Bluebikes ridership soared during Orange Line shutdown

More than 117,000 people redeemed free monthly passes

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

DURING THE 30 DAYS that the Orange Line and Green Line extension were closed, a record number of people turned to Bluebikes to get around the greater Boston area.

Ridership during the shutdown smashed prior Bluebikes records, according to a recent report. Going into 2022, the most trips in a single day was around 11,000. That record was broken 10 times during the shutdown, and the new daily record was set at almost 27,000 trips.

Overall, there was a 53 percent increase in trips compared to the same time period last year.

A report by MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak showed that Bluebikes captured about 2 percent of Orange Line ridership alternatives during the closure, with over 2,000 riders every day.

Without the option to hop on the T, more than 117,000 people redeemed a free monthly membership pass for the public bike share system offered by the city of Boston, waiving the $26.75 monthly pass fee. Almost 5,000 passes were redeemed on the first day of the shutdown alone.

The free passes, which Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge announced days after news of the shutdown broke, represented a significant percentage of the number of Bluebike trips during the 30 days. Over Labor Day Weekend, free pass holders took over half of the trips system-wide.

“Biking can be a great alternative for some people during the shutdown,” Franklin-Hodge said. “Opening up and enhancing Bluebikes service is just one of the ways we’re helping residents access good alternatives to their normal transit routes.”

Wu made some buzz on Twitter a few days into the closure when she live-Tweeted her commute to work via bike, to the tune of over 2,600 likes.

“Plenty of @RideBluebikes available at 8:30AM,” she Tweeted along with pictures from her ride in.

To accommodate the surge in riders, the city also added bike docks to some MBTA stations, some of which Wu announced last month will be permanent additions to the system.

Ruggles T Stop, Stony Brook T Stop, Boylston Street, Boston City Hall, Congress Street at Boston City Hall, and Williams Street at Washington Street all have permanently increased Bluebikes capacity.

The Bluebikes fleet also expanded by 500 bikes to accommodate the increased demand, from already over 4,000 bikes in the whole system.

The bike system’s popularity during the shutdown led seamlessly into Wu’s announcement in early September that the city is expanding bike lanes and Bluebike stations even further over the next few years.

The city is adding 9.4 miles of bike lanes on a dozen streets in Boston and, within the next three years, more than 100 new Bluebike stations, Wu promised. She said the city’s goal is to ensure 50 percent of all residents in Boston will be a three-minute walk away from a safe, connected bike route within the next three years.

Outside of Boston, however, other communities served by the MBTA felt the effects of the T shutdowns too, some without alternative transportation methods like the bike system.

Malden – a commuter-heavy city from which thousands of people board Orange Line trains every morning to go south into Boston – was set to be one of the most affected communities. The city had signed on to join the Bluebikes system earlier this year, but had no bike rental stations within the city limits at the time of the shutdown.

Medford, which also relies on the Orange Line, had also signed on to join the system earlier this year. Medford has one docking station at the Wellington Station that was installed through a partnership with the city of Everett.

Medford officials announced on August 31 – about a week into the shutdown – that the city would add three additional docking stations to be put in during September, in Tufts Square, Main Street at Brooks Park, and Medford Square. Malden Mayor Gary Christenson also announced that his city would add three new stations in September at the Malden Center MBTA station, Malden High School ,and along the Northern Strand Community Trail.

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Sam Drysdale

Reporter, State House News Service
Both cities have plans to add more Bluebike stations in the future.

In late July, the state announced $5.54 million in grant awards to 16 communities under the Complete Streets Funding Program that helps pay for infrastructure projects that improve travel for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit users, and people using other forms of transportation. It’s the 13th grant round since the Baker administration launched the program in 2016; 252 municipalities have worked through the program to adopt a Complete Streets policy and 222 have developed an approved Complete Streets Prioritization Plan.