GREENBELT – Prince George’s County residents and tourists alike could be seeing a new mode of transportation in the county in the next few years. The Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Parks (M-NCPPC) and Planning Commission, along with the city of Greenbelt, hosted a meeting to discuss the possibility of expanding […]
GREENBELT – Prince George’s County residents and tourists alike could be seeing a new mode of transportation in the county in the next few years.
The Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Parks (M-NCPPC) and Planning Commission, along with the city of Greenbelt, hosted a meeting to discuss the possibility of expanding bike share programs into the county. The planning department is conducting a feasibility study and hosted the meeting to garner interest and gain feedback. The M-NCPPC is working with Toole Design on the plan and recommendations.
Fred Shaffer, M-NCPPC project leader, along with Mauricio Hernandez and RJ Eldridge from Toole design, gave a presentation about the bike share and the options the county has moving forward. The concept of moving bike share into the county is still in infancy and nothing is set in stone, Shaffer said.
“Right now we are in the feasibility stage and we have been engaging with the elected officials and I think the next step is, right now we’re determining whether it’s possible. In the winter the consultants are going to come up with an implementation plan,” he said.
Shaffer said M-NCPPC has partnered with multiple parties to look into the feasibility of a bike share, including Capital Bikeshare, the city of Greenbelt, public works, and Toole Design.
“They bring a wealth of knowledge on Capital Bikeshare, implementing, what works and what doesn’t. Both in this region and across the country,” Shaffer said. “I’m really looking forward to working with them on this study and seeing how we can best move forward.”
The study area includes the Anacostia Trails Heritage area inside the Beltway, Greenbelt and National Harbor. Shaffer said the study area was chosen based on the desire to create a sustainable and successful bike share. It is because of this that southern county is not included in the study. Shaffer said he didn’t want a stakeholder to put money into something just for it to fail.
By holding the meeting, Toole Design and M-CPPC can hone in on where residents want to see bike share stations and where the greatest opportunities are for the program.
“A big part, I think, of this current study is identifying opportunities. Prince George’s County has a lot of opportunities where we can build upon the trails network, build upon all the municipal activity going on in the area, but there are constraints as well,” Shaffer said.
He said the most viable locations for bike share docks would be around metros, downtown areas, and in areas of short commute. The average rider of a bike share spends 15 to 20 minutes on the bike, Hernandez said.
While M-NCPPC is conducting a feasibility study, at this point the county does not have the money to fully fund a countywide bike share program. However Shaffer said M-NCPPC is working with individual municipalities as well.
To consider cost, the group is looking into the two different types of smart bike technologies. There are “smart bikes,” which house the technology on the bicycle and “smart docks,” which are type used by Capital Bikeshare. Smart docks are typically sold at a “per-dock” price, Hernandez said. Both systems’ electronics are solar powered.
“Every jurisdiction pays for their number of docks,” Hernandez said. “Each station, for example, can have 15 docks. You pay for 15 docks.”
This year, Montgomery County purchased seven new smart stations from Capital Bikeshare with 58 bicycles at roughly $351,000. Washington, D.C. also purchased 40 stations with 435 bikes at $2.5 million.
The city of College Park is also starting a bike share, but not through Capital Bikeshare. The program, which is expected to start in the spring, is a “smart bike” program. The city and the University of Maryland received a $374,980 grant to jumpstart the program with approximately 10 stations and 100 bikes. The city selected the smart bikes on a trial basis.
“We want to tie into what all the surrounding jurisdictions, including College Park and the University of Maryland, do,” Shaffer said. “We can’t necessarily control what they do, but I want to try to build on it the best we can.”
Neither smart bike share technology is compatible with the other. If Prince George’s or a city selects Capital Bikeshare, they would be integrated into the system, which includes Montgomery County, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington, but would not be able to integrate with College Park’s trial program. The opposite is true if they select the “smart bikes.”
“There are third-party providers right now who are working on providing technology solutions that would allow somebody to be a member of one system, but use that to access another one,” Eldridge said. “So a decision made today will not necessarily exclude that kind of inter-operability in the future.”
Jeff Lemieux, who rides 30 miles each way from his home in Greenbelt to his job in D.C., attended the feasibility meeting and said he is in favor of the program. He said he has noticed in the district the bike share has increased the visibility of bikers and has encouraged the city to consider bikers more often.
“It’s really increased how many people are on bikes and that makes the drivers and the bus drivers and the taxis realize they need to slow down. It’s also caused the district to build better bike lanes, which we need a lot of out in Prince George’s County. We have great trails, but terrible bike lanes,” Lemieux said.
He said he hopes the possible bike share will encourage the county to extend and connect the trails and also encourage residents to get out and bike more. More bikers will mean less cars and an increased awareness of the trails.
Lemieux participated in the discussion and suggested possible areas for bike share docks. He thinks it would be a good idea for the county to build out and off of the program in College Park.
“The University of Maryland will be our hub and then you come out to Greenbelt, you come down to Riverdale Park, you go over toward Lewisdale, you go down to Hyattsville, and just kind of gradually increase the circle around the university,” he said. “Those are going to be the people who are going to be using bike share the most.”
Overall Shaffer said he is excited for this program to start. While the implementation of the possible bike share will not begin for a few years, Shaffer thinks the program will be successful and grow.
“I think that if we get a bike share program that is successful and that people are using there’s going to be a lot people clamoring to expand it,” Shaffer said.