By Katherine Hapgood | [email protected]
Members of the Traffic and Parking Board and city staff discussed long-in-the-works plans for the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare program during the TPB meeting on Monday.
An overview of the planned bikeshare expansion was previously presented to the TPB in 2017, but there were “contractional delays to get things moving,” according to Alex Block, a city planner. Staff presented an update on the plan to the board on Monday, with a final TPB vote expected to occur on Sept. 27.
According to the presentation by Vicki Caudullo, the city’s Capital Bikeshare program manager, the Virginia Department of Transportation, which is funding the Bikeshare Expansion Project, approved the city’s purchase request for 26 total bikeshare stations. These stations will be located throughout Alexandria and will have pedal and electronic bikes available for use.
Currently, city departments are reviewing 19 locations, and the TPB already approved six station locations in 2017 and six locations in 2020. There will be seven more locations brought before the board for approval in September, and then the final seven locations are expected to begin the determination and approval process in September. Those last seven locations will then be approved in the spring of 2022.
The existing bikeshare stations are located mostly in the eastern and northern regions of Alexandria, with plans to not only add more stations in Old Town but to also add several stations in the West End. In regard to the final seven bikeshare locations that have yet to be determined, Casey Kane, a member of the board, encouraged staff to prioritize locations around Holmes Run.
“I hope that one or more of [the locations to be determined] can be considered for the Holmes Run Trail network itself,” Kane said.
According to Caudullo, the approval process took much longer than usual, as an extra layer of approvals was needed since the bikeshare program is funded by VDOT and not the city. In a diagram briefly shown by Caudullo, dozens of approvals were required over the past few years to prepare for the expansion of the city’s bikeshare program.
“Things are kind of complicated when you’re using grant funding, so this is a window into what we were working through over the last couple of years,” Caudullo said. “I’m really, really happy to show this chart with the ending of the story, which is that we have VDOT approval, which [then means] funding.”
Three of the 19 approved bikeshare stations will require public parking removal. For one bikeshare station, located at the Charles Barrett Branch Library, it has yet to be determined whether public parking will need to be removed. There will be public outreach and input regarding the potential removal of parking, according to staff.
Of the seven newly proposed stations that will be discussed more thoroughly at the September meeting, only one location, at the intersection of Peyton and King streets, will require the removal of two to three parking spaces.
Caudullo said that bikeshare stations that involve the removal of parking will require a community outreach process and the TPB’s approval. The city’s presentation to the board on Monday involved no board action; instead, a request will be made at the meeting on Sept. 27.
“The Traffic and Parking Board obviously has the role of approving locations that would remove parking,” Caudullo said.
Another issue Kane brought up is that five of the proposed stations are located outside of the service area indicated by Capital Bikeshare. Electronic bikes are not allowed to be stored outside of the service area.
“If Capital Bikeshare thinks that some of our stations are outside of the service area, then some [e-bike users] run the risk of getting charged more [money],” Kane said.
Caudullo said she will be “advocating as much as she can” in regard to the issue and that she agrees with Kane on the inconsistent electronic bike service area.
“We are working through protocol as to how and why these stations [outside of the service area] are included, so that when the stations expand, there are hopes that we can include more of the city and e-bikes at a station docking app.”
The next Traffic and Parking Board meeting will be held Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers.