Bike Sharing Programs Expand – and Not Just in Boston

On May 25, 2017 Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the largest expansion of the Hubway system since 2011. In honor of the regional bike-sharing system’s plans to add over 70 new stations in Boston alone, we’re looking back at the development of bike-share in Boston – including the role MAPC has played – and looking forward to its future in Boston and beyond.

Besides being a great way for people to access bikes without having to purchase them, bike share programs promote healthy and active living and are useful for both transportation and recreational use. Commuters can use bikes to get to work or quickly reach far away public transit stations, improving first-mile, last-mile connections and reducing total travel time.

“We’re really excited about the potential that bike share has to promote bicycling and the utilization of most sustainable modes of transit in our region,” said Kasia Hart, transportation policy associate at MAPC, who helps coordinate Hubway’s regional agreement. “MAPC supports the expansion of bike share in new neighborhoods within existing communities, as well as in new communities.”

Forming Hubway

In Fall 2007, the City of Boston formed the Boston Bikes program and started exploring the possibility of bringing bike share to the Boston area. Early in the planning stages, the City approached MAPC to assist with the launch of the system. . In 2008, MAPC led the procurement process, resulting in the selection of Alta Bicycle Share (now Motivate) as the system’s operator.

Hubway officially launched in Boston in 2011 with 610 bicycles and 60 stations throughout Boston. After the system’s huge success, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline expressed interest in joining, and by 2012, there were stations on the ground in all four communities.Today, MAPC continues to serve as the system’s regional coordinator – helping oversee interaction between the municipalities involved in the system. Additionally, MAPC oversees a collective regional agreement to govern the coordination of one of the first truly regional bike share system in the United States..

Since then, the bike-share system has gained over 100 stations – there are now 185 stations and 1,800 bikes across the four municipalities. In August 2016, the City announced the opening of new stations in Roxbury and North Dorchester and committed to expanding to underserved communities.

The Future of Hubway

In October, Hubway reached its 5 millionth trip. The system currently has 14,000 annual members, and there are plans to expand even more. As a result, a new model is needed to meet demand, install additional stations, and improve service.

Part of this new organizational model involves an increase in fares – an annual membership, which used to cost $85, now costs $99 – and Motivate announced that it intended to increase revenues from title and secondary sponsorships. With the operator raising additional revenue, municipal contribution is limited and Motivate will invest a larger share of revenue back into the system to expand operations and improve service.

In late May, Walsh and the City of Boston announced that, over the next two years, the Hubway network will expand with more than 70 new stations in Boston – more than a 55 percent increase – as a result of a new long-term contract with Motivate. The Boston Transportation Department intends to reach new neighborhoods such as Dorchester, Roslindale, and Mattapan while expanding and adding new stations in high-demand areas.

The mayor also announced additional service improvements to keep bikes in high-demand locations and ensure that stations have empty docks. While Boston adds new stations, there Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline will grow their networks as well.

“Without a doubt bike sharing is having a profound impact on our region,” said Marc Draisen, Executive Director of MAPC, in the city’s press release. “There is great demand to expand the system into more neighborhoods in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, and into neighboring cities and towns. Getting more people onto bikes more often is our goal.”

The Boston Transportation Department will be holding a series of bike share workshops to help plan expansion in various neighborhoods of the city. Keep an eye on the city’s public calendar for meeting dates.

Bike-Share in the Region

Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline aren’t the only municipalities in the area with a potential for bike share: other cities and towns in MAPC’s region are noticing the benefits of having bikes easy accessible to community members and tourists. Last month, Salem launched a bike-share system with Cambridge-based operator Zagster. Eighteen bikes are available across three stations, two near public transit stations: Federal Street/MBTA, Front Street/Derby Square, and Blaney Street/Salem Ferry.

Salem and Zagster are already planning on adding more stations at the Salem Willows, Salem State University along the Salem Bike Path, and at other locations. Annual membership for the system is $25, and trips under an hour are free. Casual riders can bike for $3 an hour. Learn more here.

Acton, and Maynard are also looking to implement a joint bike share system in their communities, with Zagster as the operator.

Interested in Bike Share?

Hubway: If you live or work in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, or Somerville, learn more about Hubway here. Passes cost $8 daily, $20 monthly, or $99 annually. The first 30 minutes of riding are free, with 24- or 72-hour passholders paying $3 for each additional half hour and monthly and annual passholders paying $1.50 for minutes 30-60, $3 for 61-90, and $6 for every 30 minutes over an hour and a half.

Low-income Boston residents can receive an annual Hubway membership for $5 and discounts on usage fees. Learn more here.

Salem: Zagster is offering $10 annual memberships through the end of August and plans on expanding. To learn more, keep an eye on the Salem Bike Share website.