How to Access Secure “Bike Garage” at College Park?

January 18th, 2011

Portland TriMet's secure bike parking facility at Sunset Transit Center

Secure bike parking at TriMet Sunset Transit Center. Image from TriMet, click for original context.

Metro would like to pilot a secure bicycle parking facility at College Park station, and we want your feedback on some of the particulars related to its operation – namely, how bicyclists should access this “bike garage,” and what it should cost. We want this pilot project to teach us the ins-and-outs for building more similar facilities in the future.

Why are you building secure bike parking? Because we want you to feel safe leaving your bike at a Metro station, and sometimes our existing racks and lockers aren’t sufficient. This is a top request from our riders – since bikes are not allowed on-board trains at busy times, you need a safe place to leave your bike.  Also, bike parking is a very cost-effective way for us to give you access to the station, especially compared to the cost of auto parking.

Don’t you already provide secure bike parking in lockers? Yes.  However, an assigned locker is not the most efficient use of space.  Some stations have long waiting lists for lockers, but these lockers may not be used regularly.  Also, it’s not always easy to add more lockers given spatial and other constraints.

College Park Pilot Secure Bike Parking Facility Location

Proposed location for pilot secure bike parking facility at College Park station

What will the facility be like? The “Bike garage” will be an enclosed, secure area near the rail station with plenty of bike racks, very similar to facilities at the MBTA in Boston and Tri-Met in Portland.  At College Park, we would build on an unused section of the ground floor of the parking garage.  You will be able to open the locked door with electronic card access, and lock your bike to racks inside the facility.  College Park will have room for about 80 bikes, with good lighting and CCTV cameras.  You’ll need to register in advance to gain access to the facility.  Spaces will available on a first-come, first-served basis – if the garage is full, you’ll have to park at a regular outdoor rack.

How do people access these facilities elsewhere? The MBTA distributes Bike CharlieCards, which work just like a normal CharlieCard except that they are coded to open the door to the Pedal & Park facility.  The system is free.  Tri-Met uses the outside vendor BikeLink, who sells separate key cards and administers accounts.  It costs $5 to sign up, and then 3¢ per hour 8am-8pm weekdays, and 1¢ per hour other times.  Other transit agencies operate different kinds of secure bike parking, but these two examples are closest to what we envision.

How will I get access to the facility, and how much will it cost me? Here’s where we want your feedback. We have a few ideas, but we have not yet fully fleshed out would work best:

Method How It Would Work Pros Cons
SmarTrip card, with free access
  • Register your SmarTrip card with us, and provide your contact information.
  • No fee is charged, and within a few days your card will be able to unlock the door.
  • Free to bicyclists
  • No need for a new card
  • Installation for us is simple
  • No new parking revenue to Metro
  • May reduce revenue from locker program
  • Free access might deter theft a bit less
SmarTrip card, with annual fee
  • Just like the option above, except that you pay a fee (say, $50) upon registration.
  • Fees might deter theft a bit more than if it were free
  • No need for a new card
  • New parking revenue to Metro
  • Fees might deter you from using it
  • Garage might be full sometimes even though you’ve paid
SmarTrip card, annual and usage fees
  • Like the option above, except that the registration fee is reduced, and a small fee (say, 15 cents) is deducted from your SmarTrip account when you tap your card at the door
  • If facility is full, you pay no usage fees
  • New parking revenue to Metro
  • No need for a new card
  • Registration fee might deter theft more than if it were free
  • Encourages holding the door for others, reducing security
  • Installation and operation for Metro is more costly
SmarTrip card, with usage fees
  • Register your SmarTrip card
  • No registration fee
  • A small fee (say, 25 cents) is deducted from your SmarTrip account to open the door
  • Pay only when you use it
  • Can add money to your SmarTrip account as usual
  • New parking revenue to Metro
  • Encourages holding the door for others, reducing security
  • Installation and operation for us is more costly
New Parking Card
  • Register and receive new access card compatible with WMATA parking software
  • Enables same pricing as all SmartTrip options above, plus charging by the hour
  • Must carry a separate card
  • Installation for Metro is easier
Third-Party Access card, with fees
  • Set up an account with an outside company for a small fee, and receive a keycard for the door.
  • Small usage fees (say, a few cents an hour, or 25 cents a day) are deducted from your account
  • Pay only when you use it
  • Your account is linked to your credit card, independent of SmarTrip
  • Must purchase and carry a separate card
  • Cannot use SmarTrip machines to add money to your account
  • Less new parking revenue to Metro
Something else What haven’t we thought of?

In all cases except the first, fees would be charged to cover the relatively small costs of administering the program – registering users and maintaining the equipment.

