Councilmembers List Complaints, Debate Extending Contrat with VeoRide
By Shreya Vuttaluru
The College Park City Council is working with the town of University Park and the University of Maryland to extend VeoRide’s micro-mobility pilot to a three-year contract, despite concerns about the program’s mismanagement.
VeoRide currently offers 150 e-bikes and 150 electric scooters which can be rented via QR code. The company’s pilot program has been running for two years. It was set to expire at the end of August, but was extended by one month.
Several residents of College Park have criticized the VeoRide program because vehicles are often parked improperly in pedestrian rights-of-way and in streets. As a result, some city councilmembers were reluctant to continue with the contract given the problems with the system.
The current contract does stipulate that vehicles cannot be parked in rights of way, and fines will be more pronounced in the new proposed contract, according to Alex Keating, director of public policy and partnerships from VeoRide.
Councilmember Fazlul Kabir (District 1) noted that while residents did appreciate the bike-sharing program, some did not know how to report misplaced vehicles. Keating explained that residents could use an ID to identify the vehicle and call the customer service number to alert the company to improperly parked bikes.
Councilmember John Rigg (District 3) expressed concerns about the company’s management “going off the rails.”.
“I’ve seen [residents] throw them in the stream, I’ve seen them be hit with cars, I’ve seen people throw them in the streets,” Rigg said. “I’m not sold on our partnership with VeoRide, as things sit right now.”
Mitchell expressed that she wanted accountability on behalf of VeoRide managers, whom she believed were not adequately aware of what was going on in the city in terms of misplaced vehicles.
“Several vehicles are left there for days,” Mitchell said. “I have very great reservations about your product.”
Councilmember Robert Day (District 3) thought that the mismanagement of misplaced vehicles was unacceptable. He believed that the neighborhood that he represents was not included in the decision-making process of creating parking spaces, and that stray vehicles around the neighborhood were a nuisance for residents.
“These things are not being put back,” Day said. “I know they are a great addition to our city, but if we can’t manage them right then we can’t have them here.”
And in terms of removing improperly parked vehicles, councilmember Maria Mackie (District 4) worried that city staff would be overwhelmed by complaints due to provisions in the contract to report violations.
City planner Terry Schum said that on the university end, there would be trained staff to take care of violations, but that there had not been a conversation about what to do on the city’s end.
But Keating assured councilmembers that the problems would be addressed, especially with the increased fines, which would help to find, educate, and ban repeat offenders.
“The fastest way to make folks learn and behave is with the fines,” Keating said. “We’re fully supportive of…adding more teeth to the enforcement side.”
Kabir also noted that VeoRide’s range was not accessible to residents who might want to travel to Hyattsville or other adjacent cities.
Greenbelt Metro Station is not currently a hub for vehicles, but may soon be added as a priority parking hub, Schum said. Prince George’s County will be adding some Capital Bikeshare stations for residents that want to travel outside of VeoRide’s bounds, which ends at University Park.
VeoRide would be responsible for a new operating fee under the new contract, which would cost $50 per vehicle per year, according to Schum. The city is looking for more areas to create parking hubs. In the meantime, VeoRide will be required to impose fees on users who cause obstructions by improperly parked vehicles.
The city also proposed raising the cost of Class 2 vehicles, which do not require pedaling, by 10 cents per minute. Under the proposed contract, the company will also have to submit trip, usage, and accident data to the city.
Mayor Patrick Wojahn also expressed concern about extending the contract if problems persisted.
“If this continues, we may want to look into other options,” he said.