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I am almost ready to send back my membership key to CaBi because of their inability to handles load management. It is just getting ridiculous. One recent example happened on Tuesday, when I had to stand up my wife for lunch because the docks at L'Enfant Plaza were full. While I was there I saw three more riders trying to dock.

When I left, I saw the CaBi Sprinter van and turned around because I thought I would be able to dock a bike now. Guess what, the driver did not even stop to load up some bikes although he drove right past the full station. That is just an epic fail.

So, yes the tome of the article may be negative but with good reason.

The Washington Times publishing a somewhat positive article about bike communism sharing is stunning. All their "best" reporters must be covering attempts to drive the economy off a cliff. Not even one reference to Agenda 21 and the loss of US sovereignty.

Ok, let's look at it this way: congestion is a problem in the city. One solution is encouraging bicycle use. One way we can do this is by having a Bike sharing system.

Furthermore, we've priced the system artificially low in order to encourage widespread adoption. So we've got a ton of members. And the system is at capacity.

So....what exactly is the problem again? It's possible that the system will collapse because everyone will stop subscribing, but that's nowhere near happening.

It's a bit like this: a city sees the river is in danger of rising. So the government fills a bunch of sandbags, and tells everyone to come and get some, and stack 'em up by the river as a temporary flood wall. Is it really a catastrophic failure of the system that not everyone gets a sandbag? Of course not.

It would be nice if everyone got a bike during commuter hours whenever they wanted one. That may not be possible. So we may see some people leave the system if they're not flexible enough, or need a 100% dependable commuter option.

That is not a bad thing. If the system is not working for some, it may be that you're not using it right. So long as the system is at capacity, *that's* the goal. Not to ensure that Mr A always has a bike.

But oboe, this is DC, and Mr A is a very important person, with a very important job and very important places to be. Mr A MUST get his bike or else.

To expand on oboe's point, CaBi will work best for someone who has a flexible schedule and plans to make many trips outside of rush hour and/or utilize unpopular stations. The more that one rides at unpopular times and to unpopular places, the better CaBi will seem to you, and vice-versa. So it will work well for some people, but not everyone.

Reminds me of the Yogi Berra line: "It's so crowded, nobody goes there."

CaBi is going through growing pains. It's still not a year old. Look at how long it took for Metro to expand. The first section of the Red Line only went from Rhode Island Ave. to Farragut North. The system was only open on weekdays from 6 am to 8 pm. And yet the reaction was quite positive. That's because the delivery matched or exceeded the expectations.

I've read the occasional comment about people not biking since their school days, trying out CaBi, and then graduating to a bike of their own. The dockblocking and empty station issues will cause some people to avoid CaBi during rush hour periods. That helps to lower the demand at peak hours.

With the system expansion in the fall, the supply will increase, further improving the system.

If DDOT goes ahead with further expansion in early 2012, as hinted on their Twitter page, then the system will work better still.

Aside from some of the full/empty station problems, DC and Arlington are much better off for having CaBi than not. It's not perfect but it is a big improvement over the pre-CaBi days. (I can hardly remember that far back now...) With ongoing system expansion and some people switching to a combination of CaBi and personal bikes, the system will continue to improve.

One issue is that in order to improve service you probably have to increase price. And in doing so, you'd eliminate some users. CaBi has chosen a lowish price and limited service. But that's nor working for Eric_W. What if there were a way to offer a choice between low cost/low service and high cost/high service? Sort of like the way Netflix offers many options.

What if there were a premium service?

The premium service requires paying a higher membership fee and a fee for every use (under 30 minutes or not).

What does it give you? Access to more bikes. There would be red bikes just as there are now for everyone, AND gold bikes exclusively for premium members. Gold bikes can be placed in any dock, but each dock has 2-4 gold bike only slots. There might even be Gold bike only stations. Anyway, not sure if it would work, but it would help people who are willing to/want to pay for higher reliability.

