I’ve spent the past five days in Washington, D.C. participating in the National League of Cities conference and the American Public Power Association conference. As a part of these conferences, I also had the opportunity to meet with Washington’s Congressional delegation and their staff. It has been a hectic few days, but quite valuable for my work in Seattle.
Traveling back and forth between conferences and meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to use public transportation, including the Metro subway system and the Capital Bikeshare system, and experience some of the vibrant neighborhoods of D.C.
The Metro subway system is an amazing resource and a true network (see map to the right). Traffic can be significant and parking very difficult to find throughout D.C., and the subway and the bus system provide a quick and reliable alternative to driving or taking a cab. As Seattle continues to develop its transit network, I look forward to the day multiple points in the city will be connected with frequent, reliable service in dedicated rights-of-way so that you are not stuck in traffic.
The piece of a transit system that I had never experienced before is the bike sharing system, Capital Bikeshare. It serves a number of uses, but for me it was perfect for getting off the subway and connecting the last half mile or mile to my destination – what transportation folks call a “walk extender.”
The Capital Bikeshare system is a membership based model. Visitors can get one and three day memberships at any station for $7 and $15 respectively. The credit card you pay with becomes your membership card. (If you live here, you can get an annual membership for about $75, which comes with a card key.) You can then check out a bike from any of 100 stations throughout the city – your card gives you a code which allows you to release the bike. Any time you use a bike, the first 30 minutes are free, the next 30 are $2, then $4 and $8. The pricing is designed to encourage keeping the bikes circulating in the system as opposed to leaving it outside a restaurant while you eat. It works because there are enough stations that it is easy to check out and drop off bikes multiple times per day.
Between my temporary bike share membership and my Metro fare card, I could conveniently access everywhere I needed to in town. A great benefit to this system of making it really easy and convenient to get around on transit is that there were a lot people using the system, which also means a lot of people out on their feet and walking by businesses. I also noticed that while you could find a Starbucks or two, there were countless local stores and restaurants that are thriving. DC feels like Seattle in that there are a lot of great neighborhood districts, and all these people on the street made it quite lively.
Pictured below: Me and Councilmember Nick Licata in front of the Capital dome in D.C.