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Thread: Broken CaBi Stations

  1. #1
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    Default Broken CaBi Stations

    Has anyone else noticed entire CaBi stations being offline more frequently?

    I've noticed it more the last few months. Today when I tried to take a bike out near the mall to meet someone in Chinatown for lunch, I walked past four stations that were down before giving up (3 wouldn't unlock a bike and had blank kiosk screens, 1 wouldn't unlock bikes had a kiosk that said "out of order").

    It would be nice if the app or online map identified stations that were offline.

  2. #2
    Judd's Avatar
    Judd is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    Yes. Iíve had one where I couldnít undock and one where I couldnít dock. Both very frustrating.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    I had to call twice about an issue regarding my return trip. During the second call, the CaBi representative said they were having an unusually high number of technical issues today.

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    This mystery station-outage issue has been bad at times in the past week. I have had several experiences, as well.

    In my experience, it's not just single stations down, but as often as not multiple stations in an area down at the same time. Sometimes kiosks display "Out of Order;" other times they are blank. I checked three stations in a row downtown a few days ago and all three were down.

    Especially puzzling is that headquarters doesn't seem to know when a station goes down. I figured out that they don't know when a station is down from interacting with customer service people multiple times in recent days over this issue. The process which leads to the phone call goes like this: [1] a station is down but I don't know it's down; [2] I dock, and the bike locks up, but the trip is not registered as having ended. [3] I call in because the clock is still running and I am subject to overage fees. [4] Depending on how experienced the agent is, they take 30 seconds to a few minutes to check on the problem. [5] They always come back with: "Yes, it appears this station has been disconnected. We have alerted out technicians." (I have had this same interaction several times in the past week.)

    Now, I genuinely love CaBi. I do not post this to complain at all. CaBi is a fantastic service and a huge social good, of which everyone involved should be proud. I CaBi it survives, thrives, and expands. And that is my fear: If these technical problems persist, CaBi can only take a hit in perceived reliability (like Metro), which could reverse a lot of the gains made by now, as people abandon the system.

    One reason I came to use CaBi is how much more reliable it was than MetroRail/MetroBus. I hope this bug, whatever it is, is founded and solved for good.

  5. #5
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    I can only guess re the origin of these outages. One of the customer service people I spoke with speculated that it could be the cold causing these outages..but I don't remember this from past winters (stations even worked during snowstorms in the past).

    I can say this: Though I am an annual member, since the issues began I have taken to checking kiosks each time I take or dock a bike (that is, I don't want to have to take a block of time to call in and sort out another docking problem).

    Here is what I noticed: Sometimes I would go up to a kiosk to see its status (this is easier or harder depending on which generation kiosk it is; some have bright light screens and others are pretty dim at all times); I would go up to the kiosk and before I did anything I would see it was stuck on a loop, as if someone were continuously pressing enter (e.g., 'Rent a Bike') and then cancel, The kiosk would light up and then go dark, in a loop. I saw this at at least two kiosks. So if some stations are stuck on 24/7 loop, it must be using enough energy that could be overloading some of the stations. That part is inevitably speculation, but the loop is something I saw at least twice.

    FWIW, I tried to get one of the looping kiosks unstuck (pressing cancel to get back to the home screen and let it settle and go back to sleep), and though it responded to my finger's input initially, after a moment it settled right back into its loop.

  6. #6
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    My humble suggestions, if any CaBi people are reading this:

    If, from time to time, stations go offline, we do understand ("Unfortunately, nothing can always work perfectly," is I think close to what one of the most pleasant/personable customer service reps told me this week, while sorting out one of the docking issues that came up, as described in a post above). It would help the system a lot if we could all more easily contribute to the health of the system, IMO, as follows:

    (1) CaBi does a great job letting users report defective or broken bicycles (the wrench buttons on the docks; the new button on the app ("Problem with the bike? Report it here"); and an email form in both cases for users to click one of a list of boxes to point technicians to the issue encountered), but I am told that there is no process to report malfunctioning docks and offline stations. One of the customer service reps told me there was no way to report an offline station except by a phone call to the customer service line. This seems inefficient, and most people simply aren't going to take the time to do make a phone call each time. A way to easily report malfunctioning docks and especially offline stations would be nice.

