Capital Bikeshare is coming to College Park


A dock full of Capital Bikeshare bicycles at 5th and F streets NW. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
October 12, 2013

Capital Bikeshare is coming to College Park early next year, just in time for the spring semester at the University of Maryland, officials said.

The city and the university are negotiating a one-year contract with Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Capital Bikeshare, to install bike stations, supply bicycles and operate the system. Terry A. Schum, director of planning for College Park, said plans are to have Capital Bikeshare running by Feb. 1.

College Park will be the latest jurisdiction in the region — and the first in Prince George’s County — to join the fast-growing bicycle-sharing network. Some Prince George’s officials say they hope more bike-rental stations will follow across the county.

The plan is to install 10 bike stations with 62 bikes across the city, including six stations on university property and one at the College Park Metro station.

Capital Bikeshare, now in its third year, has reached the 5 million-trip mark. It operates in the District, Arlington and Alexandria. Montgomery County rolled out the program last month, adding 50 stations across the county.

Proposed Bikeshare stations in College Park, Md.

The Route 1 corridor, which has boomed with more than $450 million in development in the past decade, offers a strong market for Capital Bikeshare because it has the demographics and density that has made the program successful in other parts of the region, county and university officials say.

“It makes a lot of sense with all the students and public transportation that we have there,” said Prince George’s County Council member Eric Olson (D-College Park). “But a bikeshare system is even more valuable when you have a larger network. What we are hoping to do is expand Bikeshare to Riverdale Park, potentially down to Mount Rainier and elsewhere throughout the Route 1 corridor.”

Officials say they expect strong demand for bike rentals from the Metro station to the university campus and for commuting between new housing developments along the corridor to the university, which is the largest employer in the city.

Beverly Malone, a spokeswoman for the university’s department of transportation, said there is growing interest in bike commuting among university students and workers. About half of the students don’t drive to campus, she said. The university provides about 4,500 parking spaces for bikes on campus, Malone said.

The university has installed share-lane markings on campus, and College Park plans to label share-lane markings that connect to the university routes, she said. Also in the works is a plan to create a bike lane on Route 1.

The annual cost to operate all 10 stations is expected to be $160,646. The city and the university received a state grant of $374,980 to help cover costs to start the program.

Schum said the city sees an opportunity to reduce traffic in the corridor, where new development has brought more congestion.

“We feel that the bikeshare is just another option we’d like to offer to encourage either no cars or very infrequent use of cars once you are in this area,” she said.

Prince George’s is planning a feasibility study to identify locations where Bikeshare could be successful, said Fred Shaffer, the county’s bike and trail coordinator with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The focus is on areas closest to the District, inside the Beltway, but the expansion could also go to rapidly growing areas like National Harbor in southern Prince George’s, he said.

Olson, who has secured $250,000 in the county’s budget to expand the program in the future, said the county is working to improvebike facilities and infrastructure to make bicycling more appealing. Plans are to start work this fall on an old trolley line in Riverdale Park to create a trail system parallel to Route 1, which will connect with College Park and the Hyattsville Arts District.

Once the program launches in College Park, he said, he hopes to see it expand to Riverdale Park, home to an anticipated $250 million mixed-use community that includes the construction of the county’s first Whole Foods Market. Olson says stations also could be installed in Hyattsville, one of the most walkable communities of northern Prince George’s.

“We are trying to create a more walkable, more bikeable, more vibrant community,” Olson said. “The Route 1 corridor is really blossoming. . . . It’s a hot place, and this is one more step in making it a stronger, more vibrant area.”

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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