MAPC Announces 16-Community Effort to Bring Bike-Share System to Boston’s Inner-Suburbs in 2018

A regional, bike-share system for communities in Metro Boston is on the horizon, thanks to a project announced this week by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston.

MAPC, the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in 101 cities and towns across Greater Boston, is working to bring this new bike-share network to the Metro Boston area by spring, including to Revere.

In 2011, MAPC helped bring the Hubway Bike Share system to Boston; the next year, with MAPC’s coordination, Hubway expanded into Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. The system now includes 190 stations and 1,800 bikes, hosting more than 6 million rides since its launch.

With leadership from Newton Mayor Setti D. Warren, MAPC will launch one of the largest regional, bike-share systems in the country in a ring of communities encircling Boston, building on the success of Hubway and expanding access to bike share for all the region’s residents.

The system will likely incorporate station-free, or “dockless” technology, and may also include electric pedal-assist bicycles, or e-bikes, which make bicycling uphill and into headwinds less challenging. Smart-bike technology lets users to pick up and drop off bikes anywhere in the service area without searching for a station, allowing riders to get started with just a smart phone and to ride across municipal borders without leaving the network.

In addition to Newton, the cities and towns of Arlington, Bedford, Belmont, Chelsea, Concord, Everett, Lexington, Malden, Medford, Milton, Revere, Winthrop, Quincy, Waltham and Watertown are interested in joining the system. One or more bike-share companies may be selected; the program will have no cost to cities and towns. Rides are expected to cost about $1 per trip, with up to 2,000 or more bikes spread across these 16 cities and towns in the first year. Newton alone expects to launch with more than 200 bicycles by summer 2018.

MAPC plans to formally solicit proposals from bike sharing companies in mid-November. The planning council will post a notice to potential vendors with further details about the desired system characteristics and regulations the companies will be required to follow.

“New dock-free technology enables users to take a bike, check it out with their smart phone, and return it anywhere in the system area – it couldn’t be easier, or more convenient,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of MAPC.

Over the past six months, numerous companies have emerged in the United States offering privately funded, no-cost, station-free, bike-sharing systems. These systems supplement traditional, station-based, bike-sharing networks such as Hubway, by allowing users to leave bikes at regular bike racks or on public sidewalks, without having to locate a system dock to drop off the bike.

“These recent rapid changes in the bike share industry have created a unique opportunity for Boston’s suburbs to launch a large-scale regional bike-share system without having to raise large amounts of public capital,” said Draisen. “Our goal is to have high-quality bikes that will be well maintained, in a system that is easily accessible throughout the participating communities – and we want a seamless experience for riders crossing municipal lines.”

Seattle recently saw its bike share ridership increase dramatically after starting a pilot program with three privately funded, station-less systems. The city has permitted 6,000 dock-free bicycles, and has seen a total of 120,000 trips since the pilot began in July. Washington, D.C., also recently launched a six-month station-less bike share pilot, with five vendors operating nearly 2,000 bicycles across the city.

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