The transition of fare payment on public transit systems away from cash and towards digital payment methods always brings up issues of access for individuals who don’t have access to bank accounts, the internet or both. The typical solution to this problem, including developing countries and the most developed countries, is to work with private companies like grocery stores and corner stores to create locations in which fare media can be purchased or recharged using cash. While this works for transit, it doesn’t work for bike sharing which require collateral to ensure that bikes are returned.
DC is trying solve this problem in an interesting way, that if it works could both increase use of Capital Bikeshare, bring “unbanked” people into the system, and provided an extremely low cost means of transportation to those that likely need it the most. Atlantic cities reports, after the jump.
Just about every bike-share program in existence requires, before you undock a bike from a station anywhere in town, that you first insert some plastic. A credit or a debit card, generally either one will do. This transaction is crucial to the entire model of bike-sharing. The ride may only cost a dollar, but if you inserted one in paper form, as if into a vending machine, what would prevent people from swiping bikes instead of sharing them?