Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Boston's Hubway bike system finally nears 100 stations

The Boston area bicycle share system, officially called "New Balance Hubway", faced a rocky start as it saw multiple delays and many missed expectations. Fortunately, the system is finally getting its act together and has been marching towards adding its 100th station. This summer, the system began expanding into neighboring cities, and new stations are being added every week.

2011: 57 stations
Spring 2012: 61 stations
End Summer 2012 (current): 95 stations

An additional batch of stations is expected this month, taking the system over 100. While it may not have the expansion goals of Mexico City, the system is finally covering a respectable geographic area.


Announced in 2009, Hubway was supposed to hit the streets in the spring of 2010. Behind the scene delays pushed that back to spring 2011, and then further troubles meant the system didn't launch until July 28 2011. While original plans called for over 100 stations in the first year, the system supposedly launched with 61 stations.....but no more than 57 were ever installed during the first year, contrary to all the official literature.

As Hubway is a seasonal system, it was packed up just four months later, but 2012 was supposed to come with many new locations. Although an early March relaunch was announced, the system wasn't really available until almost April. This time around, all 61 stations were installed, and expansion was supposed to follow quickly

MAPC “hopes to launch in spring with at least twenty stations” in Cambridge, and additional stations in Brookline and Somerville soon after.
Hubway

Spring came and went with no expansion, and now expectations were set for July. It took until this August, but stations have finally been rolling out in Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville and additional spots in Boston.

From 61 stations in mid July, Hubway now has 95 stations today, and an additional ten or so are expected over the next two weeks.


Let's take a look at what the system looks like today and how expansion has rolled out.

Green = Stations in place since April
Aqua: Stations installed during July and August
Gold: Stations installed in September

Photobucket


Hubway hasn't done a great job at advertising their new stations, so if you're in the Boston area and reading this....surprise! It's also unclear what the timeline is for the next batch of stations. We might get four new ones tomorrow, or none until October....you have to check the map on the Hubway website to spot any new arrivals. Note that the gold stations are "new" within the last 30 days, so you have to compare with this map to see what really is new.

I wish Hubway was a little more open with their timelines and such, and put more effort into announcing new stations. However, it is good to see expansion is finally underway. It will be interesting to see what number they reach before they start having to remove stations for the winter....and then if we get more next year.

10 comments:

  1. Spot on!
    I rode a Hubway bike from Union Square to the Somerville City Hall (The northern most aqua stations) right after they were installed. I couldn't find the city hall station (anyone familiar with the area - I'm not blind, I was looking over by the high school). I called Hubway... they didn't even know that station existed! About to ride back to where I checked the bike out, I found the station.

    The iPhone app Spotcycle came in handy in this case, I recommend it highly for anyone using bike share in a city Spotcycle covers

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    1. That's certainly another problem with the lack of PR....the stations arent easy to find, even if youre 50 feet from them. They blend in. The locations also arent consistent....street, sidewalk, plaza or parking lot, you can't be sure where it might be. The app is certainly extremely useful for bikeshare users, but not all users have smart phones.

      I like what DC uses, which is post a picture of every single station they put in.

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  2. James: While you have a legitimate beef with Hubway's PR/press strategy (not as open as it could be), the ground-level experience here in Boston is much more positive than your post suggests. I'm a regular biker who passes three Hubway stations on my commute to work, and I can tell you they are never full—except when the rebalancing van has just reloaded them. Interestingly, both tourists AND residents have embraced the system; I've talked to tourists who say it lets them experience the city in a very different way than they would otherwise, and I here residents talking about how it fills gaps in the city's transit system. Hubway tweeted this morning that it will cross the 500,000-ride threshold some time in the next 24 hours. For a service that has been open less than 10 months (4 last year, roughly 5.5 this year), that's a pretty solid indicator that something is working.

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    1. Steve, are you familiar with the website http://bikes.oobrien.com/boston/ ? Its great to browse, as it lets you explore usage by station every day, and makes it very clear which stations get the most use. Check out the stations you go by.

      As for hubway itself, I find it very hard to screw up bike share in Boston....the market is absolutely perfect for it. An amazing mix of tourists, college students, a highly used but slow transit system, and great geography. If you think it's been highly embraced now, imagine what the city could be like with an operator that actually communicated with their customers, advertised to new customers, and generally made a better job of explaining the system to area residents and visitors.

      Some of that (advertising) uses up money....but posting on twitter the locations of new stations? Thats essentially free and could yield great dividends. People need to know there's a new station nearby if theyre going to use it.

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  3. well - the whole NYC share thing threw the production of hubway bicycles and stations all out of whack - as they're using the same provider. when you have one city trying to roll out 600 stations with 10,000 bikes all at once it screws things up for everyone else. NYC had to scale back, now it's 420 stations and 7,000 bikes, but as alta scrambles to ramp up their operation, I think things will be just trickling in for a while.

    but you're right about the bad PR. why don't they just announce where stations are planned with a list of locations that are top priority once the units come in? why the secrecy behind where they're putting things?

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    1. If the company wasnt able to meet the demand of Boston, London AND NYC (among others) they shouldnt have promised the number of stations they did.

      I am baffled as to why it's so hard to find future stations. I understand the perils of a timeline (ie, if they say Monday and they miss the date, theres backlash) but how about general info? The website map has a "future stations" icon that has NEVER been used. As it is now, I don't think anyone knows the total number of stations expected this year, and the only way to get location maps is through the city councils and DOTs, instead of Hubway.

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  4. also - from the "suggest a station" on the website, they now appear to have plans to expand to a pretty sizeable area:

    "Click on the map to add up to 5 station location suggestions in Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville, Winthrop, Newton, Arlington, Medford, Quincy, and Watertown"

    this could potentially reach 1.5 million people - all within 10 miles of downtown.

    before the suggestions were limited to Boston, Brookline, Somerville, and Cambridge.

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    1. Thanks for that, I hadnt noticed it expanded. Mind you, I find that feature absolutely useless. Station locations don't get picked due to online voting, they get picked by using a number of other factors. I do see some value however, if 200 people pick a spot in Arlington, Hubway can go to the Arlington council and show there's demand.

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  5. As a tourist from San Francisco visiting Boston, I used Hubway bikeshare just last weekend to ride from Cambridge back to our hotel in the Back Bay district. I thought it was pretty darn great! The system was pretty easy to figure out, the bikes were quite rideable (for an under 5 mile distance), and the price ($5 for the day) was reasonable enough. I only wish Boston's bicycle infrastructure was nearly as good. (Not that San Francisco's infrastructure is much better, and we will be lucky if even the pathetic bikeshare system currently planned comes to fruition in the next half decade.) In terms of bicycle infrastructure, both San Francisco and Boston have a lot of catching up to do with Europe.

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    1. The system is certainly user friendly, although I wouldn't call it cheap (compared to systems in Europe). Boston actually has been doing a lot of catching up. 5 years ago there was not a single mile of on street bike lanes in the entire city of Boston. Not one! I'm guessing you used the bike lanes on Mass Ave? Those were installed just within the past year. The city has made great strides in bike infrastructure.

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