State Funds Announced For Downcounty BikeShare System

May 3, 2012

A downcounty bikesharing system could soon be up and running with the help of newly-announced state funding, according to county transportation officials.

Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced a $1 million grant to help pay for the proposed network in Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park and Silver Spring. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has also received a $250,000 bond for the program approved by the Maryland General Assembly and $252,000 in private sector funding commitments.

“Montgomery County DOT will be doing the detailed planning within the next few months, but the timing is probably about a year before this would be up running,” said Esther Bowring, a county spokeswoman.

The system will be aimed to expand the reach of transit, prompt residents out of their cars for short trips, and offer up a low-cost transportation method in the most congested portions of the county, according to a county news release. The network is planned to build off of the success of Capital Bikeshare, which has already seen increasing demand in Arlington and Washington, D.C., logging more than 1.5 million bike trips in its first 18 months.

In Montgomery County, the state transportation grant and the private funding will be enough to build phase one of the project — about 29 stations with about 200 bikes, according Bowring. The state bond is planned to boost the system to 50 stations and 350 bikes in a second phase, but additional funding will need to be secured to complete the $2.15 million system, Bowring said.

The system is expected to cost about $500,000 a year to operate and maintain, some of which will be offset by membership fees and private sponsorships.

Capital BikeShare allows riders to rent bikes for a yearly fee of $75, and pick up and drop off the bikes at any BikeShare station. Monthly, daily and five-day memberships are also available, though riders are charged extra to rent bikes for more than 30 minutes at a time.

It’s not yet clear exactly where the stations will be located, but downcounty locations near Metro stations are “some of the prime locations,” Bowring said.

Several private companies have also expressed interest in siting Bikeshare stations at their locations. In Bethesda, the River Road Whole Foods is joining what is becoming a ringing chorus of community support for the program, Patch reported last year.

The Westbard grocery store is difficult to reach via public transportation, but it’s just a short bike trip from the Bethesda Metro station down the Capital Crescent Trail.

“A lot of our team members take public transportation, and from the Bethesda Metro it makes much more sense to come down the bike path — it’s only a mile and a half down to the building — than having to take a 45-minute route on the bus,” Joanna Bragg, a marketing team leader for the store, told Patch last year. “We also have a lot of customers who are health-conscious and eco-conscious, and the trail runs directly behind our building — it just seems like such a no-brainer.”



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