Bike-sharing service Zagster will launch at College in fall

by Erin Lee | 7/7/16 6:29pm

When Hannah Carlino ’17 found herself late to class every day walking from the Thayer School of Engineering to the Life Sciences Center sophomore year, she had the idea to bring a bike-sharing service to campus. Last winter, she partnered with Nick Ford ’17 to solve this problem, and their solution will come to life this fall. Fifty bikes at eight different stations will arrive on campus in early September, via bike-sharing company Zagster. Students and other community members will be able to rent the bikes using a phone app, though pricing is currently unknown.

In June, the College approved Carlino and Ford’s proposal to implement the program. Currently, Zagster partners with 14 schools and will have programs at around 20 schools by the end of they year. Dartmouth will be its fourth Ivy League partner and one of its smallest. Zagster communications manager Jon Terbush said that once a contract is worked out, Zagster is generally able to launch a new program in four to six weeks.

Students will most likely be able to sign up for the service with their student ID and DPay or a credit card, Ford said. After downloading Zagster’s app, users can see which bikes are available and make reservations. Rental rates for Dartmouth are still being determined, though typical pricing schemes vary between institutions. Students can rent bikes and return them to any station after a set period of time. Some colleges allow a few hours of free usage before charging, while others charge $50 to $60 for a termly subscription, Ford said. The College will most likely receive a small percentage of the program’s revenue, he said.

Carlino wrote in an email that she believes the bike-sharing service might be free in order to promote frequent use and optimal convenience.

Last winter, Carlino began working with Ford while he was an intern at Zagster. They spent this past winter brainstorming ideas and creating a detailed proposal to bring to administrators. In the spring, they met with a variety of departments and organizations to obtain funding and support, including parking and transportation, zoning, sustainability, Student Assembly and Improve Dartmouth. They also surveyed the student body and found overwhelming interest, he said.

“It ultimately happened pretty quickly from there,” he said.

Ford noted that many administrators they talked to were interested in starting a program that would help solve parking problems on campus. Their biggest challenge was finding funding, Carlino wrote.

“When we reached out to various organizations, many told us they were either not allowed to sponsor student ideas or simply did not have the money to do so,” she said.

Zagster will take care of installing the bikes and stations and will manage day to day operations, including customer support and bike maintenance, Terbush said.

“The idea is to take all the headaches and knowledge needed to run a bikeshare and keep it in house, since we are the experts,” he said.

He added that students and the College will have full control over the overall direction of the program, creating a “true partnership” between Zagster and Dartmouth.

Ford noted that Dartmouth’s initial program is relatively large — Zagster generally starts with one bike station at a college and expand if it sees good ridership.

Terbush said eight stations is larger than a typical pilot program and will allow the company to assess how widely used the program is at Dartmouth.

“It’s a larger initial launch, but ultimately we think that’s a better way to gauge the system and its effectiveness,” he said.

He said expansion has already been discussed with the College and mutual interest has been expressed.

Carlino wrote that she believes the bike-sharing service will be widely used, citing the success of similar programs at other universities.

Ford noted that in their research, they found that common problems students encountered with owning bikes included theft, storage in the winter and dealing with them during off terms or post graduation. He added that keeping a car on campus can be inconvenient as well because of limited campus parking.

“I don’t think many people will fully substitute having a car, but they could substitute having their own bicycle,” he said.

He added that Zagster could be a good option for student who only need a bike for one day or others visiting campus, including alumni and prospective students. In the winter, Zagster will most likely negotiate a storage policy with the College, as it does with other schools in cold-weather areas, Ford said.

Dart Bike Rentals is currently the school’s only alternative biking initiative.

Carlino wrote that going forward, she and Ford will serve as liaisons between the administration, Zagster and the student body and be involved with planning, execution, marketing and strategy.

“We’d like to stay pretty involved — both the College and Zagster expressed interest in us being involved,” Ford said. “We’ll definitely keep in touch with them and the College to see how ridership’s going.”

Hannah Carlino ’17 is a member of The Dartmouth senior staff.

Correction appended (July 8, 2016):

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Zagster partners with 20 schools. In fact, Zagster currently works with 14 schools and by the end of the year expects to have programs with around 20 schools.