Soon after the Boston Bikes program was founded in 2007, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Director of Bicycle Programs, Nicole Freedman, decided to bring bike sharing to the Boston area. However, they knew that in order for it to truly transform the way people travel and experience the city, it would have to span municipal boundaries. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for the metro-Boston region of 101 cities and towns, joined the effort, and led the open bidding process that led to the selection of Alta Bicycle Share as the preferred company to operate bike share in the Boston region. Along the way Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville committed to bring this exciting new initiative to their communities as well.
The Hubway system launched July 28, 2011 with 600 bicycles and 60 stations throughout Boston. Following launch Hubway immediately surpassed expectations. Within 10 weeks Hubway bikes had logged more than 100,000 rides, and by the end November had more than 3,600 annual members. During its first season a strong community of users formed that took an active part in the success of the system. Users reported damage, returned lost keys, docked loose bikes and even delivered engagement rings for each other (true story).
Hubway closed for the winter on December 1, 2011, but the excitement did not fade. While the system was closed, membership continued to grow in anticipation of the bikes’ return, and Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville each signed their own contracts with Alta Bicycle Share. In addition, Alta and the four municipalities signed a collective regional agreement, laying out how they would continue to work together to create a unified regional system, making Hubway the first truly regional bike sharing system in the US.
Hubway marked the beginning of spring when stations and bikes began to reappear in March, 2012. In less than a month after the official relaunch of the system on April 3rd, Hubway riders had logged an additional 50,000 rides, proving that bike sharing in Boston is no passing fad. During the summer of 2012, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville launched live stations, and Boston further expanded its fleet of stations and bikes. By the end of the 2012 season, 108 new stations and over 1,000 bikes were in service on both sides of the Charles, ensuring that Hubway has become an integral part of life in metro-Boston.
Despite being closed for winters, Hubway riders surpassed the 1,000,000 rides mark in July 2013, and by Thanksgiving 2013 hit 1,500,000. In mid-November, the City of Cambridge announced that it would participate in a pilot program to maintain Hubway operations year-round for the first time.