What happens next? We will use your feedback and decide on an access method to try at the College Park pilot project.  We hope to begin construction this summer and open the facility by October.  Please fill in the survey form and (survey closed 3/16/2011) leave additional thoughts in the comments section below.


Related Posts:

Categories: Planning Studies Tags: ,
  1. Michael Jackson
    January 18th, 2011 at 15:10 | #1

    In Odense, Denmark at the Central Train Station there is a bike parking cage for club members with card access and I believe closed circuit cameras and also exclusive toliet facilities for club members. I will send photos to Kristin Haldeman.

  2. Hell On Wheelz
    January 18th, 2011 at 15:39 | #2

    The best of all possible worlds is to employ a real human who checks bikes in-and-out but this solution lacks the “shiney-shiney” appeal of high tech, right?

    Having the bike area accessible only to those with STC is a good first step.

    Having the mechanism that locks the bike require an electronic card to unlock is even better. Bike theives cut locks/chains… putting the bike rack area inside of a closed door only gives theives privacy.

    CCTV is only good if you have someone to monitor the feed in real time, a can of spray paint can defeat the camera.

  3. mediawatcher
    January 19th, 2011 at 09:04 | #3

    It’s false to say that free access gives Metro no new revenue — there is a group of people who would bike, but not drive, to a Metro stop if they knew they could park their bikes securely, so net ridership is likely to increase.

    I like the idea of a small annual fee for access to such bike facilities at ANY Metro stop. Even $50 might be too high — make it lower and more people will add it on as a benefit “just in case.” Also like the idea of racks that lock-unlock with STC. (Kinda like Capital Bikeshare does with credit cards!)

  4. January 19th, 2011 at 09:57 | #4

    so very happy to hear that this is being piloted! please, make it simple as possible for the users. another card would hinder usage. i’m willing to pay a small premium for this. i think daily (hourly) usage fees are just fine.

  5. andrew
    January 19th, 2011 at 10:19 | #5

    How about the option for daily fees AND the ability to load a yearly or monthly pass onto your card at a discount, sort of like how bus/rail passes currently work? Frequent and infrequent riders are both appeased.

    The door holding issue could be avoided by using a bicycle turnstile. (Better explanation here)

    I’d also love to see Metro encourage frequent cyclists by providing discounts to riders who also join Capital Bikeshare. This could set up a very nice synergy between the two systems?

  6. January 19th, 2011 at 10:50 | #6

    I love the idea. If you implement this, I would be much more likely to bike to Metro. So on nice days, I’d bike instead of taking the bus (though I generally take PGCT’s “TheBus”, so Metro wouldn’t be losing my revenue).

    I don’t mind paying a usage fee, though I hope it’s not something the Board will think of as a cash cow (read “$200 for a bike locker, absurd”). I would hope that SmarTrip cards could be used.

  7. Angie
    January 19th, 2011 at 18:14 | #7

    I am an avid cyclist but having one location and a 50 dollar fee would keep me from using the system. I also don’t think it should be free. The other options are all very attractive. I’d like it if the MARC offered something similar since I live in Odenton but I might occasionally have use for College Park. I think it’s a great concept.

  8. Dave
    January 19th, 2011 at 18:19 | #8

    How about lowering the costs for bike lockers while you’re at it. It is WAY too expensve to park a bike at the metro. The lockers are actually more per year than my bike it worth! I’m better off letting people steal my bike and getting another crappy bike every month!

  9. January 20th, 2011 at 16:10 | #9

    While I am not a cyclist, I think that a usage fee poses problems. In addition to deterring use and reducing security by encouraging cyclists to hold the door for others or block the door open, a usage fee has the potential to create a real administrative headache if refunds are to be offered when cyclists find that the facility is full. If it’s absolutely necessary for WMATA to derive revenue from the bike garage, then an annual fee (as long as it’s not too high) would provide some revenue, but it still seems like free bike parking would be the best option

    As far as access control is concerned, I would recommend integration with SmarTrip for now, but I would also suggest that any equipment procured for the bike garage (at least if it is intended to be around for more than a year or two) be designed to be forward-compatible with WMATA’s New Electronic Payments Program, and the eventual transition of SmarTrip to an ISO 14443-compatible contactless smart card. This will reduce wasted engineering effort and funds if the pilot bike garage is, in the future, made a permanent facility.

  10. Rob
    January 20th, 2011 at 16:55 | #10

    Please don’t make it free. If it’s free, it will almost always be full. Set the fee high enough so that there’s always at least a little bit of free space (but still low enough that plenty of people use it). Beyond that, I don’t really care that much about how the fee is charged — whether it’s an annual fee, a per-use fee, etc.

