Local Government

Washington, DC's Capital Bikeshare: Tax $$$ for Rich, Educated, White Riders

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Capital Bikeshare, which rents bikes at more than 165 outdoor stations in the Washington D.C. area, serves highly educated and affluent whites.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course, except that the program has received $16 million in government subsidies, including over $1 million specifically earmarked to "address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment."

The program is part of a recent explosion in taxpayer-subsidized bike rental services, which have also hit the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston , Denver, Boulder, Houston, Minneapolis, Broward, Madison, Omaha, San Antonio, and Des Moines.

Capital Bikeshare's latest user survey finds that 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white. Fully 0 percent have only a high school diploma and just 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year. More than 90 percent were employed and 14 percent reported they were college students, suggesting that very few welfare recipients are using the service.

Capital Bikeshare is run by Portland-based Alta Planning + Design in partnership with four jurisdictions: Alexandria, VA; Arlington, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and the District of Columbia. So far, the program has received $15.9 million[*] in state, local, and federal subsidies.

Why are affluent, educated, and employed whites riding taxpayer-subsidized bikes?

ReasonTV Correspondent Kennedy investigates.

[*]: Government funding for Capital Bikeshare is collected separately by each jurisdiction, and breaks down as follows: District of Columbia ($10.3 million), Montgomery County ($3.1 million), Arlington ($1.9 million), and Alexandria ($600 thousand).

Produced by Jim Epstein, with production help from Joshua Swain and D.C. Pedicab.

About 2 minutes.

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  1. Why are affluent, educated, and employed whites riding taxpayer-subsidized bikes?

    come on, kids; try a little harder. This program would be just as repulsive if its users were poor, illiterate, jobless minorities. Welfare for hipsters is no less noxious than welfare for anyone else.

    1. It is because it is more hypocritical. Welfare is always sold as help for the poor. When it goes to hipsters living on mommy and daddy’s dime it is doubly offensive.

      And there is no group on earth more smug and self righteous than cyclists.

      1. one could make the case that the riders are the same people whose money was taken to fund the subsidy in the first place. I’m just saying the article misses the point by focusing on who uses this system instead of pointing out the sheer bullshit of its very existence.

        1. Of course the program itself is nonsense.

          But I think you also have to point out the BS behind “urban initiatives” of this kind, which wrap themselves in the mantle of serving the urban poor, when they really are only props in the lifestyle of affluent urban poseurs.

          1. my points remains that this article focuses exclusively on “the BS behind” the initiative, and ignores the core idiocy.

            Have the brainchildren who spawned this pig-at-the-trough ever seen a welfare recipient on a bike? Or anyone else who faces unique transportation challenges for that matter? And, aren’t those ‘challenged’ people a key reason why local bus systems were implemented?

      2. And there is no group on earth more smug and self righteous than cyclists.

        I dunno.
        So-con veteran lawyers are a pretty smug and self righteous bunch from what I’ve seen.

        1. Not being a SO Con, I wouldn’t know.

          1. That’s funny.

            Will you be here all week?

            1. I am anything but a SOCON. I find it hysterical that people on here assume I am. I don’t belong to a church. I don’t support blue laws of any kind. I am for the complete legalization of drugs and prostitution. I have never and will never trust teetotalers.

              You have to be weapons grade stupid to think that I am a SOCON. Or in reality just be a moron who assumes anyone who is not an atheist must be some kind of fundie.

              1. Very smug and self righteous of you, sir.

                1. Don’t make accusations unless you can back them up.

              2. “I am for the complete legalization of drugs and prostitution.”

                What a surprise… a John who supports legalizing prostitution.

        2. John’s a neocon with a war boner, but he’s pretty good on social stuff.

      3. And there is no group on earth more smug and self righteous than cyclists.

        I’ll go with Park Slope mothers for $200, Alex. But yeah, cyclists win just through sheer numbers.

        1. I have nothing against cycling. I own a bike. But there is a certain breed of asshole, usually men, who gets all geared up and thinks that because he is on a bike, he is somehow immune from traffic laws or an common sense.

          1. I commute in by bike occasionally. the only time I lord it over anyone is when someone is explaining the righteousness of their Prius.

            1. Okay. Prius owners are lower than cyclist.

              1. Funny story.

                An ex coworker of mine was filling up his Suburban when a lady filling her Prius contemptuously asked “How can you drive that… that… thing?” to which he calmly responded “If you were in an accident, which of these two vehicles would you rather be in?”

                She didn’t say anything else.

                1. No blood for oil!

                  Seriously, the flawed moral calculations these middle-class twits do, in the face of obvious risks, is mind-blowing.

          2. There was a group that used to ride to a university I worked at. They rode as a group, taking up a lane doing 15 mph on a road with a 45 mph speed limit.

