Afternoon Read: Is Government Getting Good Mileage From Its Investment in Capital Bikeshare? - NBC4 Washington
First Read
Your first stop for politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Afternoon Read: Is Government Getting Good Mileage From Its Investment in Capital Bikeshare?



    A libertarian, self-described "free minds and free markets,"  organization critiqued Capital Bikeshare for attracting only young, affluent riders despite being a transportation program subsidized by government dollars. 

    According to a recent Capital Bikeshare survey ,which was released last week, 95 percent of the program’s regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a masters or Ph.D. and most riders are white. Zero percent have only a high school diploma and 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year.

    In its survey, Capital Bikeshare describes its demographics as the following: "Compared to all commuters in the region, they are, on average, considerably younger, more likely to be male and Caucasian, highly educated, and slightly less affluent."

    But Reason filmed a video saying that Capital Bikeshare has received $16 million in government subsidies, including more than $1 million specifically earmarked to "address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment." Based on this, the reporter argued, the government should not be funding the program.

    Chris Holben, program manager at Capital Bikeshare, told Reason that he wasn’t sure why the demographics of the Capital Bikeshare diverged from the makeup of DC but said, “the early adopters of our program were people who were already riding bikes and they tend to skew male, they tend to skew white and educated."

    Mike DeBonis of the Post offered a rebuttal to Reason and said that taxpapyers subsidize every mode of transportation in some measure. By comparison to the $300 million 11th Street Bridge Project, for instance, Bikeshare comes at a good price.

    Reason gets good mileage out of the fact that a portion of the funding came from a federal program meant to address the “unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment.” Juxtaposed with the elite demographics of the Bikeshare system at large but without investigating where and how that particular money has been spent, that’s meant to paint Bikeshare as a boondoggle. Truth is, that particular grant totaled $1.3 million and was awarded to Montgomery County under the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute program. The bulk of D.C.’s funding has come from another federal program, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, whose aims — “to support surface transportation projects and other related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief” — are pretty solidly in keeping with Bikeshare’s benefits.

    So why, as Reason puts it, “are affluent, educated, and employed whites riding taxpayer-subsidized bikes?” The red-herring issue of user demographics aside, it’s an odd polemic for lovers of freedom and limited government to undertake. Compared to the bulk of government transportation spending, Bikeshare’s proven to be relatively cheap, effective and extremely popular.

    Creeping socialism it ain’t.

    * The UVA faculty is holding on to hope and still believes it can get Teresa Sullivan reinstated as university president.

    According to The RTD, George Cohen, a law professor and faculty senate chair, said, “We still believe we can get President Sullivan back, and we’re working on that.”

    The Senate also continues to call for UVA Rector Helen Dragas’s resignation and is organizing a 5 p.m. vigil today at the steps of the Rotunda.

    * A Prince George’s County deputy sheriff is being charged with rape after a female inmate reported that the two had oral sex while she was in a holding cell at the county courthouse, according to the Washington Times.

    * Mayor Vincent Gray on Tuesday signed a supplemental budget bill passed by the council earlier this month, ensuring that city employees will be repaid for the four furlough days they were forced to take in 2011.

    Gray delivered a memo today tell employees that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, they can expect checks by Aug. 31.

    The Baltimore Sun has an article about Maryland residents preparing for the outcome of the Supreme Court decision on Obama’s health care reform law.

    * Adrian Fenty for mayor?

    Harry Jaffe poses this question in the Washingtonian in the wake of the scandal that currently engulfs D.C. politics, including the man that beat out Fenty for the post in 2010, Mayor Vincent Gray.

    I hear it all the time,” says Terry Lynch, a Fenty confidante and executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations. “Where’s Adrian? Would he consider running again?”

    The short answer is no. The long answer is noooo. I cornered Fenty at a fundraiser and asked him if he was done with DC politics. He gave me that zany grin under startled eyes and said: “Done.”

    Friends, allies and former staffers still in touch with Fenty say he has taken a guillotine to his decade in DC politics: from council staffer to council member to one term as mayor. He’s moved on, they say, with nary

    a glance back.
    “He’s living the life,” Lynch says. “His wife and children are thrilled to have a real life outside the glare of the media. Who would want to give up the chance to spend time with their kids, take a vacation, compete in a triathlon without being taken to task?”