Geoff and DCist’s Aaron Morrissey place stars on the map. Photo by Jaime Fearer.

Capital Bikeshare has been so successful, bikes or open docks are getting harder to find at popular stations. But a large round of expansion, discussed at a public meeting last night, and a new “reverse rider rewards” program may soon help keep the system in balance.

At last night’s meeting, Councilmember Muriel Bowser praised the program, saying that it “has changed the amount of capacity on the roadways.”

According to DDOT Associate Director Scott Kubly, there are now over 13,800 CaBi members, which gives the system more members per bike than any bikesharing system in North America, (and maybe the world). The Living Social promotion brought in 6,000 new members compared to an expected 3,000.

The system is growing by nearly 100 members per week, said Kubly, and the system is now averaging 123,000 trips per month. There is enough money in the current budget to pay for 25 new stations, and the budget that passed the first vote earlier in the day will supply money in FY12 for 35 to 40 more stations.

Today, Capital Bikeshare also launched a new program to reward people for taking trips from “typically full stations” to “typically empty stations.”

DDOT placed six large maps around the room showing 60 potential station locations. Each attendee received three small star-shaped stickers to identify their preferences, whether for the 60 proposals or for potential stations not yet on the map.

Electronic vote tallies. Click to enlarge.

The online feedback DDOT received was most strongly supportive of a station at Georgia and Upshur, NW thanks to a campaign by Prince of Petworth. Other top station locations include Connecticut and Nebraska, the NE Branch Library, 4th and E SW, Rhode Island and 1st NW, Thomas Circle, and 6th and Massachusetts, NE.

DDOT’s Ralph Burns discussed station siting. He displayed a map that showed the current stations divided into three “tiers.” One tier includes stations that are working “too well” and require expansion because of heavy use. The second tier stations are in “the sweet spot,” used just enough to keep them in balance. The third tier stations are “underperforming,” or are not being utilized in a balanced way.

Stations in this tier may potentially be moved or made smaller to come more in line with demand. In the end, though, Mr. Burns noted that surveys and face-to-face conversations with users are very important in determining where stations will go next.

Chris Holben explained criteria for stations. The optimal space must be at least a 6-foot by 50-foot level, firm surface. Bike stations cannot be placed in tree boxes, on Metro grates, or over manhole covers. They can be on sidewalks, on grass, or in parking lanes on the street. Since the stations are solar-powered, they require at least 4 hours of direct (not ambient) sunlight per day in order to work properly.

One meeting attendee, Madeline, lives on H Street and finds CaBi to be one of the most convenient ways to get around. She said, “There are problems finding transportation on H Street already, and I have problems picking up a bike in the morning,” so she’d be very happy to see more stations in the H Street NE corridor.

There was a large contingent from Gallaudet University lobbying for stations at and around campus, so the chances that Madeline will be able to find an available Capital Bikeshare bicycle in the morning and an open dock in the evening look promising.

The “reverse rider rewards” program, launched today, is in effect each non-holiday weekday from 8-10 am. It identifies 16 “typically full” stations, all in and around downtown, and 17 “typically empty” stations in Glover Park, Columbia Heights, Capitol Hill, U Street and Dupont.

Stations in “Reverse Rider Rewards” program. “Typically full” stations are in black, “typically empty” stations in yellow. Click to enlarge.

Whoever has the most points for a particular month gets a free one-year membership extension, while the next 5 highest get a one-month extension. Everyone else who gets at least some points also enters a drawing for 5 more free one-month extensions. The program starts June 1.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC’s Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff’s writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer.

Before moving to California, Jaime Fearer was a community planner in Greenbelt, MD, and she lived in Trinidad, DC, where she served on the neighborhood association’s board. Jaime is now the Deputy Director of California Walks.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.