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Track Bikeshare use in real-time

With Capital Bikeshare still in its first month of existence, stations are still being rolled out, and observers are gauging its success and considering whether the system might work for them.

So this nifty map, which updates in real-time to show which stations are most used and at what times of the day is quite interesting--especially because it works for bikesharing systems in DC and around the globe.

The bikes circulate naturally, making the placement of stations and effectiveness of the system tied to people's travel patterns. A balanced system will achieve something close to an equilibrium.

For example, I've noticed that when I leave work late, the downtown stations are sometimes out of bikes, because people are checking them out and dropping them off in residential neighborhoods after work, while few are arriving downtown via bike after business hours.

The site from London's Oliver O'Brien, accompanied by a blog, notes that at this moment, 19 percent of bikes would have to be moved to different stations in order to be distributed evenly.

At the peak morning commute this morning, 41 people were traversing the city on the program's bikes simultaneously, the map shows; at 2pm, 29 bikes are in use.

Two stations near Dupont are completely out of bikes--so it's important that such Internet and mobile apps can warn users before they head to those stations--while some, including one on Pennsylvania Ave. SE, have only one slot in which to deposit a bike remaining. (Users attempting to drop off a bike there will be redirected to the nearest station.)

In London, 16 percent of their 3450 bikes are currently in use.

--Luke Rosiak

By Luke Rosiak  | October 13, 2010; 2:20 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting, District  | Tags:  Bikeshare, Online tools  
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Do you mean "it's important" not "it's importation"?

Posted by: DOEJN | October 13, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

A grand total of 41 bikes are being used at once? How much in taxpayer money did this entire getup cost? How much is that per bike? What a waste of money, just like the $600,000 dog park for the privileged few!

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 13, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

@WashingtonDame "A grand total of 41 bikes are being used at once? How much in taxpayer money did this entire getup cost? How much is that per bike? What a waste of money, just like the $600,000 dog park for the privileged few!"

This system is only a few weeks old -- the stations aren't even all installed yet. As the system ramps up, more and more people will join.

Anyway 41 bikes at any given moment doesn't mean only 41 people use the system. People are constantly checking out, using, and checking in the bikes. So many, many people use the bikes throughout the day.

Finally, why do you say this is for a "privileged few"? The cost is only $50 a year! Anyone can join - and should! It reduced crowding on the Metro, increases exercise/good health... Give it a try!

Posted by: chrisny2 | October 13, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

@WashingtonDame: Exactly the right question to ask. The costs of this program are astounding, and the benefits are trivial.

Arlington County spent $850,000 to put 110 rental bicycle into service under this program. That's $7500 per bike! (The per-bike cost is similar in D.C.)

Think about it: This program spends about $100 for the bicycle itself, and then adds $7400 in overhead. And it's 100% paid for by taxpayers! It would have been far cheaper just to buy a few hundred bikes and GIVE them away. But neither Arlington nor D.C. seems concerned about getting much bang for the taxpayers' buck.

And of course, nearly everyone who likes to bike already owns his or her own bicycle, so there's very little demand for a service like this.

One final note: Today is a gorgeous weather day - absolutely ideal for bicycling - but still fewer than 10% of the rental bikes are in use. In bad weather (cold, rain, snow), the demand will be even LOWER than today.

Posted by: jrmil | October 13, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly enough, more people may use the bikes on bad weather days simply because they don't want to get their own bikes wet. (It's a hassle to clean them down and lubricate the chain afterward.)

And the back-of-the-napkin calculations going on here completely miss the point. Bike sharing will help to eliminate short trips taken by car, which benefits everyone by reducing traffic. It won't relieve congestion all by itself but it will help.

It gives everyone another transportation option. Really, $50 a year limits the system to the "privileged few"? Please. Most people spend more than $50 commuting on Metro in a single month! Even if you don't use the CaBi bikes that often in the winter, that still means you could save hundreds of dollars a year by using CaBi to commute instead of taking Metro or buying a car. I don't get this idea that bikes are only intended for the "privileged few".

Posted by: 123home123 | October 14, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh, get real. People don't switch from personal bikes to rental bikes when it rains -- they ride LESS. And when the weather is nice, they ride MORE.

The Bikeshare tracking confirms that ridership fell when the weather got bad. The max number of rental bikes in use was 60 on Wed. (nice weather), but down to 38 on Wed. That's a low 10% usage figure even in good weather, and a really dismal 6% in bad weather.

Some may think it's worth spending so much tax money to set up rentals of bikes that are hardly used ($7500 for each and every bicycle). But many of us object to such wasteful use of public funds.

Posted by: jrmil | October 14, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

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