Where did people ride Capital Bikeshare during the Metro shutdown?

The sudden Metrorail shutdown on March 16 took nearly everyone by surprise, and was a nearly unprecedented move by WMATA. While the decision disrupted the commutes of hundreds of thousands of commuters, it did provide agencies with an opportunity to observe how the other components of the D.C. region’s transportation system handled the new demand.

Capital Bikeshare data from that day informed a mapping tool and several animations by Mobility Lab’s senior tech advisor Michael Schade, which provide some insight on how the bikeshare system fits within the broader regional network.

The map gives an idea of which bikeshare stations had major jumps in ridership (such as those downtown and in NoMa), and which ones were negatively affected by the lack of Metro riders.

Bikeshare comparison chart

Looking broadly, the overall bikeshare ridership grew by 21 percent compared to the previous Wednesday, March 9. (It’s worth noting, for comparison purposes, that both days had unseasonably warm and sunny weather.) Almost all of this increase came from a more-than-doubling of casual bikeshare trips: registered trips grew by only 1 percent.

One possible explanation for the low increase in registered trips could be the higher likelihood that registered riders own personal bikes. In an effort to make more bikeshare bikes available, those with their own bikes were encouraged to ride those instead. Additionally, Capital Bikeshare made casual trips, normally $8 for 24 hours, free for the day.

While tourists and visitors to the D.C. area are typically the ones considered as “casual” bikeshare riders, on the “day without Metro,” the category grew to include a massive number of residents trying out the system for the first time.

On a station-by-station scale, 223 (or 63 percent) of all 354 stations, saw a jump in traffic on March 19. Trip decreases from certain bikeshare stations could offer a possible insight into where Capital Bikeshare riders typically connect to Metrorail. Some stations near Metrorail, such as a few in the Golden Triangle area of D.C. near Farragut West, saw decreases, but the decrease was not uniform or widespread enough to show any particular relation to Metro. Other factors, such as schools canceling classes or employers allowing telework, would have had a major impact on bikeshare ridership as well.

Given the multitude of factors, and the unique situation of the shutdown, it is difficult to determine some of these exact patterns behind ridership. But the overall jump in casual ridership does make clear: without Metro, many commuters explored a new transportation option through bikeshare.

Related: for more Capital Bikeshare-based data projects, come check out Mobility Lab’s upcoming Transportation Techies meeting on April 28.

Bike counts in the interactive map courtesy of the BikeArlington Counter Dashboard.

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What is a “registered” trip?

Paul Mackie

A “registered trip” is one taken by a Capital Bikeshare member, who most likely lives in the D.C. region. This is different from a “casual rider,” who is probably a visiting tourist.


The trip-history data shows the type of member who made each trip. “registered” means the rider has a monthly or annual membership; “casual” riders have 1-day or 3-day passes. Normally we assume casual riders are mostly tourists, but of course without doing a survey there is no way to be sure.



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