News

Hubway Riders Setting Winter Records

Riders have taken over 3,900,000 trips since Hubway’s launch in July of 2011. #CountdownTo5MillionRides

System Alert: Hubway has reopened (all stations in Cambridge)

SYSTEM ALERT: Hubway has re-opened as of Tuesday, morning. Thank you for your patience during the inclement weather and ongoing station cleanup. Please review our winter-weather riding tips, and ride safely.

If you have any questions, please call to speak with a Member Service Representative at 1-855-9HUBWAY (948-2929). The Hubway Severe Weather Closure Policy can be found here.

[Philly.com] Indego has inroads yet to make

The following is an article originally published by Jason Laughlin and Dylan Purcell on Philly.com on January 24th, 2016.

It was after dark when Kieu Tran slid the bright blue bike into a bright blue dock in Point Breeze.

Her commute was almost over. The docks, part of the city’s bike-share program, Indego, are a short walk from home, where her four children waited to eat dinner. Since Indego’s April debut, Tran, 45, has discovered that the 15-minute bicycle trip to her job at Peirce College’s admissions office in Center City takes half the time as riding the bus and is cheaper.

“I’m going to try to go through the winter,” she said.

The city would love more bike riders like Tran, who lives in a neighborhood with a median household income of about $30,000. Yet an analysis of rider data from April to September shows that Indego has struggled with one of its founding missions: to get riders from low-income areas up on two wheels.

Bike share offers publicly owned cycles for rent at 73 stations in the city. The program has sold 8,300 memberships since April and reported 421,000 rides taken. Indego has become a reliable commuting option for thousands of Philadelphians.

But The Inquirer’s analysis of April-to-September rider data shows that the five least-used bike-rental stations in the city were in neighborhoods with median household incomes below $25,000.

The least-used rental station, at 11th and Poplar Streets, saw 71 bikes signed out in September. That’s about the same traffic that the kiosk in Rittenhouse Square, the city’s most popular, gets in 12 hours.

A Philadelphia neighborhood with one of the lowest median household incomes, Mantua, has two Indego rental stations. Both are among the least used, the data show. One near 39th and Mount Vernon Streets reported 461 rentals in six months. The other, at 36th and Spring Garden Streets, at the fringe of Drexel University’s campus, reported 565 rentals.

Promoting biking means changing people’s habit of using public transit or cars, said James Wright, a manager at the community-development organization People’s Emergency Center, based in Mantua.

“Right now, it’s not really on their radar,” he said of bike shares. “I don’t really know if they paid attention to it, to be honest.”

With membership at $15 a month for unlimited one-hour rides, Indego offers a cheaper, healthier way to commute than bus or subway. It also offers freedom, Wright said, from the set routes used by public transportation.

Despite those benefits, Indego’s challenges reaching the city’s lower-income residents are neither surprising nor unique.

An April 2015 study from the National Association of City Transportation Officials stated that “while bike share offers clear financial benefits, low- income people are not proportionally represented among U.S. bike share users.”

Indego is entering its second phase this year, with 24 new stations planned, some likely to go to poorer neighborhoods. Philadelphia officials overseeing the program will spend the winter analyzing data and reaching out to riders, to determine how to sell bike share’s advantages to people feeling financial pressure.

“Our goal is to learn from each station,” said Aaron Ritz, complete streets implementation manager in the city managing director’s office of transportation and infrastructure. “We’re using this ongoing learning process to drive the next round of station planning.”

Indego’s outreach efforts have included organized rides, an ambassador program that used neighborhood activists to promote the benefits of biking, and outreach to such community leaders as Wright.

The program’s fare structure is one of its most significant innovations. A monthly membership payment plan helps attract people put off by a pricey initial investment. It also allows people to pay with cash, an entry point for those without debit or credit cards.

Of the program’s 8,300 members, the number paying with cash is in the double digits, city officials have said.

Getting communities to buy in also has proved a challenge. In Point Breeze, two businesses, a 7-Eleven and a Family Dollar, are registered to process cash payments, according to Indego’s website (www.rideindego.com). But store clerks asked about Indego cash payments said the businesses did not process them.

In an actual cash transaction for Indego, a clerk would simply need to scan a bar code that a rider receives online, Ritz said. Still, he said, having staff at the businesses who were so uninformed was a problem. “We’re looking to update the cash membership program,” he said.

It’s too soon to draw conclusions from the data, said Ritz, but he noted that density and geography are two factors that might make bike-share stations in poorer neighborhoods less used.