Get the commuters to stop using CaBi. Seriously. If someone is commuting several days a week (or more), using CaBi, get them to stop using the system and get their own bike. (I know, you cannot force them, but you can encourage them.)

If someone without a bike wants to use CaBi, to give commuting by bike a try, that’s great. If they start doing it on a regular basis, however, they should be encouraged to get a bike of their own. CaBi could send out an occasional notice or post signs at the stations and tell regular commuters where to get help. A group of volunteers (or a web site) could then help them figure out the logistics/problems.

Maybe they don’t think they have a place to store a bike at work and don’t want to lock it up outside..( We’ve got small cubicles at work, but five people have seen my bike in my cubicle and have done the same.) Maybe they don’t know the options for storing a bike in an apartment. Maybe they think the maintenance and upkeep is hard. Maybe a folding bike, even a full-size one, solves their problems.

Some people have probably already done this, but others might just need a little help.

If someone has their own bike, they’ll use It more – it's always available and you can keep it out all day.

It seems to me that even if you were able to successfully discourage commuting, you would still have significant distribution problems. People tend to live outside of the core, and so most trips will begin there. A lot of people need to go to the core during the day, so there will always be these an imbalance during the day. People tend to migrate back home during the night, so there will be an imbalance at night.

Does this pattern emerge on the weekends? If so, then solving the commuting problem will not solve the distribution problem.

Discouraging commuting is not the answer. It's a transportation system. Of course people will use it to get to work. Some people will naturally decide to use their own bikes, but in general the answer is more bikes and more docks.

The solution is to massively increase the number of bikes and docks. However that is going to massively increase the imbalancing problem because of the dearth of cross-trips between activity centers during the day, outside of commuting hours to/from.

E.g., Montreal has 4000 bikes and 1000 stations. Granted they have 3x the population of DC. OTOH, their Bixi network isn't even distributed across the city. It is mostly in the highest population areas of the city.

Still, if it can work financially, it would make sense to at least double the number of bikes.

Interestingly that Hubway has a different schedule for fees for add'l time that are 25% higher for nonmembers.

That is another way to raise more money for bikes, stations, and docks.

Sorry I made big # mistakes. It's 5000 bikes and 400 stations. My typing got ahead of my brain.

"I am almost ready to send back my membership key to CaBi because of their inability to handles load management. It is just getting ridiculous. One recent example happened on Tuesday, when I had to stand up my wife for lunch because the docks at L'Enfant Plaza were full. While I was there I saw three more riders trying to dock. "

I am almost ready to throw away my car key because of VDOT's inability to handle load management. It is just getting ridiculous. One recent example happened on Tuesday, when I had to stand up my wife for lunch because all lanes on the beltway were full. While I was there I saw three hundred more drivers trying to merge into traffic...

Why in the &^%$#! do people expect every non-automotive form of transportation to be perfect?!? I hear the same whacky statements made about Metro ("I got stuck on a train once and so I'm never going to use it again").

In the same way that increases in gas prices impact frustration levels in the short-term, but lead to changes in driving patterns/vehicle purchase decisions in the long-term, I think that the rebalancing issues will likely lead to changes in behavior (e.g., more CaBi riders deciding to buy/use their bikes more regularly) in the long term. It takes a special person (like @muddiemaesuggins on twitter) to attempt to use bikeshare as a daily commute mode every day and to complain every day when a bike is not available from one of the system's busiest neighborhoods. But most people will modify their behavior as a result (which may mean shifting back to transit/cars, but will more likely mean finding another reliable bike option, or waking up earlier to get one of the bikeshare cycles.

I am writing because anecdotally, I am one of those people who hadn't ridden/owned a bike in more than 5 years, started in Fall 2010 with CaBi, and now commute 3 days a week on my own bike, yet still use bikeshare for one-off trips, or occasionally a ride to or from work. Quite frankly, once I got used to riding in the city, I found it even more enjoyable to do on a lighter, faster bike, which takes me from my exact origin to my exact destination.

