On the eve of a meeting with a skeptical City Council regarding the new Blue Bike cycle rental program, City leaders are touting a great rollout with 3,800 rides since it began on June 20.
City Transportation Planner Jay Monty said they have been very pleased with the initial use and expect to see growth in usage from September to November – when several of the stations will close for the winter (though many will remain open year-round).
He said besides the overall 3,800 rider number, they were also very pleased with the rideability score the City had in the rollout. Rideability is defined as the percentages of times a bike is available when wanted, and the times an empty slot is available when someone wants to return a bike.
“Our number was around 99 percent and that’s higher than any other community using the system,” he said. “Our number was so good because we have a broadly balanced system. In general, I think we’re seeing a lot of commuting patterns to Boston and Encore and morning and evening trips. So, that meant we haven’t needed a lot of re-balancing.”
He said they are working on expanded data sets that will allow the City to know exactly where trips are going to and where they are coming from as well. He said that will likely come in the fall.
One of the largest areas for Blue Bikes was on Lower Broadway, not surprisingly due to the desire of those staying and working at Encore Boston Harbor to use bikes.
“Encore has definitely been a big driver of ridership,” he said. “Our highest ridership numbers were on Lower Broadway, and our highest numbers of trips for one station came from the station at Broadway and Lynde Street – which is right at their entrance…Those are the highest ridership numbers, those in the Lower Broadway area. It makes sense because you have folks coming from Boston and Somerville. At that point, there are many more possible destinations.”
The station at Lynde Street logged 1,070 riders since opening.
One station that the City added based on the experience of Lime Bike (the dockless bike share program) was at Broadway and Chelsea Street. Since the rollout, that station has seen 339 riders, which is just barely behind the much-busier Everett Square location (340 riders).
“That was one area that wasn’t on our radar initially,” he said. “But when we did Lime Bike, we saw a lot of activity. There isn’t much there, so it was surprising, but clearly that is a high demand area.”
A second pattern of usage seems to be on Norman Street, a station that services the breweries, distillery and activity areas (like Revolution Axe and SkyZone). There, Monty said, they found that people will ride a bike to the station, but will use a different form of transportation to get home.
“At that Norman Street station, there is a trend where people ride a bike to that station, perhaps to get to the brewery and then take an Uber home,” he said.
The lowest ridership came at Ferry Street and Pleasant View, which is a station on the fringes of the system. There, they had about 120 riders and the station is on the street, which has taken away parking.
That is an issue that Monty said the City and its residents/business owner must confront.
Though a few parking spaces were lost at Pleasant View, that low-ridership station still averaged four riders per day – which he said was probably more beneficial to moving people than a few parking spaces.
The same problem exists on Main Street where they wanted to be in the business district just up from Sweetser Circle. However, businesses and homes did not want the stations in front of them, and that station is now getting pushed onto the Circle next year on a concrete pad near in the median.
“At Pleasant View, how often is a parking space used in that area?” he asked. “It’s probably not more than four times a day. Even though you’re taking street space and parking, you’re still providing much more mobility with the space…On Main Street, that’s a street where the ideal place is nearer to Tileston and Main. It’s where the activity is, but because parking and sidewalk space are so tight, we backed it away. Now we’re going to be pushed all the way out to the Circle, which isn’t the best place. We have to balance the needs of individual property owners with the City’s need to run a bike system that is functioning.”
Monty said most of the Blue Bike stations will remain open throughout the winter. However, those that are on the street will have to be removed for the winter to accommodate snow plows. Those closing will be Main/Beacon, Broadway/Ferry, Ferry/Pleasant View, and Norman Street.
The City Council, which has been skeptical of the bike sharing systems brought to Everett, was expected to have a meeting with the Administration on the Blue Bike system Tuesday night, Sept. 3, beyond Independent deadlines.
The top Stations for ridership were as follows (June 20-Sept. 2):
•Lower Broadway/Lynde Street – 1,070
•Broadway/Beacham (McDonald’s) – 695
•Encore HarborWalk – 450
•Everett Square – 340
•Broadway/Chelsea – 339
•Main/Beacon – 285
•Main/Carter – 266