            1. There is a road in Washington where there must be a multi million dollar bike path running the entire length. But do you think those assholes will use it? No, they ride three abreast and hold up traffic.

              1. I run into that problem down toward Mason Neck State Park. A taxpayer-funded bike path runs parallel to the road leading to the park. I’ve never seen a bicycle–or any living thing other than a possum–on it. Instead the cyclists crowd the road in their ridiculous little “look at me I’m a PRO rider!” outfits.

          3. I think this is who you’ve got in mind:
            http://youtu.be/V3nMnr8ZirI

      4. And there is no group on earth more smug and self righteous than cyclists.

        Not even urban hipster beekeepers?

        1. Is that even legal? I recall a local story not too long ago about neighbors complaining about bee traffic being like all scary and stuff (no one got stung that I can recall) and trying to get an ordinance passed banning the hobby.

        2. I’ll see your hipster beekeeper and raise you this…

          http://grist.org/list/bike-a-bee/

          1. I dunno… that GIF is pretty sweet…

            1. That GIF is hilarious.

      5. And there is no group on earth more smug and self righteous than cyclists.

        Except Vegans

        1. Yeah, but Vegans don’t tie up a lane at 5:20 M-F.

  2. What we really need are government subsidies for creative and innovative 21st century post-post-digital endeavors like the manufacture of artisanal mayonnaise.

    1. And doing creative puppetry and urban bee keeping.

      1. I think the puppetry is already covered. Isn’t that the only reason puppetry still exists?

      2. Urban bee keeping located right next to the urban bike rental places would be funny.

  3. On the bright side, at least the people paying for it are using it.

    1. Don’t be silly. These are all government employees or government contractors. They are ultimately paid for by real taxpayers.

      1. don’t forget us lobbyists. of course, as a lobbyist, i bought my own bike and billed it to client.

  4. Another tidbit about Capital Bikeshare I got from talking one day with one of their service techs, who make sure that the bikes and stands are in working order: the bulk of their bikes in the morning are downhill from where they were rented.

    The Bikeshare techs have to drive around in vans after the morning rush and re-distribute the bikes from the downhill stations to the uphill stations. I wonder how much gas that doesn’t save?

    So, not only are the riders more affluent, they’re lazy too.

    1. LOL. But the hipsters feel good about themselves. And that is what is important isn’t it?

      1. I will give the Bikeshare company credit, in that they do seem to have a robust system in place and bikes have been designed smartly for rentals. They’re sturdy, basic, universal and seem to have been designed for easy maintenance. You can easily rent the bike on the spot through a credit card and account you set up with them (I think you can rent without an account, at a higher rate).

        I actually think the bike share thing is a terrific business idea, but they can do it on their own fucking dime, thank you.

        1. If they can’t support their business without subsidies, then maybe it isn’t as terrific as you think.

          1. I agree, but the slimy old pols are tripping over themselves to throw money at feel-good projects, which the bike share companies only too happy to pick up.

            I’ve seen this operation in DC up close and it is very well-thought out. It should easily be able to cope off the public teet at the right price point. But, we know through repeated research that the modern urban progressive is incapable of functioning without other people’s money.

        2. Denver has a program like this that’s run by a non-profit, but isn’t subsidized (except by Tony’s definition of subsidized), but then Denver is a pleasant place to ride about 300 days a year.

    2. Actually, that one I don’t blame on the riders. I blame it on the people who conceived the program.

      Anyone who looks at a topographical map of the District should be able to figure out in two seconds that if you put out human-powered transport for people to use, more people will use it to ride TOWARDS the river than AWAY.

      Because riding a bike is a less plausible transportation choice (for example) when you’re heading west on Wilson Boulevard than when you’re heading east. It’s a less plausible choice trying to get OUT of Georgetown on Wisconsin Avenue than trying to get IN.

      If you plan a big hoo-ha bike service and don’t take that into account, you are a negligent moron.

      1. Seriously, I don’t think Lance Armstrong would ride a bike up that fucking hill on Wilson Blvd in Roslyn. It would be like riding a bike up Everest.

        Riding DOWN that hill would probably a blast, like going to Six Flags.

        How can anyone be surprised if at the end of the day there’s a big pile of bikes at the bottom of the hill and none at the top?

        1. Wisconsin Avenue up from M Street to the Cathedral is epic. I jogged it once, it was a theater of pain.

          And don’t forget the malarial summers and reasonably cold winters in Washington as well. There really is only about four months a year at most that riding a bike is even remotely practical.

        2. Actually, that one I don’t blame on the riders. I blame it on the people who conceived the program.

          I agree and don’t blame them, but you never hear of this come up when the platitudes of the programs are being spewed by supporters. Somehow, the net costs of fuel overhead are mysteriously missing.

          From near as I can tell, cyclists and their boosting programs are only one step removed from God in their goodness.

