Photo by Supermac1961 on Flickr.

One of Capital Bikeshare’s basic challenges is keeping some bikes and docks available at each station all the time. CaBi has staff that keeps that balance by moving bikes from one station to another, but if the Spotcycle app had a rebalance option, users could opt to help with the effort.

A few years ago, CaBi tried a Reverse Riders Rewards program, which rewarded CaBi members for moving bikes from typically full stations to typically empty ones during the weekday morning rush hours as a way to supplement their normal rebalancing efforts. The program didn’t last long because, as I recall, it mostly rewarded members for doing things they were already doing.

To get a similar benefit at a lower cost, CaBi could add a “rebalance” button. When you push the button, the app would use your location to identify any nearby stations that are full/nearly-full or empty/ nearly-empty and identify close-by stations that need rebalancing.

That’d be it.

I’m sure some people would rebalance bikes out of general altruism just like people create data visualizations and hack apps for free. It’d only take a few helpers to make the effort worthwhile. It might not cost anything extra to add the button, and any additional rebalancing would lower costs.

To get greater participation, CaBi could even make a game out of it. The top “citizen rebalancer” every quarter could get a gold member key and public recognition. Or a cupcake. Or socks. Or a free membership. Or maybe rebalancers could earn “points” redeemable for rewards.

Regardless, by giving individual rebalancing assignments, CaBi would encourage actual additional rebalancing. You could even tax people 1/10th of a rebalance if they ask for an assignment and refuse it, so as to keep people from just being opportunistic about it (“Let’s see if the trip I’m going to do anyway will earn me a rebalance”).

There is a lot of opportunity to include CaBi members in rebalancing efforts. The more the service tinkers with how to do that, the better.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Wash Cycle.

David Cranor is an operations engineer. A former Peace Corps Volunteer and former Texan (where he wrote for the Daily Texan), he’s lived in the DC area since 1997. David is a cycling advocate who serves on the Bicycle Advisory Council for DC.