In Its First Season, Boston Bike Share Exceeds Projections; Will Expand Next Spring

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A Hubway station (photo by effelarr via Flickr)

Boston's bike share program, which is shutting down for the winter as of December 1, has recorded more than 140,000 trips in its first four months of operation. Membership levels are outpacing targets. And when Hubway returns next spring, the city plans to add more bike share stations and expand into neighboring Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

Nicole Freedman, director of bicycle operations for the City of Boston, said the program had been a success.

"We were thinking that by the end of the full twelve months, we'd have four thousand (members)," she said. "So we're definitely ahead of our expectations" (with 3, 629 members in the first four months.)

The city has some preliminary data about just who is using the system (taken from an online survey that users fill out when they register):

  • 62% of annual members live in Boston; the remainder live in neighboring towns and cities
  • The average trip length is about 1.13 miles
  • 70% of Hubway users are male; 30% female
  • 40% of Hubway users are between 20 and 29 years old
  • The most popular station is located at the Boston Public Library
  • 36% of Hubway users have a household income of over $150,000; 20% earn $100,000 to $149,000; 21% earn $50,000 to $100,000, and 10% earn $20,000 to $49,000

Freedman said the city is working with the Boston Public Health Commission, as well as local non-profits, to reach out to low-income residents. The city has funding for 600 subsidized annual memberships.

Hubway is fully funded through 2013 and hasn't cost the city any money. New Balance signed on to sponsor the system for three years, and half of the 60 stations have corporate sponsorship.

Freedman said there had been no major theft or vandalism problems in Hubway's first season.

Like other urban bike share programs, Boston had to observe bike patterns and get bikes where they were most needed. Freedman said that early on, docking stations at Boston's commuter rail terminals -- North Station and South Station -- were so popular they were emptying out even before rush hour ended in the morning.  So, Freedman said,"we adjusted our rebalancing team." This meant that bikes were moved from station to station in vans to accommodate the heavy usage. The city also expanded the number of available bikes at North Station.

It takes three weeks to fully remove the bikes and stations from city streets, and that the program is expected to shut down by December 1. Hubway will return in the spring and has plans to expand to 80 to 100 stations.

Nicole Freedman said that the city would be preparing an end-of-year survey to get more user feedback. "It's really changed the city -- fast," said Freedman. "We actually just installed our fiftieth mile of bike lane this week." She added: "The power of this bike share to really get the average person, the mainstream person, on a bike -- it's unbelievably powerful."

The program officially kicked off on July 28th.  Membership costs $85 for a full year or $5 for a day; there's also a three-day, $12 pass. There are 60 Hubway docking stations spread across Boston.