Capital Bikeshare vs. Dockless Bikeshare

As a resident of Arlington, I have a unique location to watch Capital Bikeshare “compete” with dockless bikeshare. I put “compete” in quotes because the mutual goal of Capital Bikeshare and the five dockless bikeshare companies is to get more people biking. However, some bike planners believe dockless bikeshare will pull enough people from Capital Bikeshare that it won’t be able to compete with dockless bikeshare.

Since bikeshare is still new to most Americans, I want to make sure everyone knows the difference between dock-based and dockless bikeshare. As the below photo shows, dock-based bikeshare systems require the bike to be docked at a station. Capital Bikeshare is the main dock-based bikeshare system that operates in the DC region.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

As the below photo shows, dockless bikeshare systems have bikes that are self-locked. The five dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC region are Jump, LimeBike, Mobike, ofo, and Spin. While Jump is the only company with e-bikes, LimeBike and Spin announced last week that they plan to start offering e-bikes soon.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

While all six bikeshare systems have apps, which are shown below, it’s possible to use Capital Bikeshare without the app by purchasing a pass at the kiosk. Since not everyone has a smartphone, this reduces the barrier to bikeshare. In addition, only Capital Bikeshare can be used by paying cash. Many low-income people don’t have a credit or debit card, so this gives them access to using bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare vs Dockless Bikeshare

Source: Transit App

I have a unique location to watch this bikeshare situation because of how the permitting process is unfolding across the DC region. While Capital Bikeshare is permitted to operate throughout the region, only DC has given permits to all five dockless bikeshare companies. As this Greater Greater Washington post explains, DC and Montgomery County, MD had an easier process than local jurisdictions in Virginia to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs because they are governed by Home Rule. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means state law preempts local law. Local jurisdictions must receive permission from the General Assembly to act on local matters. Yes, Maryland is also a Dillon Rule state. However, Montgomery County became the first county in Maryland to adopt a home rule charter in 1948.

Since DC is geographically small and dockless bikeshare companies have been struggling to inform their customers that they don’t have permits to operate outside of DC, I have been watching how human behavior and government processes react to this issue. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which is impacting the ability of local jurisdictions to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs and regulate the dockless bikeshare companies. This is why Virginia doesn’t officially have dockless bikeshare yet. Arlington wrote this blog post to educate people about the different types of bikeshare. I found the following statements interesting.

“the six-month trial of dockless bikeshare is entirely a DC project at this time. The operators do not have an agreement with Arlington County so their operating location is within Washington, DC borders.

If you see a bike in Arlington, you can contact the operator to collect their bike to take back into DC, or you can ride the bike back into the operating location (JUMP bike offers a $1 credit every when a bike is ridden back into the operating area).

This is all still very early in the experimental phase so there is no telling right now how policies could change.”

If this wasn’t confusing enough, only four of the five dockless bikeshare companies have permits from Montgomery County, MD to operate in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. I believe the fifth company, Jump, has decided not to expand to Montgomery County yet because it wants to focus on DC. None of the dockless bikeshare companies have permits to operate elsewhere in DC’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Plus, they can’t operate on National Park Service (NPS) property. This is important because the National Mall and regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are owned by the NPS.

Dockless Bikeshare

Map of dockless bikeshare’s service area in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Source: WashCycle

Even if the NPS gave permits to the dockless bikeshare companies to operate on its property, e-bikes are banned from NPS-owned trails. However, I haven’t seen this ban enforced and it doesn’t appear to be discouraging many people from riding e-bikes on trails. I am curious to see whether this controversial NPS ban becomes more heated as LimeBike and Spin join Jump in having e-bikes.

Since many regions throughout the US are working on dockless bikeshare regulations and permit programs, I want to share the below regulation breakdown from Twelve Tone Consulting. The North American Bikeshare Association published the Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Preliminary Guidance in January 2018.

Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Breakdown

Source: Twelve Tone Consulting’s Dockless Bikes: Regulation Breakdown

Dockless bikeshare parking issues have been reported in many locations, so look at Dockless Bike Fail’s tweets for photo evidence. What do you think about the issues I have discussed in this post?

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Virginia’s Lee Highway Alliance experiments with State of Place’s walkability analysis tool

Today is the National Day on Writing, which asks people to share why they write using #WhyIWrite. I started this blog in 2014 and wrote the following post because I’m passionate about opening people’s eyes to transportation issues that I also used to be blind to. Since Greater Greater Washington‘s staff helped me write this post so it could be posted on their blog, the structure is different from what I usually write on my blog.

The Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) in Arlington, Virginia is working to make the Lee Highway Corridor more economically vibrant, walkable, and attractive. State of Place is helping them achieve their walkability goals. Walkability is simply a measure of how friendly a given place is to walking. People who live in highly walkable places see a slew of health, environmental, and financial benefits.

The Lee Highway Corridor is located in north Arlington just north of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Unlike the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, which helped Arlington win the Gold 2017 National Planning Achievement Award for Implementation, the Lee Highway Corridor remains a primarily automobile-dependent, suburban-style place.

Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor Past-Present

Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, past and present. Images by Arlington.