    And definitely have it use a SmartTrip card. I really don’t want to have to carry around another card in my wallet.

  11. JB
    January 20th, 2011 at 19:38 | #11

    Don’t make it free because it will always be full.
    We should only wish that.
    Its supposed to be full
    Full means lots of metro ridership
    Lots of metro ridership means more bike parking.
    Feeing this to limit usage is like asking for ‘lexus lanes’ on the beltway.
    Now perhaps make the bike lockers a fee for use model if people want guaranteed bike parking and have the bike cage as a general admission first come first served model.

  12. Mark
    January 20th, 2011 at 21:38 | #12

    Andrew has the right idea.

  13. Michael
    January 21st, 2011 at 11:28 | #13

    I think maybe both Rob and JB are missing the point about the fee. The fee we intend to charge is less about raising revenue or preventing the bike garages from filling up, and more intended to deter theft. If a thief has to pay to nose around and see if there’s anything worth stealing that’s not permanently secured to a bicycle, this thief is less likely to do so.

    The question becomes, would an annual fee deter more theft than a fee-per-use?

  14. andrew
    January 24th, 2011 at 10:26 | #14

    Thinking through this a bit more thoroughly:

    You don’t want the spaces filling up. Free parking would almost certainly cause this (along with abandonment). To avoid this, you’d need to charge by the day (or 24-hour period) rather than offer an unlimited period. Although you’d be free to walk through the turnstile out of the cage, you’d need to tap your Smarttrip to unlock the bicycle portion (just like you need to tap to get out of Metrorail’s fare control system), which would then determine your “check-out” time, and calculate the appropriate fee.

    Yearly passes could follow Capital Bikeshare’s model, and offer free parking for the first 24 hours, with users paying the “normal” fee every day beyond that. This rewards frequent riders, while encouraging high turnover.

  15. Michael
    January 24th, 2011 at 11:01 | #15

    The abandoned bike issue is a good one to think about and plan for! Should we consider asking bike garage users to supply serial numbers of their bikes when registering? This way, we could know to whom a potentially abandoned bike belongs. Other thoughts about how to avoid a potential abandoned bike problem?

  16. Dan
    January 24th, 2011 at 14:14 | #16

    The main problem for bike riders at College Park Metro is that when the weather is good all the racks are full.

    I park my bike 5 days a week at the CP Metro and have had 2 theft incidents. The current outdoor bike racks can be unbolted from the ground by anyone with a basic ratchet set. One of the racks on the residential side of the station is partial unbolted right now!! The racks are also made of flimsy metal, and could easily be ripped from the bolts with a strong kick. I would never park an expensive bike here.

    It seems that simply adding a few bike racks that are actually secure would be a great first step. If they happen to be out of the weather and in view of a security camera even better.

    It seems like a cage and new billing system is overkill considering the current metro budget situation. I think it would be better to just fix the problem of not enough racks, and the existing racks being completely inadequate security wise.

  17. January 24th, 2011 at 15:40 | #17

    @Michael. Every 6 months, place a sticker on each bike seat that says “This bike will be removed in one week if this sticker is not removed.” Write the removal date on the sticker.

    Put this policy in the customer agreement you’ll make people sign when enrolling.

    You have to consider both cases, where people are storing bikes during the day because College Park is their home station, and storing bikes during the night and weekends because College Park is their work station.

  18. Rob
    January 24th, 2011 at 19:56 | #18


    You should be worried about it filling up. I put my name on the waiting list for a bike locker at College Park almost two years ago, and I haven’t gotten it yet. There’s a lot of demand for secure bike parking there. If it’s free (or really cheap), it will always be full.

    Also, I don’t think a fee is going to deter a bike thief. If it’s 25 cents, it won’t do much of anything. Even if it’s a $50 fee, stealing a few bikes will easily pay for that fee.

    If you want to deter thieves, require people to sign up, register a particular SmartTrip card, and link to a credit card (or just pay a very small fee by credit card) to confirm identity. Then if there’s a theft, you just review the security video, see when the theft occurred, check the log of cards used to open the door, and see who owns the card the thief used to open the door. You still have a problem if someone’s card gets stolen, but that’s going to be true with any system you use.

  19. Paul Kagan
    January 25th, 2011 at 11:02 | #19

    Why not allow bikes on the last car of each train during rush hour. Many people need a form of transit at BOTH ends of their metro commute.

  20. Michael
    January 25th, 2011 at 13:54 | #20

    @Paul Kagan
    Hi, Paul: Metro allows you to take folding bikes on Metrorail at any time.

    Bike ‘N Ride Policy

    Many Metrorail stations and rail cars are at capacity during the peak period, and therefore bikes are not permitted. Additionally, now that all the trains are pulling to the very front of the station (instead of stopping in the middle) the first and last cars are often more full than other cars in a train.

