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New Winter Schedule for the Hubway System

There is good news for Hubway users in the greater Boston metro area. Many Hubway stations that are usually put into hibernation for winter will be available for use during the winter of 2017/2018. Cambridge has kept the majority of its Hubway kiosks open during the winter since 2013. This year, stations in the three other cities participating in the Hubway network—Boston, Somerville and Brookline—will be following suit. This will be great for commuters looking to rent or purchase real estate in the Boston area & commute to work by bike in winter.

Seven street-side stations in Boston and three in Brookline will be temporarily moved so that they don't interfere with snow removal. However, these relocated kiosks will be close to their original sites. Most will be on sidewalks or off-street locations. The list of stations that will be moved are available on the Hubway app. However, approximately 25 of the 185 system-wide Hubway stations will be put into hibernation because alternate sites could not be found or because of licensing issues.

What Is Hubway?

Hubway is the greater Boston metro's bicycle sharing program. The program constitutes a significant form of public transportation in the Boston area. Four municipalities—Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville—own the program. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council administers the program. The system is operated by Motivate International, a private company that specializes in bike share systems throughout the world.

The Hubway system allows users to connect to convenient locations throughout the city. Stations are placed based on population, transportation needs and requests by the public, institutions, corporations and civic groups. Stations are positioned near entertainment and activity centers like the Wharf District and the Boston Museum of Science, places of employment, restaurants and universities. They are also near apartment complexes such as the Ink Block in South End and the new residential developments in the Seaport District. Because the system allows users to ride and drop bikes, getting to from point A to point B is often faster than using the Boston T, bus or private car.

A Short History of the Hubway Program

Part of the Boston Bikes program, the Hubway network was envisioned in 2007 and embraced by the MAPC. The Boston Hubway was launched in July of 2011 with unexpected success. The first 10 weeks had more than 100,000 rides, and the program had more than 3,600 annual members after just 6 months. As of November 2017, more than 6 million trips have been logged. More than 1800 bicycles and 185 stations are available to users of the system.

The four cities involved work together to create a meaningful network of bicycle kiosks that allowed users to ride and drop bikes throughout the area. The system created an important transportation network in a congested urban area and became the first regional bike-sharing system in the country.

From its inception, the system has operated through the spring, summer and fall. The system is put into hibernation during each winter. Even with the system closed for winters, membership has grown each year. After just two years, more than 1 million rides were logged. The statistics show that the Hubway is not just a passing fad but an important part of the multi-city urban area.

The city of Cambridge launched a pilot program during the winter of 2013 to keep its portion of the system open. Ridership grew, and Cambridge has operated Hubway kiosks throughout the year since then. Two stations in Cambridge, one at Massachusetts Avenue at Amherst near MIT and one at Harvard Square, are among the 10 busiest stations in the network.

In 2015, 11 new stations were installed in the system in Charlestown, Fenway, Roxbury, South Boston and Brighton. In 2016, additional stations were opened in Roxbury. At that time, North Dorchester was also connected to the system. Plans for expansion continue, with an emphasis on connecting to underserved neighborhoods such as Dorchester, Mattapan and Roslindale. In addition, service in existing areas will also be increased. As of November 2017, the expanded network includes South End, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Savin Hill and the Seaport District.

Hubway continues to break its own records in number of rides per month and per year. By September 2017, almost 1 million trips were logged for the year. The program has more than 14,000 annual members.

Goals of Hubway

The goals of Hubway are as varied as the reasons people use the service. Foremost, it provides a convenient, environmentally friendly mode of transportation that relieves congestion in a dense urban area. The Hubway network is convenient for students, visitors, professionals and commuters. It's enjoyable, it's simple, it's affordable and it's convenient to many neighborhoods, universities and economic centers.

One aim is to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. By using the cycles instead of a car, pollution is reduced. The program encourages sustainability, provides an alternative commuting option and provides access to other forms of public transportation.

A second aim is to encourage active transportation. Cycling is good for health and a fun way for families and friends to exercise. The Hubway network complements Healthy People 2020, a national program aimed at increasing public awareness about diet, obesity, exercise and general health.

Most of all, it's fun. Zip through new neighborhoods and get to know Boston, take established bike paths that interconnect parks throughout the area and explore the many historic sites that are part of the greater Boston metro area.

How It Works

Hubway provides bicycles for rent to individuals who pay to use the system. There are no boundaries that restrict where you go within the network of the four participating cities. Because the system allows users to ride and drop bikes, getting to from point A to point B is often faster than using public transportation or private car. Pick up a cycle in downtown Boston and drop it in Cambridge. Start your trip in Somerville and cycle over to South End. Because you can drop the bike, you don't have to worry about where to park your vehicle. You can use any bike in the network and drop it at any station. When the bike is properly docked, a green light will display.

Passes are available for one day and three days. When you join, you receive a code or a member key that unlocks bikes. Passes can be purchased at any kiosk or through the mobile app. A 24-hour pass is $8, and a 72-hour pass is $15. With either pass, you can ride an unlimited number of 30-minute rides. After that, there is a $3 charge for each additional 30 minute period. Fees are charged to the card you list on file.

Memberships are available for one month or one year and can be purchased online or through the app. Monthly memberships are $20 for 30 days. Annual memberships cost $99 for 365 days. If you commit to an annual membership, you can also pay monthly at $10 per month. As with passes, the first 30 minutes of a ride are free. With monthly and annual memberships, graduated charges are assessed for each subsequent 30-minute period. Annual members are given a key that unlocks all the bikes throughout the network. If a bike is lost or stolen, users are charged $1200.

