade the system, which includes 146 stations in the city.

Last year, city officials vowed that a major expansion would be completed by the end of the year. But that expansion was delayed due to difficulty in acquiring the needed equipment from the manufacturer, Alta Bicycle Share.

Instead, shortly before Christmas, officials announced plans to add an additional 54 stations by the end of March. So far, however, only six of those stations have been added. Holben said officials have been slowed by weather and technical issues associated with the crane used for station installation.

But Holben said those issues have been resolved. DDOT plans to install four additional stations by the end of the week, followed by “eight to ten” per week until all 54 have been installed, Holben said.

After that work is complete, Holben said Capital Bikeshare has money in its fiscal 2013 budget for an additional 10 stations this year. Last week, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) announced funding to pay for an additional 10 stations in fiscal 2014.

With 22,000 annual members and 265,000 day users since 2010, Capital Bikeshare remains the nation’s largest bike-sharing network. It consists of 202 stations in the District, Arlington and Alexandria, and last week, Arlington County officials expanded the program to Columbia Pike. Parts of Montgomery County are also scheduled to join the system this summer, Holben said.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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