I have also talked to a fair number of other folks who found bikeshare to be a way to get them comfortable riding in the city.

There are two things that can lead to larger/faster bikeshare expansion. One is money, and the other is political will. Large numbers of annual and daily memberships increase the amount of money available, but the more people that get onto bikes (shared, or their own, or some combination) increases the constituency pushing for policy changes and priorities, which benefits everyone riding even more.

More bikes and more docks....

Barring that, how about a scheme where they charge more at certain stations during peak (maybe 15 minute trips instead of 30 minutes)?

I know it's also been talked about here before, but they should also find a way to incentivize reverse peak trips to fill the empty stations.

Why in the &^%$#! do people expect every non-automotive form of transportation to be perfect?!? I hear the same whacky statements made about Metro ("I got stuck on a train once and so I'm never going to use it again").

People pay for a service with the expectation they'll get to use it. Why in the &^%$#! is that a difficult concept to grasp? If I had a contract where I paid for lunch five days a week but only got it on four days, I'd terminate that contract too. Nothing could be more rational.

WashCycle Guy's conception of premium Gold bikes is inspired. I don't know if the egalitarian expectations of this venture would permit it. But it's a twist on congestion pricing or HOT lanes on the highways (neither of which I support for roads, but I won't get into that complex discussion here).

Very interesting to see the different ways CaBi is used. E.G. commuters v. errands v. tourists. I think these are growing pains, the right kind of problem to have--if temporary.

People pay for a service with the expectation they'll get to use it. Why in the &^%$#! is that a difficult concept to grasp? If I had a contract where I paid for lunch five days a week but only got it on four days, I'd terminate that contract too. Nothing could be more rational.

You're begging the question. The point of contention is whether commuters should expect to get a bike share bike at the height of rush hour, at the busiest stations. Your "contract" argument assumes that to be the case. We're saying its not.

Again, if your conception of bikeshare involves "must always get a bike when I want it" then perhaps it's not for you.

A more apt comparison than your lunch example would be ZipCar. I wanted to reserve a pickup truck for Saturday, but the closest one was already reserved. That doesn't mean ZipCar is broken. My (your) expectations are.

I just want to point out that I never said "discourage" commuters or commuting. You'll never stop it. Encouraging people who use it regularly to commute to get their own bike would more than likely get them on the road, on their bike, more often.

It doesn't mean they'd stop using CaBi, either. Heck, I have more than one bike and I've thought of using CaBi.

@5555624,

Right, I've got four bikes and a CaBi membership. If I'm riding from home, I'll often take one of my bikes. If I'm out in the urban core, or riding from, say, the Hill to Chinatown, I'll take CaBi.

All about options. Not a guaranteed bike at any time of the day.

Jonathan, oboe et al.

I have been bike commuting year-round for years (on my own bike) but prefer not to use my bike for trips during the day. Lunch hour is not rush hour so I, as a CaBi member, should be able to use my membership to ride a CaBi bike to meet with my wife for lunch. Is that too much too ask?

If I cannot use CaBi for a simple activity like this that otherwise either wouldn't happen (too far to walk) or would involve a cab, then what exactly is the allure for CaBi for me?

Having premium memberships sounds like an interesting idea but I would need to make a lot of trips to make up for the $150 (assuming a 100% premium) that membership would cost. As it is, I joined CaBi when it opened mainly as a show of support and second as a a ready alternative if I wanted to meet people for lunch. That really doesn't work well for me as it turns out since load management is poor.

Just as an observation on the CaBi commuter topic: I saw three or four CaBi bikes on the MVT trail this morning, presumabley going to Crystal City.

I guess the appropriate question is what amount of service/availability should be expected for an investment of $75 per year (or $50, or $35).

I think everybody wants the the system to work more efficiently in terms of rebalancing, and to have it be as reliable as possible, though capacity constraints (whether in terms of not enough rebalancing vehicles, or simply a massive demand surplus) make the current state far from perfect.