        3. Fix it with pricing. Your cost is based on time of rental AND altitude gain/loss.

          CB

          1. Just like the old railroad tariffs of the 1800’s.

    3. A friend told me that the night Osama’s death was announced, something like 75% of all their bikes ended up at the Bikeshare stations around the White House. Of course, he was one of those who rode down and then grabbed a cab back home.

  5. Capital Bikeshare’s latest user survey finds that 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white.

    That means they’re permanent students and therefore on a limited income.

    1. Or it means they are the overeducated government worker stereotype with 3 different kinds of sociology degree.

  6. Capital Bikeshare is run by Portland-based Alta Planning + Design in partnership with four jurisdictions: Alexandria, VA; Arlington, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and the District of Columbia. So far, the program has received $15.9 million[*] in state, local, and federal subsidies.

    Meet the new rent-seeking parasite, same as the old rent-seeking parasite.

  7. Why are affluent, educated, and employed whites riding taxpayer-subsidized bikes?

    Because the others are only interested in stealing them?

  8. This is an excellent idea: A bike gets you to the Occupy rally faster.

    1. except the article cites affluent riders, implying that they have jobs and are earning paychecks rather than leeching off mother and daddy, and whomever else they can touch. It might be interesting, though, to see how many Occutards would be interested if the destination was an actual job rather than a public park-cum-campsite.

      1. Dude! Actual jobs don’t have, like, drum circles and stuff! Or free food! What, are we, like, supposed to pay for stuff?

      2. “a public park-cum-campsite”

        now that’s just gross.

  9. NO HELMETS?!

    I suppose my tax dollars also go to brain-dead taxpayer-subsidized bike riders.

    1. Need organ donors. The govt has determined that it is unethical to pay them, so they just give 20 somethings rental bikes and no helmets in an area with dicey traffic.

      1. Alrighty then.

  10. I remember when they tried some “community bicycle” project in The People’s Republic of Boulder and all the bikes ended up in the creek.
    Liberals are like school at five in the morning. No class.

  11. I wouldn’t worry. These bikes are all going to end up in the hands of “welfare recipients and low-income persons” anyway. Permanently.

    1. They’re unique looking (read: ugly) so not many get stolen.

    2. No self respecting ghetto dweller would be caught dead on one of those bikes. Maybe if they could melt them down for scrap.

    3. Good to know, that millions of dollars are being spent on bikes that aren’t even worth stealing.

      1. 51 of the 52 bikes in our Yellow Bike program went missing within a month. (Even the newspaper had to admit that, which must have led to some gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes.)

        The solution? Buy 200 more.

        1. The Yellow Bike program is the free-to-use bikes that ran on the honor system. All of the yellow Bikes in Minneapolis disappeared after a couple of weeks too.

          This is the Rent-a-Bike program, where you need a credit/debit card to use them.

  12. The program is very popular in Minneapolis – which surprised everyone.

    Tourists seem to use the bikes too.

    1. Take away the subsidies so the price reflects the actual cost, and then see how popular they are.

      1. You are correct sir.

    2. Even in January?

      1. January 2012- Yes

        January 2011- No fuckin’ way.

      2. In Boston the bikes aren’t rentable Nov-Feb.

  13. It been successful here, assuming successful means “providing bikes to people who could easily afford them.”

    But it did shut the hipsters and Professor Tweedbeard crowd up for a little while, so the money might be worth it.

  14. “Things that White People Like”

  15. Since rich educated white people are DC’s tax base, I don’t think it’s unfair that they actually get to use a service they’re forced to pay for.

    1. Wouldn’t they rather have, um, *representation*, rather than some stupid bikes?

    2. Don’t tax them, let them buy their own bikes with their own money.

  16. What I want to know is when are the walking-lots-of-places subsidies coming online? Because I could use some help with the cost of my shoes, my sunscreen, my shades, my water bottle and my phone. And that’s nothing compared to how much it costs my daughters to walk everywhere; iPods don’t pay for themselves, you know, and neither do iTunes accounts. There’s also the knife and pepper spray the younger one carries to walk the mile or so to her third shift job, and the time and money she spent getting a city permit to carry the pepper spray.

    I think we can all agree that if only everyone would pay their fair share, we as a nation could easily help offset the costs associated with walking. After all, doesn’t my walking have public health and environmental benefits for you? Why is the community of walkers so shamefully under-served? Isn’t it about time we put some of our Top Men on it?

    1. I think we need to start with a federally-funded self-esteem program and go from there.

  17. Bikes for Dorks!

  18. At least DC is moving the other direction in subsidising Zipcar.

    The only glaring problem with the article is that (shocker!) the author is a complete moron:

    This makes most sense in systems where greater scale conveys direct benefits to users. Think of it in terms of Capital Bikeshare: The city awarded one contract, and sets prices, and is helping the contractor build out more infrastructure as quickly as possible. If the city allowed multiple competitors into the bikesharing market, consumers would likely lose out.