  21. February 3rd, 2011 at 17:43 | #21

    Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful feedback so far! To respond to a few points:

    @Hell On Wheelz: Yes, we’d like the facility to be unstaffed to keep operating costs low.

    @mediawatch: You’re right, if this project induces new ridership that otherwise wouldn’t ride, Metro gets new rail fare revenue, and that’s good! To hopefully clarify, that’s why I wrote it as “parking revenue.” The truth is, we’re not entirely sure what market response we will get from this – that’s why we’d like to try it, assess impacts, and learn.

    @andrew: great ideas, and link, thanks. We do want the garage to fill up, but with active, paying riders.

    @Dave: Unfortunately, we’re not addressing bike locker policy or pricing with this project.

    @Michael Perkins: good idea to write this into the customer agreement. We do have a similar tag-wait-remove policy for abandoned bikes now – you can report them through the Customer Service form.

    @Rob: exactly, we would confirm identity on registration, and even ask for the serial or National Bike Registry number for your bike too.

  22. Rudy Maxwell
    February 4th, 2011 at 09:07 | #22

    Learn to maintain an old bike that looks like hell but rides like new. Lock it with a u-lock to a rack. No gizmos or garages to mess with. Lock and walk into the station without breaking stride. What’s not to like? Save yourself and Metro a lot of money.

  23. Sunshine-girl
    February 6th, 2011 at 11:05 | #23

    I find turnstiles hard to use with bikes. In fact, I got stuck in a turnstile with my bike once, and had to hang out there until a policeman walked by and kindly extracted me. Ick. I looked at the pictures your link had; nice, but I think I’d still have difficulty with those. Nice thought; just perhaps hard for everyone to use.

  24. Sunshine-girl
    February 6th, 2011 at 11:13 | #24


    I like the idea of using one’s Smarttrip to lock/unlock a bicycle. That would deter theft. (Even if the thief managed to enter the room, he wouldn’t be able to easily steal a bike, because it would be ‘locked’ via the owner’s Smarttrip card.)

    I also like the idea of using the card to determine someone’s “check-out” time, and to calculate the appropriate fee.

    I also like the idea of rewarding frequent riders somehow with a rebate. Like charging a reasonable one-year fee for the card, but then offer the first 24 hours free.

  25. Sunshine-girl
    February 6th, 2011 at 11:15 | #25


    I agree that $50 might be too high for an annual fee. $20? Also like the idea of racks that lock-unlock with some sort of card – preferably a SmartCard, since that’s a card most folks already have. (And who wants to carry around more cards?)

  26. Sunshine-girl
    February 6th, 2011 at 11:25 | #26

    @Michael Perkins

    Like this idea! But if the garage tends to fill up, I’d rather have abandoned bicycles removed before than 6 months, so true users can use that spot. I don’t know what an appropriate amount of time is. Two weeks? One month? Maybe the same amount of time as the annual usage fee would buy you? (I guess that would entail a different payment scheme. Like, pay $20 as an annual fee, and then ‘use up’ that amount incrementally with each usage. When your $20 is about to be up, you are warned. When the $20 is actually up, your bike is reclaimed.)

    Another thought – what to do with abandoned bikes? In some townships in Austria, the local police have an auction every month, to sell abandoned/stolen-recovered-but-not-reclaimed goods to the general public. The auction proceeds go to the police (who always need money). Anything left unsold – I dunno, maybe it could go to half-way houses or charities or thrift stores. Anyways, I thought that was a great way to re-use items, rather than throwing them into the junk yard…

  27. February 14th, 2011 at 00:32 | #27

    Another option is offered by Bikestation, a company I work for. We have been providing safe, secure and convenient bike parking for over 14 years. Our flagship is in D.C.

  28. Dan
    February 26th, 2011 at 07:43 | #28

    I am enthusiastic about any improvements for bicyclists, whether improved parking, access to metro itself, racks on buses, and bike lanes. Secure parking has appeal, though I actually consider College Park one of the more secure places to park my bike already. The two problem places in my life are Prince George’s Plaza and Greenbelt, where I really hesitate to leave my bike.

    I would use the secure parking at College Park as described, regardless of the payment system (Smartrip and usage fee preferred), but putting it on the side of the track with the parking garage is less convenient for most commuters who are going to the University of Maryland or using the Trolley Trail. Why not do two bike garages, one as described and the other by putting a cover and fence wall around existing bike parking on the west side of the tracks?

  29. Diana Devid
    June 27th, 2014 at 01:57 | #29

    Sound like good….Thanks for sharing this .secure bike parking

Comments are closed.