    (2) Consider a way to let users know that a station cannot be used at a given time by "greying it out" on the app. That way, people won't waste their time going to that station only to be unable to get a bike or dock because a station is dead/offline ("disconnected" as the customer service agents all seemed to call it). There is already a process for this "greying out" of stations. Occasionally stations are cleared out of bikes and taken offline before special events, and then "greyed out" on the app's map. Most recently I recall Rosslyn area stations were "greyed out" during the 36 hours or so leading up and during the Marine Corps marathon. So why can't this greying out be a 'live' feature, just like bike levels are updating near instantly. This won't help non-app and first-time users, but it will help core users.
    Last edited by Yule; 12-05-2018 at 09:57 PM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yule View Post
    The process which leads to the phone call goes like this: [1] a station is down but I don't know it's down; [2] I dock, and the bike locks up, but the trip is not registered as having ended. [3] I call in because the clock is still running and I am subject to overage fees. [4] Depending on how experienced the agent is, they take 30 seconds to a few minutes to check on the problem. [5] They always come back with: "Yes, it appears this station has been disconnected. We have alerted out technicians." (I have had this same interaction several times in the past week.)
    This is what happened to me on my return trip. I docked and got a green light but the timer on the app kept running. I unlocked and docked a second time. When I called, the customer service representative said that because I got a green light when I docked, that I was good to go and that the trip would update when the station reset. When I got an email alert two hours later that the bike was still out and another email a few minutes later that the bike had been docked across town, I called customer service again. They had a record of my first call and cancelled out any extra charges.

    I first started to notice stations out more frequently around September.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yule View Post
    CaBi does a great job letting users report defective or broken bicycles...A way to easily report malfunctioning docks and especially offline stations would be nice.
    I absolutely agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yule View Post
    Consider a way to let users know that a station cannot be used at a given time by "greying it out" on the app.
    This would be fantastic.

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  10. #9
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    I ran into a station that would not let me take out a bike this evening. Its kiosk said Out of Order. I ended up walking home because I didn't want to backtrack to another station. I did not report the issue, because I just assumed CaBi would be aware if the kiosk itself could say Out of Order.

    I used to use B-Cycle sharing in another city. That is a system from a different vendor. At the time (5 to 6 years ago), that system had worse reliability where bike docking would not always be detected, but the bike would still be locked. Then I could not check out another bike again and had to call in for help. Reliability did improve over the years I was a member.

    Anyway, I concur with Yule's suggestions for CaBi.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbehrend View Post
    I first started to notice stations out more frequently around September.
    I heard a customer service rep say that they'd been experiencing station issues for "a few weeks;" I guess I had been lucky because despite averaging several trips a day this fall and now early winter, I don't recall being on the wrong end of any offline stations until maybe the end of November at earliest. Now several in the past week. So, at least anecdotally, the issue has gotten a lot worse within the past week. (I also notice the customer service line now begins with a message like: "Welcome to Capital Bikeshare. We are experiencing some issues with stations. If you are an annual member press 1; If you are...")



    I recall a similar issue (a station being offline) exactly once. I tried to solve it by the Help button on the app, filling out their form, and then interacting by email (which was the wrong way to go; CaBi lesson No.1: Always Call). Looking back through my emails, that issue was on or about April 7, 2018. It localized at one station, at least that I saw. At the time, I thought the outage might be due to cloud cover not giving the solar panels on the station enough "juice" over several days. (Who knows; it was a cloudy few days, anyway.)

    Whatever the problem was, the station docked/locked my bike. I don't exactly recall now, but I don't think it even displayed the green light. It just docked/locked and dead. I could not check it out again. My intention was to use that docking as a way-stop on a long trip home (dock and then immediately take out again, to split a trip that might exceed 30m in two parts and dodge the fees). I ended up walking quite a ways, and because the issue was not resolved in their Help Form pipeline yet, I was also not able to check out any bikes from nearby stations; my trip was still "open." I may have finally called; I don't remember now. I remember a lot of walking. Fortunately, I didn't have anywhere to be. That was the only real negative CaBi experience I'd had in three years, until these issues this week... (which are really nuisances if you recognize the problem and know how to solve it through a phone call).

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