After a nearly two-year delay, Capital Bikeshare will get new bicycles and docking stations at almost 60 new locations throughout the region starting this fall.
The additional bikes and docking stations will allow the popular bike network to continue what had been rapid growth in the Washington area since it began operating in 2010. There are already more than 3,000 bikes and 354 stations in the District, Alexandria, and Arlington and Montgomery counties.
Capital Bikeshare had to call a halt to its plans to expand after its main bicycle manufacturer, the Montreal-based Public Bike System Co., went bankrupt in early 2014, hindering the purchase of more of the distinctive red bikes. The delay could not have come at a worse time for Capital Bikeshare. It has more than 29,000 members, surpassing 10.5 million trips, and demand is growing.
“We have been in a holding pattern for over a year, and that impacts long-term planning potential and being able to satisfy people’s requests,” said Kim Lucas, bicycle program specialist with the District Department of Transportation. “There is a lot of unmet demand out there.”
Capital Bikeshare is getting the new equipment through Motivate, a New York-based company formed by investors who purchased previous operator Alta Bicycle Share in October.
The District is buying most of the bicycles — 435 bikes for 40 stations, at a cost of $2.5 million. The city, which is getting the bicycles through Motivate, had planned to purchase that equipment in the spring of 2014.
To get bikes into the system faster, Capital Bikeshare last year purchased 25 used stations and 250 bikes from the city of Ottawa, which uses the same equipment.
That purchase allowed the District to add 10 stations, including one installed in the Shaw area last week, bringing the number of stations in the city to 205.
The city of Alexandria received eight docking stations from Ottawa and doubled its number of stations in the city to 16. With a new supplier, Alexandria has ordered four stations, with 28 bicycles, and will buy an additional 12 docking stations later this year.
Montgomery, the last jurisdiction to join the bike system, will get seven new stations and 58 bicycles as part of the new purchase. And Arlington will get seven stations and 56 bicycles.
“We have been waiting many, many months,” said Henry Dunbar, BikeArlington program director.
College Park, which had planned to bring the network to Prince George’s County in February 2014, was close to having a deal with the Capital Bikeshare operator when the bankruptcy stalled negotiations. Eventually the city abandoned its efforts. But this spring, College Park, in partnership with the University of Maryland at College Park, sought an alternate bike-sharing operator, and Motivate was not one of the new bidders.
Motivate also operates Citi Bike in New York, Divvy in Chicago and Bay Area Bike Share in San Francisco.
The additional bikes and docking stations should help meet Capital Bikeshare’s growing demand, but transportation officials that oversee the system are also hoping to avoid other equipment shortages. Last summer when new riders tried to join the program, they found that Capital Bikeshare had run out of membership keys and that they would have to wait until new keys arrived about a month later.
Motivate spokeswoman Dani Simons said buying equipment should not be a problem now. Capital Bikeshare will have a variety of vendor options that offer compatible equipment. Motivate has its own self-produced bicycle that is now on the streets of New York City. The company said that taking control of the supply chain will enable it to have more control over its expansion schedule and provide better service to its clients.
Area transportation officials said they will be getting the same bicycles and docking stations currently in use because Motivate negotiated to have one more order from the original Capital Bikeshare equipment makers. But in the future, officials expect that new bicycles and docking stations will be slightly different.
“We are taking a wait-and-see approach before we start actually paying for this new equipment until we know it will absolutely work with the system that we have,” Arlington’s Dunbar said. “It will look a little different, but none of this will be in the ground until 2016.”