Stations in densely populated areas with diverse development tend to do better, he said. Poorer neighborhoods tend to have lower residential density.

To give it the best chance of reaching a lot of people, Indego’s original stations were clustered in Center City and University City, where there are offices, cultural attractions, and lots of residents. A neighborhood like Point Breeze or Mantua is on the network’s outskirts, with fewer directions a cyclist can go to reach another station.

Adding stations outside the city’s core will be in the mix during this year’s expansion, officials said.

Boston’s bike share, Hubway, was founded five years ago and has had some success getting low-income residents biking.

Hubway, which also serves neighboring Somerville, Brookline, and Cambridge, Mass., has more than 4,000 members in Boston, about 15 percent of them low-income residents. Its membership is $85 a year, but those whose income and family size meet the program’s measures of low income can get annual memberships for just $5.

Indego will likely keep its $15 membership for most users, Ritz said, but it is considering creating a greater spectrum of prices.

“We’re beginning the stages of piloting projects where we target groups with different offers and different prices to encourage ridership and to lower any financial barriers,” he said.

Hubway staffers are regulars at community meetings and keep up a presence in Boston neighborhoods, but they say what helps most is word-of-mouth and visibility.

“That’s part of the best marketing, having the bikes out there,” said Najah Shakir, program manager at Boston Bikes, which oversees Hubway for Boston.

Wright, the Mantua community leader, said Indego’s staff could be even more visible in the neighborhood by attending meetings that draw crowds of residents invested in the community.

“It just takes time and effort and massive outreach because you’re changing the culture,” he said. “People are used to SEPTA or driving” or taking cabs.

This year, Indego will begin a major marketing push, officials said. It will seek customer feedback and conduct surveys.

The system will work best if it responds to the needs of riders, Ritz said: “Part of that learning is making sure we’re aware of trips people need or want.”

Even where ridership is low, there are signs that Indego is catching on. At the station at 39th and Mount Vernon Streets and the one in Point Breeze where Tran starts her commute, the data show rider use grew during peak summer.

Tran is an Indego convert, she said, and surprised her friends by saying that, even on cold days, biking is better.

“If I took the bus, I would have to stand and wait and then get on the second bus,” she said. “On this, I was always moving.”

[Boston Globe] GE move puts Seaport gridlock back in spotlight

The following is an article originally published by Nicole Dungca in the Boston Globe on January 23rd, 2016.

With General Electric Co. likely to move to Boston’s booming Seaport District and a flood of new construction underway across the area, workers and businesses are hoping for quick improvements to routine gridlock and public transit woes.

Already, morning commuters navigate through slow-moving traffic on Summer Street or crowd into a small waiting area at South Station to pack onto Silver Line buses to take them to work. Whereas the Seaport — also known as the South Boston Waterfront — seemed deserted and full of parking lots merely five years ago, it’s now teeming with new companies and thousands of workers.

By 2035, when the district’s final 17 million square feet are developed, trips to and from the waterfront during peak hours are estimated to increase by 63 percent. But even now, growing pains are evident. One Silver Line route, which travels through South Station to the Seaport’s Design Center, operates at 123 percent of its maximum capacity during the morning commute, according to a 2015 report. And companies have commissioned more than two dozen private shuttles to help employees get around.

“I think for the Seaport to be successful, public transit has to catch up with growth,” said Julie Wormser, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association. Wormser has purchased Razor scooters for her staff so they can sometimes avoid public transportation. “There’s no question.”

Daniel McMahon of Jamaica Plain, who commutes to work at the Seaport via the Silver Line, is worried about the impact of more workers. “It barely has the capacity to run with the amount we have now,” McMahon said this week, waiting for the bus at South Station. “People are always standing 10 deep, just elbow to elbow, and you have to hope you don’t become late.”

Liz White of West Newton said she’s used to the crowds by now, and that her co-workers constantly talk about the need for more express buses. “The MBTA does the best they can, but there’s just a big influx of people,” she said.

Seaport congestion is already on the radar of state and city officials: In January last year, A Better City, a nonprofit backed by business and civic institutions, released a study with public agencies that outlined recommendations for improving transportation in the Seaport.

The recommendations included consolidating the private shuttles that circle the neighborhood during rush hour, improving the traffic signals for the Silver Line at D Street, installing more Hubway bicycle stations, buying 60 new Silver Line buses, and re-opening or rebuilding the Northern Avenue Bridge.

