A decision on whether Alexandria will join the Capital Bikeshare program currently in use in Arlington and the District of Columbia will not be made by City Council until October at the earliest, but discussion of the program has emerged at recent meetings at City Hall.
On Tuesday night, City Council discussed the bikeshare program among preliminary recommendations for congestion mitigation and air quality improvement projects funded by federal allocations.
Capital Bikeshare, , is currently the largest bikesharing program in the United States. According to a report from Alexandria city staff, annual membership goals in Arlington and the District were met in the first six months of operation. Revenues in the District have covered operating costs. The bikes have also proven popular modes of transportation with tourists.
“They’re seeing success in the District [with bikeshare], they’re seeing success in Arlington and I think we would be suited well here with our Metro locations and other things,” Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said.
According to a memo from city staff, projected usage in Alexandria is expected to be even higher than Arlington County because of tourism in Old Town, the already high existing number of bicycle commuters and the immediate connectivity to the system in Arlington. Capital Bikeshare’s southern-most station is close to the Arlington-Alexandria border, just north of Potomac Yard next to the Harris Teeter on Jefferson Davis Highway.
“I do think regionally it has been very successful,” Councilman Rob Krupicka said. “We lead the Northern Virginia area in terms of the percentage of people who bike to work everyday. We do have the basic spines to make it possible. You see some fairly substantial areas of the city that aren’t too far away from each other that would be well suited for bike trips back and forth.”
At September’s Planning Commission meeting, the approval of the Braddock Gateway development near the Braddock Road Metro station was contingent on developer Jaguar Development LC making several monetary contributions to the city, including $40,000 to be used toward the creation of a Capital Bikeshare station containing 10 to 12 bikes (The bikeshare condition was eventually removed from the agreement).
During the discussion, Abi Lerner, a deputy director with the city’s Transportation and Environmental Services Department, said the high cost per station is due to the electronic infrastructure needed to checkout and return bicycles. Lerner also said the heavy duty bicycles are expensive.
“The main motivation [of bikeshare] is to provide additional means of transportation,” Lerner said at the Sept. 18 meeting. “The cost per user is significantly less than a ride on a DASH bus—50 percent [less].”
Councilman Frank Fannon asked T&ES Director Rich Baier to take a more detailed look into bikeshare costs and projected routes and stations before the docket item comes forward next month. He also asked if there was any preliminary commitment from riders in the city.
“The thing that makes it successful in D.C. and Arlington, [riders are] going to actual destinations… and there are actually dedicated lanes and that’s what I think is making those programs successful,” Councilman Paul Smedberg said. “I think the challenges we face is if we’re going to have the same kind of lanes and spots that people visit.”
Baier said his department has been working very closely with officials in Arlington County and the District. He believes placing bikeshare stations near Metro stations would be very important.
“We are looking at key destinations and Metros," he said. “It will be one more thing at King Street that people can use.”
According to a city memo, a pilot network with six stations in the Old Town-Carlyle area is already funded with federal money previously set aside. Extension would then be expected to move into the Braddock area.