As is typical of most of the commercial corridors built throughout the country during the mid-to-late 20th century, the general development pattern of the Lee Highway Corridor is low-rise commercial development with prominent surface parking lots and limited pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure.

It is a major automobile commuter corridor. In order to create the place that the LHA envisions, the Lee Highway Corridor needs to become a place that prioritizes people and community over automobiles.

Since the LHA wants to provide people with healthy transportation choices and attract vibrant economic development, it hopes to improve the Lee Highway Corridor through a new vision that includes distinct, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood centers.

Lee Highway Corridor Future Intensity

Proposed neighborhood centers showing a spectrum of density. Image by Arlington.

One of the proposed neighborhood centers, Lee Heights shopping center, is shown below:

Lee Heights Shopping Center Illustration

Illustrative concept for Lee Heights shopping center, existing and proposed. Image by Arlington.

There are many tools that cities or other planners use to determine how pedestrian-friendly an area is and how they can improve “walkability.”

So how do planners determine how walkable an area is?

You can see a walkability analysis in action in Virginia

Recently, LHA was one of six organizations across the US to win a five-block walkability analysis from State of Place, a software company that uses predictive analytics to quantify what people love about a given place.

State of Place uses ten urban design categories, such as density, connectivity, and traffic safety, to assess how walkable a block, a group of blocks, or an entire neighborhood is. During the past several months, they assessed the walkability of Lee Highway. Results will be presented to the public on Saturday, October 21 from 10am-12pm at the Lee Highway Alliance office, which is located at 4620 Lee Highway, Suite 208.

There are pros and cons to all walkability assessment tools

State of Place’s approach isn’t the only walkability assessment tool available. Another tool is called Walk Score, which provides a number on the 100-point scale that measures the walkability of any address.

Most cities use Walk Score, but State of Place walkability researcher Dr. Mariela Alfonzo says this tool tends to overestimate the walkability of high-access, low-income communities, among other problems.

Joe Cortright at City Observatory rebuked Alfonzo’s criticisms, saying State of Place’s metrics are highly complex, extremely labor intensive to gather, and consequently very expensive. Plus, they have not been implemented enough to let an objective third party assess their accuracy and utility.

While there is no perfect way to assess how walkable an area or city is, both tools are a great start to understanding how to improve the accessibility and livability of a given area.

Here’s how walkability scores are created

I’ve had the opportunity to personally use the State of Place tool to conduct a similar analysis in Tigard, Oregon last year. With help from three of my Master of Urban and Regional Planning classmates from Portland State University, we created neighborhood walkability assessments for the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard.

Delta Planning Team with Client 2-10-16

Team of Master of Urban and Regional Planning students from Portland State University with client, Lloyd Purdy of Tigard, OR (left to right: Ray Atkinson, Curtis Fisher, Lloyd Purdy, Linn Davis, Wala Abuhejleh)

My team used the inventory tool to capture data on more than 280 built environment features, in ten urban design categories, that contribute to the walkability on every street segment in this area.

We underwent a rigorous training process where we practiced using the inventory tool in four different sample settings. Individual results from the four sample settings weren’t exact matches, so we understand our data collection in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Triangle isn’t completely accurate. For example, one person could have felt safe walking on a street segment while another person didn’t feel safe walking on the same street segment.

We walked 74 street segments in the Tigard Triangle and 15 street segments in Downtown Tigard. The data was submitted to State of Place, who used their proprietary algorithm to generate an Index score for each segment on a 100-point scale. The results are shown below:

Downtown & Triangle SoP Index

State of Place Index for Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard

The index for the Tigard Triangle is 33 out of 100, a low walkability score meaning most trips require an automobile. For comparison, Downtown Tigard scored 66.

The profile breaks the index down into ten urban design categories that contribute to the walkability of the place, so cities can know where to prioritize walkability improvements. As the profile shows, the weakest category for the Tigard Triangle is lack of parks and public spaces.

State of Place Index & Profile Tigard Triangle

State of Place Index and Profile for Tigard Triangle

However, increasing parks and public spaces don’t do as much for walkability as adding density, pedestrian amenities, and traffic safety.

Since most cities have scarce resources, State of Place also provided the “Weighted by Impact and Feasibility (Walkability)” chart, shown below. Constructing a building is expensive and often depends on the private sector, so density isn’t the most feasible way to improve walkability.

Since the public sector has more control over adding pedestrian amenities and improving traffic safety, and the non-weighted profile shows these are weak in the Tigard Triangle, they are the most feasible ways to improve walkability in this place.

State of Place Prioritization Tigard Triangle

State of Place Prioritization Tigard Triangle2

State of Place charts for Tigard Triangle

The city used this data and my team’s recommendations to help create the Tigard Triangle Lean Code, which was adopted in August 2017. The lean code promotes building and site designs that improve walkability.

Tigard Triangle Lean Code

Tigard Triangle Lean Code. Image by Tigard.

If this analysis interests you, results from the Arlington walkability analysis will be presented to the public by State of Place on Saturday, October 21 from 10am-12pm at the Lee Highway Alliance office, which is located at 4620 Lee Highway, Suite 208. I plan to write a post with public reaction to the results.