Bike-share net­work ex­pands into Univer­sity Park, along Route 1

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY LUZ LAZO luz.lazo@wash­post.com

The small bike-share sys­tem that launched a year ago in Col­lege Park is ex­pand­ing out­side the city bound­aries this week.

The mBike sys­tem is adding five sta­tions, in­clud­ing two in nearby Univer­sity Park. Other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the Route 1 cor­ri­dor are con­sid­er­ing join­ing the sys­tem, which has pro­vided thou­sands of trips to res­i­dents and vis­i­tors in that area of Prince Ge­orge’s County.

“We’ve re­ally just scratched the sur­face of this pro­gram’s po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit the com­mu­nity and riders,” said Ti­mothy Eric­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Zag­ster, the com­pany that runs mBike and op­er­ates var­i­ous cam­pus bike­share pro­grams across the United States.

“The sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion of bikes and lo­ca­tions is a re­flec­tion of the strong uti­liza­tion of the ex­ist­ing pro­gram and of the de­mand for an even larger one,” he said.

Col­lege Park and the Univer­sity of Mary­land launched the small bike net­work a year ago af­ter failed at­tempts to join the re­gion’s Cap­i­tal Bike­share net­work, which has a pres­ence in the District, Alexan­dria, Ar­ling­ton, and Mont­gomery and Fair­fax coun­ties.

Af­ter years of study, Prince Ge­orge’s re­cently said it will launch Cap­i­tal Bike­share next year with sta­tions at Na­tional Har­bor and in a por­tion of the Route 1 cor­ri­dor, a few miles south of Col­lege Park. But of­fi­cials in some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties say it took the county too long to start a pro­gram and they couldn’t wait any longer. The mBike pro­gram has of­fered a good al­ter­na­tive, of­fi­cials say.

“We would like to be a part of a larger sys­tem such as Cap­i­tal Bike­share if they ever come to Prince Ge­orge’s County,” Univer­sity Park Mayor Len Carey said. “But the time to have it was prob­a­bly two years ago.”

For Univer­sity Park, join­ing mBike ful­fills a vi­sion to in­cor­po­rate bike­share into the town’s mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion op­tions. Of­fi­cials say the two sta­tions be­ing in­stalled this week in the town bound­aries will help res­i­dents con­nect to the Metro sys­tem, down­town Col­lege Park and the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

Riverdale Park is also con­sid­er­ing join­ing the bike net­work, a town of­fi­cial said.

Al­ready mBike has grown by 30 per­cent to 163 bikes at 19 sta­tions, sur­pass­ing 24,000 trips in the first year of op­er­a­tions. Of­fi­cials say it has been a pop­u­lar op­tion for stu­dents, res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to get around cam­pus and the city. Many riders use it to make the one-mile trek from the Col­lege Park Metro sta­tion to down­town Col­lege Park or the univer­sity cam­pus.

“We are very ex­cited about the growth and suc­cess of the sys­tem,” Aaron Gold­beck, cam­pus bi­cy­cle co­or­di­na­tor for the Univer­sity of Mary­land, said in a state­ment.

Un­like Cap­i­tal Bike­share, mBike users are al­lowed to ride as long as they want, wher­ever they want, be­cause the sys­tem pro­vides dock­less lock­ing for midtrip stops be­sides the fixed sta­tion lo­ca­tions. This al­lows users to plan their trips around their des­ti­na­tions in­stead of around sta­tion lo­ca­tions, of­fi­cials say.

MBike also is cheaper than Cap­i­tal Bike­share. An­nual mem­ber­ships are $65 and $6 for a day pass vs. Bike­share’s $85 an­nual fee and $8 daily. Bike sta­tions can be found on the Zag­ster web­site and mo­bile app.

In the fu­ture, sup­port­ers of the Col­lege Park sys­tem say they hope it can be made com­pat­i­ble with Cap­i­tal Bike­share to give res­i­dents ac­cess to the larger net­work of bi­cy­cles.

“Peo­ple like to use bike­share for the first and last mile of their trips. If their com­mute takes them to down­town [Wash­ing­ton] then it will be use­ful to have a sys­tem that is com­pat­i­ble,” Carey said. “We are en­cour­ag­ing the county when it builds the sys­tem to do it in a way that rec­og­nizes that a lot of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties al­ready have a bike-share pro­gram.”

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