Marc Scribner is back with another poorly-argued post about Capital Bikeshare.
Capital Bikeshare is supposedly revolutionizing transportation in the District, reducing nasty polluting and obesity-causing auto use. I will now explain why this is not the case with some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic, and why Capital Bikeshare should be panned rather than praised.
To a large extent, my post earlier today refutes his thesis but I'll add a little anyway.
His first point is that Capital Bikeshare makes up a very small number of trips.
Even given these very optimistic assumptions, cycling would only represent a little over 1.9 percent of all trips taken in Washington, D.C. (Capital Bikeshare’s mode-share in this scenario: 0.14 percent of all trips.) It would take a pretty twisted view of reality to herald this figure as somehow revolutionizing urban mobility.
But then he follows it up with a study that defies his assertion - a study he's misrepresented before. The Montreal study shows that 67% of Bixi trips replaced something other than a bike trip. That's a pretty revolutionary mode shift. His mistake is to believe that the goal is only to get people out of cars. Getting them off transit (33%) makes them more active and that has health benefits,as well as reducing transit costs. Switching them from walking (25%) saves time and makes them more efficient and effective. And of course, 10% of trips replace driving, which has personal and public health benefits, reduces congestion, noise and pollution and makes for smarter land use.
So clearly, CaBi is "reducing nasty polluting and obesity-causing auto use"; by a 100,000 trips according to Scribner's own source. And I think creating 670,000 new bike trips - in a year when the system didn't even finish rolling out for five months - for a trivial investment, is pretty revolutionary.
Looking a the actual benefits - something Scribner doesn't bother with - we see that the positive externalities are about $1.5 M in year one. The bikes, Scribner asserts, are a $1000 per bike and will last 6 years. That means DC will make a $9M ($1.5M times 6 years) return on a $1M investment (1000 bikes at $1000 a piece). And reportedly the city is making actual money on the whole thing to boot "the operations and management for Capital Bikeshare is entirely self-sustaining—even profitable for the department." That's not a bad deal, and that's assuming ridership won't go up, even though it surely will.
He also tries to say it's a misuse of funds
If the money was to be spent on “[auto] congestion mitigation” and “air quality improvement,” and assuming the BIXI mode-switching figures broadly hold in D.C., this was a clear misuse of federal funds.
Except he admits that it has had an impact, if even a trivial one, on both. $5M is a trivial amount of money for a transportation program, it's OK for it to have a small impact.And as bike sharing expands in the region and nationwide, it will have an ever-growing impact.
What he never tries to do is to quantify the costs versus the benefits, which I did earlier, and I think it's clear that the benefits exceed the costs (even in the startup year). That's exactly the kind of program the government should fund.