Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

People living and working in the Rockville and Shady Grove areas will be able to use 200 Capital Bikeshare bikes on 20 stations next year, thanks to a federal grant which will be formally approved tomorrow.

The bike-sharing program is one of 8 regional projects winning funding under the Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program from the FTA. JARC funds must go toward improving mobility options for low-income commuters. Annual membership and usage fees will be waived for low-income workers who meet program guidelines.

There is no mention of where stations will go, and that probably hasn’t been decided yet, but it is likely to include the Metro/MARC stations as well as high traffic locations such as Montgomery College and Rockville Town Center. A system centered on the two Metro stations with a handful of stations 1 to 4 miles away would allow users to get to traditional transit without having to wait for a bus or pay for parking.

Tomorrow, the National Capital Transportation Planning Board is expected to formally approve the grants. The $1.288 million funding and $688,000 local match for the bikeshare project will cover capital purchases and operating costs for two years. $200,000 of the match is from the City of Rockville.

The Montgomery County DOT applied for the funds, and winners were chosen by a selection committee and staff. Other winning projects include funding the shuttle bus to National Harbor that is filling the gap left by rerouting and shortening hours on the NH-1 bus, gas cards for home care aides serving people far from transit, and a rideshare coordinator for the Dulles corridor.

CaBi is a sensible use of funds to improve mobility for low-income commuters. With its minimal membership fees and an extra subsidy for those who most need it, CaBi can be a great commuting option for those on a budget. One $75 purchase can provide a year’s worth of transportation.

The city of Rockville expressed an interest in joining even before CaBi launched. Being so far from the rest of the system, it is unlikely that many people will ride CaBi from Rockville to downtown DC. The investment might have gotten greater network effects if it centered around a place like Silver Spring and DC added more stations on its side of the border.

Though the pilot is going to be small, it can still serve a couple of roles easily. Members can ride from near their homes to the train stations, then take a train to DC and grab another bike for the ride to work — all with one key. It will expand on the bike-sharing assisted commute by making it possible at both ends, just as the Crystal City pod does. And it will increase mobility in Rockville and Shady Grove, making it easier to cover short distances, just as it does now in Arlington and DC.

Also, if a completely separate pod is successful in Rockville, then it could pave the way for other pods in discrete areas. For example, College Park has been suggesting they want to join for some time. If it works in Rockville, it means College Park doesn’t have to wait for the tide of bikes to ripple outward.

Cross-posted at The WashCycle.