Capital Bikeshare Striving to Become Financially Self-Sufficient

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Originally posted on CommuterPageBlog. Cross-posted on The Bike-sharing Blog

Photo: Capital Bikeshare rider

For a new mode of transit and a fledgling service, Arlington’s portion of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) finished its first year with a cost recovery rate that other transit providers in the U.S. would find admirable. The regional CaBi service launched on September 20, 2010 and Arlington’s portion achieved an 53% cost recovery – the ratio of revenues to operating costs – during its first year. Compared to other bikesharing services in the U.S., CaBi did well considering it was the only year-round service at the time. Compared to other modes of transit in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, CaBi fares well, but still has a way to go.

Bikeshare Systems Ratio Year
Capital Bikeshare (Arlington)
(operates year-round)
53% 2011
Capital Bikeshare (DC)
(operates year-round)
120% 2011
Denver Bike Sharing
(operates 7.3 months/year)
149% 2010


Rail Systems

Ratio Year
Chicago (CTA) 53.1% 2010
New York City (NYCT) 71.7% 2010
Philadelphia (SEPTA) 51.1% 2010
Washington, DC (WMATA) 62.1% 2010
Amsterdam 41.3% 2007
Berlin 70.3% 2010
Brussels 35.2% 2007
Hong Kong (MTR) 149% 2007
Taipei (MRT 119% 2006


Bus Systems

Ratio Year
Arlington, VA (ART) 35.5% 2011
Chicago (CTA) 38.2% 2010
New York City (NYCT) 36.6% 2010
Philadelphia (SEPTA) 28.5% 2010
Washington, DC (WMATA) 19.4% 2010

Arlington’s portion of the CaBi service had $218,000 in revenues (from memberships, user fees, and sponsorships) and $270,000 in operating expenses from Alta Bicycle Share. Additionally, marketing and management costs were $142,000 for a total Year 1 expense of $412,000, which equates to revenues covering 53% of program expenses. Operating expenses were $155 per bike per month. If one calculates operating costs like some other bikeshare programs (like DC’s portion of CaBi and Denver) and only includes contracted costs for providing the service (Alta Bicycle Share), then Arlington’s cost recovery is 81%.

We’ve blogged about bikesharing being an economical transport mode for both customers and local governments, but now we have the data to document it. CaBi began operations with 14 stations and 110 bikes and completed its first year with 18 stations and 113 bikes. Only three bikes were needed to be added as the service shifted from a 67% bike-to-dock ratio to 50% to improve bike balancing operations. Arlington’s portion of CaBi benefitted from being a regional service with D.C.’s 100 stations.

We have lots of impressive data to share on CaBi’s first year of service from 9/20/10 – 9/19/11. Here are some interesting Arlington-specific CaBi facts:

  • total trips starting in Arlington: 50,372 trips
  • total trips ending in Arlington: 50,115 trips
  • total trips regionally: 999,759 trips
  • total miles of trips starting in Arlington: 46,776 miles
  • average Arlington trip length: 1.04 miles
  • average trip duration: 19 minutes
  • total CO2 saved from trips starting in Arlington: 6,268 pounds
  • total calories burned from trips starting in Arlington: 2,011,368
  • total minutes of trips starting in Arlington: 1,180,830 minutes (21,293,622 minutes regionally)
  • number of Arlington members of each type (1-day, 5-day, 30-day, 1-year): 1,165 annual, 111 month, 144 5-day, 4,228 1-day
  • number of crashes in Arlington: 1 crash
  • bikes stolen in Arlington: 0

We’re well into our second year and now up to 23 stations and 145 bikes. Service expansion is continuing in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor with 21 more stations and 144 more bikes coming online in the spring, nearly doubling the size of Arlington’s service. Additionally, we have funding to add another 25 stations in FY13. We look forward to increasing CaBi’s impact in the County by reaching more neighborhoods and folks, making CaBi an integral part of everyone’s lives – whether you live, work, or play in Arlington.


Denver Bike Sharing 2010 Annual Report (PDF, 1.2 MB, Adobe Reader required) [Update Aug. 1, 2013: linked file no longer available.)

National Transit Database Data [Broken link removed June 16, 2016]

Wikipedia Fare box Recovery Ratio

by Paul DeMaio
Capital Bikeshare Program Manager
consultant to Arlington County Commuter Services
Department of Environmental Services
Arlington County, VA

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