Ultimately, I think it's a decision that each person will have to make individually, for what value they place on the level of reliability that CaBi offers, and whether that value meets the price.

Oboe says: Again, if your conception of bikeshare involves "must always get a bike when I want it" then perhaps it's not for you.

A more apt comparison than your lunch example would be ZipCar. I wanted to reserve a pickup truck for Saturday, but the closest one was already reserved. That doesn't mean ZipCar is broken. My (your) expectations are.

Actually, if ZipCar frequently had cars available only in locations inconvenient to me, than it would be broken--for me.

Most successful businesses do not spend energy trying to educate customers that they should be content when services they paid for are not available. Not that I see CaBi doing that, but it seems like some people are defending the honor of CaBi or something. From a customer standpoint, it seems 100% reasonable to expect access to a bike when that is what's being advertised in exchange for money. Or maybe when customers exceed the "free" time they're allocated, they should arrange things so they won't always pay. Listen up, CaBi, if you always expect to be paid for the service you're providing, maybe customers aren't for you.

It is, however, truly an academic discussion. Like any other venture it will ultimately succeed or fail based on whether it can satisfy enough paying customers, on that we can agree. (Though, separate discussion, I'm really not up to speed on the subsidy situation).

If, like with ZipCar, I could have reserved a bike spot in the morning at L'Enfant Plaza, then everything would have been fine. So the comparison with ZipCar has an obvious shortcoming.

In any event, like Christopher, I don't understand why people are defending CaBi's honor when they should just be looking at the facts of the situation: Unavailability of spots during non-rush hour and a van that drives by a full station without stopping.

If this had been the first time for me experiencing load management issues I would not be as agitated. It just seems to happen to me very frequently to the point where I do not make trips anymore (even before this week's disappointment) because I cannot afford to risk the potential letdown.

"People pay for a service with the expectation they'll get to use it. Why in the &^%$#! is that a difficult concept to grasp? If I had a contract where I paid for lunch five days a week but only got it on four days, I'd terminate that contract too. Nothing could be more rational."

I get that. My point is that few seem to make a similar argument in favor of terminating their "contract" with their automobiles.

I hear (or read about) people complaining about traffic all the time, but it is only the non-automotive forms of transit that get the "I quit" treatment. It is as if all forms of transportation are optional except automobiles. The term "windshield perspective" seems to apply.

If, like with ZipCar, I could have reserved a bike spot in the morning at L'Enfant Plaza, then everything would have been fine. So the comparison with ZipCar has an obvious shortcoming.

Not if someone else had reserved it before you.

Most successful businesses do not spend energy trying to educate customers that they should be content when services they paid for are not available.

A better example might be Netflix, which is kind of like DVD sharing. Sometimes you don't get the movie you want because it isn't available and that's cool. And both Netflix and CaBi (which isn't a business) are successful.

From a customer standpoint, it seems 100% reasonable to expect access to a bike when that is what's being advertised in exchange for money.

That's not what is advertised. What is advertised is the option of taking a bike when one is available.

CaBi isn't selling a bike to everyone who wants one when they want it. They could. They could charge people only when they rent. They don't. And they're pretty clear about that. You are getting what you paid for - it just may not be what you expected. If you expected to always get a bike everytime you wanted one, you expected too much.

I saw the CaBi Sprinter van and turned around because I thought I would be able to dock a bike now. Guess what, the driver did not even stop to load up some bikes although he drove right past the full station. That is just an epic fail.

Did the van have space for another bike? If not, stopping would have done no good. So, not stopping was not an epic fail. Or perhaps, there were higher priorities. Maybe a station that had been full longer (they get dinged at the 2 hour point) and one that they know, from experience, will not rebalance on its own. Perhaps the L'Enfant one can be expected to partially empty every half and hour when a VRE train comes in or something. You don't know and neither do I. That they ignored the station seems the less likely scenario though.

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