Corporate memberships are also available and offer a number of membership options. Some corporate members elect to be program sponsors. Users associated with a corporate member will be given a corporate password or email address to unlock bikes. The corporation is given a monthly invoice that lists the employees who have signed up. In addition, the company receives an annual report that includes the number of rides taken, miles logged, calories burned and environmental offset statistics.

Hubway also offers discounted annual memberships of $5 for qualifying low-income residents. The city of Boston has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission to support this program. The membership includes unlimited 60-minute rides and a free helmet. To qualify, you must live in Boston, be at least 16 years old, receive specified types of public assistance and have a low income. You can sign up online or in person.

In addition, medical practitioners at Boston Medical Center are part of the Prescribe-a-Bike program, which links transportation and health. Doctors can write a prescription for low-income patients to become Hubway members for $5 per year. Because obesity is a concern for residents of the Boston metro area, Prescribe-a-Bike encourages exercise and helps patients gain awareness of the importance of healthy activities. Other area hospitals are interested in joining the effort.

Hubway App

The Hubway mobile app can be downloaded for both iPhone and Android platforms. The app can be used for a number of functions that provide convenient features for users. Using the app, you can purchase a 24-hour or 72-hour pass. You can find bikes and open docks in your area. The app shows how many bikes are available at a dock and if a dock has space for a bike to be dropped. You can unlock a bike with the app, see your ride statistics and get ride notifications.

The Hubway Fleet

The Hubway fleet is designed for easy use for men and women. Bikes are made with an aluminum frame without a crossbar. The seat is padded and wide for comfort. It can be adjusted for height and includes numbers so that you can remember your settings for the next ride. There is a front rack with an elastic cord so that you can safely stow your belongings.

The handlebars are positioned so that you ride upright, which gives better visibility and balance. There are three gears on the handlebars. Simply twist the handlebar to switch gears. Puncture-resistant tires are durable and inflated to withstand multiple rides.

Brakes are controlled by levers on the handlebars. The bikes include several reflectors and an LED light that comes on when you ride. Bikes are also outfitted with fenders at the front and back and a chain guard to prevent spatters to keep your clothing clean.

The fleet is maintained by Hubway on a regular basis. If you notice that a bicycle is damaged, you can use the wrench button on each dock to lock the bike in. A red light displays to alert maintenance crews that the bike has a problem. Stations are cleaned according to the schedule set by the municipality.

Hubway checks the distribution of bicycles in docks to make sure that stock is balanced. If a station is empty, bikes are moved from full stations to resupply low stock. If you get to a station with full docks and there is no place to drop the bike, you can extend your ride by 15 minutes for free to get to a nearby station with available docks.

Where Hubway Kiosks Are Located

With more than 185 stations throughout the network, Hubway is convenient to many neighborhoods and places of interest within Boston, Somerville, Cambridge and Brookline. Stations are placed close enough to one another to allow users to pick up and drop off bikes at convenient locations.

Stations are placed in street-side locations, on side streets or set back from sidewalks to give ample room for pedestrian walkways. They can also be placed on private property. They are located in well-lit places so that users feel safe after dark. Stations must be in the sun because they are solar powered. They are also positioned so that they do not interfere with utilities such as fire hydrants, electrical cables and manholes.

Kiosks are designed to occupy minimal space yet provide adequate facilities for users. A typical station includes a dock that holds 19 bicycles, contains a kiosk for transactions and has a solar panel and a map panel. A station this size measures 6 by 51 feet. Larger stations hold more bikes and are suitable for locations that need to support have more users. Smaller stations don't hold as many bikes, which may result in a dock being empty or too full.

Proposed Expansion

The city of Boston plans to add 70 more stations beginning in 2018. Mayor Martin Walsh began an extensive, interactive planning phase in early 2017 that encouraged community-wide participation. Suggestions through workshops, open houses and online maps let community members and organizations have input into how and where to expand into underserved areas, where stations should be added in neighborhoods already served, what size of station best serves a location and how to position kiosks. Other important issues include expansion of bike lanes and enhancing safety.

Other municipalities in the greater Boston area are also getting into the action. The city of Revere has begun a pilot program for its own bike share program. In contrast to Hubway, where bikes must be returned to a dock, Revere's program is station-free. Users drop bikes anywhere that complies with the city's rules. Revere's distinctive yellow bikes are electric pedal-assisted, which helps with challenging terrain. Users locate bikes using a GPS app and unlock the bike by scanning it or using a QR code embedded in the bike. When the user locks the bike, the ride is over. Payment is by credit card through the app, and the user gets a digital receipt.

Future plans include linking to 16 other nearby communities. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council is studying how to expand the system to include Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Chelsea, Concord, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Milton, Newton, Winthrop, Quincy, Waltham and Watertown. Programs similar to Revere's, with station-free technology, are being piloted in Chelsea. Riders can cross municipal lines and still be in the network. In contrast to Hubway, the bike share program in these cities will not require an investment by the city. Several bike share companies are being considered to provide service to new communities.

If you are an existing Hubway member, you will be pleased to know that many locations will operate during the winter months. If you haven't tried Hubway yet, look for a station in your neighborhood and give it whirl. Enjoy the freedom of one-way travel at minimal cost and explore your city. If there's not a station in your neighborhood, request one. The expansion is on-going, with the goal to serve as many locations and people as possible.

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