    1. Competition, how does it work?

    2. In networks there are often times trends towards natural monopoly because the benefit of use grows as it becomes larger. Is is theoretically possible then that multiple smaller networks would be worse than one giant one.

      1. If you had ten different water companies for example, yes you’d have competition, but likely the cost per unit of water would be higher because no company could reach its optimal efficiency size.

        1. The city should give a milk contract to one dairy farm so that dairy farm can reach optimal efficiency. All these different types of milk are hurting the consumer.

  19. I love telling these people how much gas I used to drive in to work. Then I say a little prayer of thanks to Exxon.

  20. I’m not sure it’s fair to lump in every B-Cycle program with a program from an unrelated company in DC. The degree of subsidy for B-Cycle programs varies from city to city, and at least in some places it partially solves a legitimate problem.

    It looks like they sold it as a ‘helping poor people’ program in DC, but the Denver/Boulder program was always a way to alleviate the last-mile problems in using public transportation. You take a regional bus into Denver or Boulder for most of your commute and hop on a bike to get from the station to a kiosk near your office. So yeah, it’s mostly affluent white people using it (in Boulder we pretty much don’t have any other kind of people), but no one ever expected otherwise and it gets a few more cars off of US36.

    And as far as I know it’s pretty much all paid for by the rental fees and advertising space on the kiosks and the big ugly baskets.

    * Disclaimer – a long time ago I wrote a very small part of the code that runs the rental kiosks.

    1. If the system is sustainable by fees and advertisement, then there’s no problem then.

      1. General Rule: If VC money won’t go near it, then it is unsustainable without subsidies.

    2. Riding a bicycle “the last mile” through the Colorado snows has got to be a real joy.

      1. The Colorado snows only make it to Denver about 3 weeks a year.

  21. Shouldn’t liberal big-government tree-hugging planet-saving community-first bike riders be required to wear helmets? Shouldn’t the bikes be equipped with rear-view mirrors and safety flags and air bags?

    Don’t they know we’ll all pay their medical bills if they get hurt renting those things?

    1. CE, this is only correct if the fascist wing of the Supreme Court finds Obamacare to be unconstitutional. Otherwise, medical care is free.

  22. I can’t get Youtube at work, but I will take a stab at what the investigative report found was government’s response to why they can make these subsdies. “We have the money to give to whoever we want because we can either tax you or borrow to our heart’s content, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” Am I close?

  23. Did anybody notice the “guns” on Kennedy around 1:35 mark? Somebody has apparently been working out, probably without gov’t subsidies too. She put wimpy boy she’s talking to to shame.

  24. One look at the station map shows how concerned they are about serving the poor. Notice that big blank space east of where it says Brookland? That’s poor people country. I see a handful in Anacostia (south and east of downtown DC), but the vast majority are in wealthy and or up-and-coming (read: hipster) neighborhoods.

      1. Solid observation. NY/RIA/FLA Ave country scares the hipsters.

  25. White leftists suck, but Kennedy is hot!

  26. Look a lot like that disastrous bike program “Bixi” in Montreal.
    http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet…..ntrealHome

  27. Altruistic-sounding earmarks are merely a useful device for filling the tax-money pi?ata. Nevermind that the spoils are ultimately dispensed to any and every bat-wielding politico or system-gaming community activist who wants to take a swing at it.

    But –on a less bitter note– Kennedy has a BITCHIN’ bod (for hers, or ANY age)– you GO girl, etc.

  28. Better headline: “Bike subsidies to rich people reduce even higher road subsidies to rich people.”

    Bike subsidies have to be on the very left end of the distribution of negative externalities or unintended consequences.

    The % of a**hole bike riders is approximately the same as % of a**hole drivers and walkers. Mode of transportation doesn’t matter much, if at all.

    1. PJ O’Rourke’s observation; the only mode of transportation worse than walking is bicyling. It’s like a donkey cart, except you are the donkey.

      1. Cars are the worst. It’s like a donkey, where the car is the donkey and we are the lazy donkey’s ass

  29. 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white. Fully 0 percent have only a high school diploma and just 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year. http://www.petwinkel.com/pet-new-era-c-55.html More than 90 percent were employed and 14 percent reported they were college students, suggesting that very few welfare recipients are using the service.

  30. Government funding for Capital Bikeshare is collected separately by http://www.lunettesporto.com/l…..-3_11.html each jurisdiction, and breaks down as follows: District of Columbia ($10.3 million), Montgomery County ($3.1 million), Arlington ($1.9 million), and Alexandria ($600 thousand)

  31. Does in this tax minorities are counted because if they are rich and educated then why not tax them too.

  32. Another example of how subsidies are screwing up America

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