BY BEN SIMASEK — Local transportation options will soon shift into high gear in Hyattsville. Over the next few years, the city plans to pilot two bike sharing programs.
In spring 2018, the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation will bring the Capital Bikeshare program to Hyattsville and several adjacent communities along the DC border. Karyn McAlister, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program manager for Prince George’s County, presented the multiyear plan to install 67 Capital Bikeshare stations and 670 bikes across the county to the Hyattsville City Council on April 3.
A feasibility study of the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, commissioned by the the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, projected strong growth potential for the Capital Bikeshare program, which was founded in the district in 2010. The program’s planned expansion into Prince George’s County is intended to connect recreational riders and commuters to the vast networks of trails and transit in and around the DC metro area.
Hyattsville was selected to participate in the first of five implementation phases due to the city’s existing connections to recreation and transportation infrastructure, as well as because of its plans for future transit-oriented development. “Bike-share is an excellent complement to transit — it provides that first mile, last mile connection,” said McAlister.
On June 3, the Hyattsville City Council also discussed a plan to sign onto an existing agreement with College Park to participate in a 20 to 22-month trial period for mBike, a bike sharing program launched by Zagster in May 2016. The mBike program is largely centered around the University of Maryland (UMD) campus, with several stations recently added in the surrounding areas of College Park. This trial period would bring four stations and 40 bikes to Hyattsville, at locations yet to be determined.
The capital costs for the city to participate in the mBike program would be partially offset by a grant extended by the city of College Park. When the existing memorandum of understanding expires in May of 2019, Hyattsville will have the option of renewing the mBike agreement for an additional three years at full cost.
Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) believes that the bike-share system will be heavily used in the corridor between UMD and Hyattsville. “The University of Maryland is crucial to the future of Hyattsville, and enhancing the ways that college students can get to our wonderful amenities is incredibly important to me, ” said Warner. Councilmember Thomas Wright (Ward 3) also cited the high numbers of student renters in the University Hills neighborhood, some of whom have expressed a desire for bike-share connectivity to the UMD campus.
Some councilmembers questioned the cost effectiveness of simultaneously piloting two programs that may compete for riders. “We are caught in between two emerging markets when it comes to bike-share programs,” said Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5). “Do we need to be in both markets at this time? Do we think the first step to evaluating feasibility of bike-share is to have two systems?”
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth is hopeful that both bike-share systems will help boost Hyattsville’s economy. “From my perspective this isn’t about just riding bikes, this is about being able to connect the commercial activity in our area,” said Hollingsworth.
The city council plans to evaluate data gathered from both bike-share systems in the coming years to analyze their usage patterns and impacts on local commerce and transit. This fall, with input from Hyattsville residents, the council will determine the ideal locations for bike-share stations.
Ultimately, the decision to move forward with both the Capital Bikeshare and mBike programs will depend on the participation and feedback of those who live, work, study, shop and explore in and around Hyattsville.