The Arlington County Republican Committee has taken a couple of strong stands against Capital Bikeshare, which is almost as surprising as finding out that there is an Arlington County Republican Committee.
Most recently they posted on their blog that they're upset about the parking removed to make space for the stations. They report that 8 parking spaces were removed to make room for 4 stations. They feel the system is underused, the loss of spaces inconveniences drivers and will result in lost revenue.
Oddly the refer to this change in use as a "seizure". As if the parking spaces belong to drivers and not to, y'know, the county. The owner of the land hasn't changed.
I'm not sure how many docks the new stations have, but the one in the picture has at least 12. So what was once serving at most 3 users at any one time, and fewer than that most of the time, can now serve 12 users at a time.
While it might inconvenience drivers, that isn't guaranteed. Encouraging more people to bike to the area could free up more parking spaces then it removes and reduce congestion on the drive there. And it will definitely increase convenience for cyclists. Why should we prefer drivers over cyclists? Isn't the goal the mose efficient use of public space?
As for their claim that it will result in lost revenue, their calculation is off. Only when parking is full and those spaces are the marginal spaces will revenue be lost, at all other times the driver will simply go to the next space down the block. Yes, those who bike instead of drive will not pay for parking. That is lost revenue. But it comes with many positive externalities that Arlington also values. Arlington County is not a parking business. It has other interests - and since when are Republicans in favor of parking meter fees?
When the system was started, they opposed it then too. They complained the bikes were too expensive ("you can get one at Target for $100!!!" - but would you want to ride it?). They state it would be cheaper to just give out bikes. True, but also less effective at achieving the goal of increased bicycle transportation for all.
As for their questions, I'll take a stab
- If there’s a significant demand for short-term bicycle rentals, why can’t private businesses meet that demand without government subsidies?
Simple. The demand isn't high enough to guarantee a ROI that the market likes. Government is content to break even or make their money back over decandes. Businesses are not. Furthermore, a private business doesn't care if people are healthier, if traffic congestion goes down, if the air is cleaner etc... that doesn't pay their bills. The government, on the other hand, does (or should) consider the value of positive externalities in their decision mking. There's a significant demand for short-term book rentals, why can't private businesses provide libraries? It's odd that they should complain about this subsidy without noting that driving and streetside parking is heavily subsidized, which they clearly support. How would they feel about the County selling all it's streetside parking to a private business and letting them set the prices at what they market will bear?
- Why did Arlington and D.C. agree to a deal where the contractor pays NONE of the cost, bears NONE of the risk, and gets to keep ALL of the rental revenue?
They didn't. Alta gets paid per bike, not per member (page 112). Arlington and DC keep the revenue. So Alta bears less risk, because they have less possible reward. But they do bear some risk (they can lose the contract, the system can be shut down, it can be more expensive to provide the service than the esitmated, etc...)
- How many bicyclists want to rent a generic 3-speed bike (which must be returned to a kiosk after a short period of time), rather than using their own bicycle (which they can take home, with no time limits)?
- How many bicyclists and would-be cyclists in Arlington need government help in obtaining a bike?
Need? Probably not that many. But this is the wrong question. The better question is, would Arlington benefit from Capital Bikeshare and would that benefit exceed the costs? An analysis by MWCOG says yes.