"It's part of our advancement toward [the] goal to being self-sufficient," said Capital Bikeshare Project Manager Josh Moskowitz. "The money we generate will go toward the program and help cover operating and maintenance costs and expanding the system."
John Lisle, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation, said Capital Bikeshare is turning a profit, at about $195,000 this year, by using only federal funds to support expenditures. The bike-sharing program, which lets riders take short trips around the city, reported almost 928,000 trips for the first half of the year.
The D.C. program is looking to emulate operating systems like those in New York City and Minneapolis that have large sponsorship agreements, Lisle said. Moskowitz said most bike systems around the world use sponsorships. Many U.S. cities rely on taxpayer funding and advertising.
What makes the D.C. plan different from advertising programs in other cities is the open bidding system offered to any company that wants to advertise through Capital Bikeshare. The ads will be displayed with 128 of the 132 maps at Bikeshare stations; the other four are on National Park Service property and cannot be used for private advertisements.
"There is a demand for advertising space, and it can be mutually beneficial because it will bring in revenue to help run the system," Lisle said.
D.C. previously attempted to run a bike program called SmartBike DC through an advertising contract, but the program failed. SmartBike was operated by media giant Clear Channel as a part of the bus shelter advertising contract D.C. had with the company.
"[SmartBike DC] was a very different model," Lisle said. "This is different in that the system is completely owned by the District, and we are responsible for operating it and putting it in."
The advertiser that wins the $1 million contract will pay the lump sum to Bikeshare and decide which companies will advertise under them. Bikeshare will receive 50 percent of the profits the contract holder makes off advertising.
"I definitely think given our membership days and given all the positive publicity, this is a company private investors will want to be involved in," Moskowitz said.