The University of Maryland and the City of College Park's joint bike-share program with bike-sharing company Zagster, mBike, will expand into the neighboring University Park area on Friday — Bike to Work Day — and add more bikes and stations to College Park.
The city, this university and Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that operates more than 160 bike-share programs nationwide, unveiled the mBike program in May 2016. At the time of the launch, there were 14 stations and 125 bikes installed throughout the city and the campus, said Steve Beavers, the city's community development coordinator.
After two expansions, the program now supports 17 stations, Beavers said, including Regents Drive Garage, McKeldin Mall and the College Park Metro Station.
The latest expansion includes five additional stations — two in University Park and three in College Park — and 28 new bikes distributed among those stations, said Zagster spokesman Jon Terbush. Two of the stations will be added to University Park on Friday, and another will be added on Berwyn Road in Jack Perry Plaza toward the end of June, Beavers said.
College Park will receive an additional two stations — one at The Hotel and another on the south side of the new CVS, located on the corner of Route 1 and Berwyn House Road — when construction is finished at these locations later this summer, District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said.
University Park Mayor Len Carey said the town has been working on implementing a bike-share program since mBike came to College Park last year. Its two stations – located at Queens Chapel and Wells Parkway – will help University Park's residents get to places less than 30 minutes away, especially the College Park and Prince George's Plaza Metro stations, Carey said.
"Many of us commute to the University of Maryland; we commute to College Park," Carey said. "We go there to the restaurants, we go there to the bars, we go to the Xfinity center and to Maryland Stadium and Stamp [Student] Union, to all of these places. We're happy to get out of our cars and into some other way that's healthier and more sustainable."
In addition to encouraging university and city engagement, the program will also help take cars off the road, said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn. This will reduce the city's traffic congestion and allow the city to function more smoothly, as well as benefit the environment and health of the community, he said.
Terbush said mBike has helped fill the gaps in the existing transportation system, including getting riders to and from metro stations. The success of mBike in College Park proves bike-sharing systems can be helpful in more than just big cities, he said.
In the first year of mBike's operation, 300 $65 annual memberships and 1,000 $6 one-day passes have been sold, totaling more than 24,500 rides, Beavers said. The program averaged 65 trips per day and is expected to exceed 25,000 rides by the end of this month, he said. The expansion will only increase the ridership seen in the past year, Wojahn added.
The program is open to the public, Terbush said, but three quarters of its members signed up with university emails, Beavers said. According to the 2017 College Park community survey, which 343 households completed, 69 percent of residents said they had heard of the mBike program, but only nine percent of those residents said they used it.
Expansion into the surrounding area has always been part of mBike's plan in College Park, Terbush said.
"We need to have a system in the ground to show others in the area the benefits of bike sharing and to give them a sense of why it would be beneficial for them to join as well," he said said.
University Park, which neighbors College Park, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park, is in the perfect location to show bike-sharing should be brought to the rest of Prince George's County, a process Carey says is already in progress. He said the county is considering making Capital Bikeshare, which allows riders to rent and return bikes between Prince George's County and Washington, which will launch in 2018.
"It can be problematic if they don't build a system that is compatible with ours … If our system is engineered properly, we can have two different systems, which are interoperable," he said.
Wojahn told The Diamondback in April that it's possible Capital Bikeshare could replace mBike, which was originally designed as a three-year pilot program. But Brennan and Carey said the current plan is for the two programs to coexist in their respective cities. There was always a larger plan to expand mBike if there was enough funding and demand, and over the past few months, the factors "aligned" to make it possible, Brennan added.
Zagster does not consider Capital Bikeshare to be a direct competitor because the two companies have different models of bike-sharing, Terbush said. Zagster riders can lock their bikes up directly at their destinations, while Capital Bikeshare bikes can only be locked up at Capital Bikeshare stations, Terbush said.
"College Park originally had considered Capital Bikeshare, and financially and logistically, it didn't make sense," Terbush said. "We were able to give them far more coverage, far more bikes and stations, for about a third of the price of what they were going to get from Capital Bikeshare for far less service."
Wojahn said the city is continuing to look for more places to expand the program in the future by adding stations in locations such as Riverdale Park and Research Park.