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Back in July, we noticed that Capital Bikeshare ridership was starting to level off, after its meteoric rise through the spring. Well, it started declining the next month, and kept going, from a high of 143,511 trips in July to 99,552 trips in November. That, even though the system continued to gain hundreds of annual members per month, and add docking stations around the city. What gives?
I’ve got to say, it’s not the weather. We’ve had an uncommonly mild fall and winter, with only a few unbikeably frigid days—-on balance, no worse than the heat of the summer.
Strangely, the number of available bikes declined markedly, so that could be a part of the reason, and the District Department of Transportation couldn’t account for the change*. Or perhaps those most faithful riders have gotten bikes of their own, taking trips out of the system (but not cyclists off the roads).
But the biggest difference is the drop in “casual members”: The number of 24-hour passes purchased nosedived after July, mirroring the ridership decline. Only a small part of that can have happened after DDOT jacked up the cost of a pass from $5 to $7 in November. It’s true that tourism in D.C. is a highly seasonal business, and it looks like visitors might be a bigger part of the Bikeshare constituency than I, at least, had expected.
* UPDATE, Saturday, 12:45 p.m. – In fact, DDOT did account for the change, which I at first misunderstood: They actually took bikes out of circulation in order to push the dock-to-bike ratio from 66 percent down to 50 percent.