Zagster bike rental service begins on campus

by Raul Rodriguez | 9/12/16 11:43pm

As of this past Wednesday, students can now rent one of 50 seven-gear cruiser bikes around campus. The bikes, provided by Zagster, will be available at eight different stations — located near Channing Cox Hall in the River Cluster, the Tuck School of Business, the Class of 1953 Commons, the Hopkins Center, Baker-Berry Library, Remsen Medical Sciences Building, Leverone Field House and Sachem Village.

The bike-sharing program’s presence on campus — which will run for a two-year pilot program — is the result of a year-long effort by Hannah Carlino ’17 and Nick Ford ’17 to bring Zagster to the College. Among the stakeholders in this effort were Tuck, Dartmouth Real Estate Office, Parking and Transportation Services, Dartmouth Dining Services, the Sustainability Department and Residential Operations.

The College approved Carlino and Ford’s proposal in June because of its potential to reduce the amount of cars on campus. Zagster has since partnered with 10 additional schools, Zagster communications manager Jon Terbush said. The company currently works with 24 schools total.

Although Zagster’s program is still a trial, Dartmouth’s Associate Vice President for Business and Hospitality David Newlove said the new transportation system has been well-received by students.

“Within the first hour and a half of Zagster launching during freshman orientation, 27 students had already signed up,” Newlove said. “It’s a pilot program, but it does seem like from the initial signup[s] that Zagster is here to stay and we sure do hope so.”

Student support has been at the root of bringing Zagster to the College, Terbush said.

Carlino said that the results of a 30-second survey that she and Ford sent out last May reaffirmed her experience of wanting a bike without the responsibility of ownership.

Ninety percent of the survey participants said that they would use a bike-sharing service twice a day or more, and the main reason that people gave for not owning a bike was that it was too much of a hassle.

All operations and maintenance costs are included in the cost of a Zagster membership. A mechanic in Burlington, Vt. will perform bi-weekly maintenance on the bikes, and Zagster will transport the units to a storage facility when Hanover freezes over.

Zagster will cover the cost of repairs, but Newlove said that damage to bikes from abuse or neglect would have to be covered by the student.

Currently, Zagster’s annual enrollment fee is $20. Members get unlimited bike rentals for up to one hour, with each additional hour costing an additional $3. Day-long rentals cost $24. As of now, fees are only payable via credit card.

Each bike is equipped with lights, a basket and a U-Lock key. Riders get an access code when they sign up, thus freeing students of the responsibility of locking the bikes up themselves. Parking and Transportation Services is working with Zagster to implement a new lockbox system that would enable riders to unlock their bikes through their smartphones, Newlove said.

Terbush said that the College will determine when to transition from a pilot program to a permanent program.

“It will all be based on what they determine as a definition of success,” he said.

Carlino said that while the metrics of success remain elusive, the College will probably be looking to see how many students sign up for Zagster and how it alleviates traffic on campus.

Newlove said that Zagster could alleviate several problems on campus, including traffic congestion and scarce vehicle parking spaces, as well as bike theft, storage and abandonment.

Throughout the pilot program, Carlino and Ford will serve as liaisons between the administration, Zagster and the student body. They will also be involved with planning, execution, marketing and strategy.

To access the bike-sharing services, riders are required to create a Zagster account via the Zagster Mobile app or the Zagster website.

Hannah Carlino is a member of The Dartmouth business senior staff.