July 12, 2013

In Portland, a bike service built for tourists

Rail officials begin a pilot project to see if train riders want to rent two-wheelers to pedal around the peninsula.

By Karen Antonacci / Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The Zagster company provided the bicycles for rent at the Portland Transportation Center.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Brian Beeler II, manager of passenger services for the Downeaster, demonstrates how to unlock one of the bicycles being offered for rent at the Portland Transportation Center. Bikes can be rented for $20 a day under the program, which is targeted at tourists coming up for the day from Boston.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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It includes multiple stations where bikes can be picked up and dropped off, and its fees increase over usage time to encourage short trips. It also requires users to buy memberships or passes.

Zagster, with its $20-a-day price and no membership fees, is geared more toward tourists than daily commuters. And Zagster bikes must be rented and returned to the same station.

The 10-bike Zagster system is costing the rail authority about $16,000 a year, which covers installation and maintenance for the bikes and software.

Zagster CEO Timothy Ericson said the Portland station is unusual for the six-year-old company, which has 10 full-time employees.

The rail station is Zagster's first in a public transit hub. The others are on university campuses, apartment complexes or hotel sites.

"It's a unique partnership because it's not our typical model, and this really provides that last-mile transit (into the city)," Ericson said.

Zagster keeps 3 percent, or 60 cents, of every $20 rental, so the rail authority would need at least 825 one-day rentals to break even.

Beeler first said the rail authority was hoping to break even, but later clarified that it would be satisfied if the number of rentals increases each month.

"We would want to see a growing trend, a positive growth pattern," he said.

"I think that's our success. If (the number) stayed flat or went backwards ... I don't know if we would continue on."


Karen Antonacci can be contacted at 791-6377 or at kantonacci@pressherald.com


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