A year later, city and state officials have made some improvements: They installed new real-time information signs for Silver Line buses, and the traffic signals at D Street now prioritize buses. The city this week made clear it intends to rebuild the Northern Avenue Bridge, and the state is experimenting with HOV lanes and letting all cars onto the South Boston Bypass Road. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is also overhauling 32 Silver Line buses for $24.3 million.

With help from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, some companies are close to signing onto consolidated routes for the private shuttles that were dispatched to help pick up the slack for the MBTA, providing connections from South Station and North Station.

Still, some big changes remain up in the air: Though the MBTA has purchased some new buses that can serve the Silver Line’s above-ground stops, it does not yet have a plan to acquire the 60 new buses that A Better City recommended.

Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the transportation authority is well positioned to meet some future demand in the Seaport, such as outbound commutes for new residents in the area or trips outside of peak hours.

“As far as new Silver Line vehicles [for South Boston tunnel routes] are concerned, the Authority will continue to explore new technologies, evaluate its options for the next fleet, and determine the best way to meet future demand,” he wrote in an e-mail.

All of this debate comes as GE formally announced plans this month to relocate its headquarters — and about 800 employees — to the city, likely in the Seaport District. The neighborhood will ultimately also become home to hundreds of new apartments, stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues, particularly in the Seaport Square development.

Rick Dimino, executive director of A Better City, said city and state officials have worked hard to focus on near-term changes so far, but he said they know more needs to be done. Though improving the traffic signals on D Street has improved the reliability of the Silver Line, Dimino said the MBTA must still expand its capacity.

“We’re not there yet in terms of being able to meet that transit share,” he said.

Officials are also considering building a tunnel to allow buses to go underground around D Street to improve speed and reliability.

And many don’t believe the solutions fall squarely on the Silver Line: The Boston Harbor Association’s Wormser said officials should take more seriously proposals to increase ferry service traveling from North Station to the Seaport, which could relieve some traffic congestion.

She said private shuttles or more Uber rides may not be the answer, since they aren’t accessible or affordable for everyone. Instead, she said, the government should be investing more in its transportation network.

“Can we have dedicated bike lanes? Can we have dedicated bus lanes? Can we have ferries?” she said. “That’s going to better equalize the access to jobs.”

The government has pledged some further improvements: With news of GE’s move to Boston, city and state officials said they wanted to continue with plans that could use up to $100 million to rebuild the closed Northern Avenue Bridge, and use $25 million in already-approved funds to fix sidewalks, intersections, and other transportation challenges in the district.

General Electric’s move to Boston will be far from the biggest influx of workers to the Seaport. But Lauren Grymek, executive director of the Seaport Transportation Management Association, said the news has helped keep the spotlight on transportation issues there.

“I think it was a good reminder that there’s still work to be done, but also signifying that there are solutions and people still want to be in this area,” she said.

[Wicked Local] Boston College provides grants for Allston-Brighton enhancement projects

The following is an article originally published in Wicked Local Allston on January 20th, 2016.

Boston College and the city of Boston recently gave neighborhood grants totaling almost $450,000 to Allston-Brighton, providing funding for future enhancement projects including a Medal of Honor monument, bike share stations and improvements to parks.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently joined William Leahy, Boston College president, at a ceremony on the University’s Chestnut Hill campus to award Neighborhood Improvement Fund Grant checks to six organizations. It’s part of the school’s support for physical improvements that are available to the residents of Allston-Brighton. The $2.5 million fund was established as part of the community benefits package under the University’s Institutional Master Plan. It targets projects where public sources of funding may be unavailable or inadequate.

The Allston-Brighton Veterans received $90,000 to help fund a Medal of Honor monument for Pfc. Ernest W. Prussman, killed during World War II; Boston Police will use $40,000 to buy two speed alert display board units; two solar powered trash and recyclable compacting stations costing $25,000 are on their way to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir; and Brighton Main Streets will use $100,000 to install gateway signage along with an interactive wayfinding kiosk that will provide information about local businesses, access to public transit and a community calendar.

Boston Bikes-Hubway and the city’s transportation department will use $95,600 for two bike share stations while $95,538 will fund improvements to McKinney Park including a new automated solar scoreboard, three concrete chess tables and transformation of the street hockey court so it can also be used for soccer and basketball.

Created last year as part a package of public benefits related to its Institutional Master Plan, the University is providing financial assistance to public and private nonprofit entities in Allston-Brighton to help enhance public parks and open space, for neighborhood beautification, transportation and roadway improvements, public safety projects, public art, and other projects that achieve the objectives of the fund. Particular emphasis is paid to areas of Brighton closest to Boston College.