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As Hubway reopens, agency eyes Roxbury, Dorchester, and South Boston for possible expansion

Posted by Patrick Rosso  April 4, 2013 12:52 PM

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As the bicycle rental system Hubway begins opening for the season, commuters in Roxbury, Dorchester, and South Boston still don’t have many locations.

But administrators with the program say the neighborhoods could see new stations in the coming year.

The subscriber-based program, launched by the city and New Balance in 2011, is often used by riders to make short one-way trips between stations. Subscribers are allowed unlimited rides under 30 minutes and are then charged after they go over the time limit.

Roxbury is home to just two stations, one near the South Bay Shopping Center and one on Washington St. in Lower Roxbury. There are also nearby stations at the Ruggles MBTA stop and in Mission Hill.

In Dorchester the neighborhood has just two stations. One is located at the JFK/UMass MBTA stop, with the other located on the University of Massachusetts Boston campus.

South Boston has the most stations out of the three areas, with the majority bunched around the Waterfront and Innovation District. The neighborhood also has a station near the Broadway Station MBTA stop and will soon have some new bike lanes.

Although there are concrete plans and funds to add a station to the Andrew Square MBTA stop in South Boston and Mt. Pleasant Street in Roxbury, there are no other “planned” sites listed on the group’s website for the neighborhoods.

“Hubway is fantastic for this city, and it has the potential to be revolutionary for South Boston,” said Jon Ramos, a coordinator for the grass-roots community group Planet Southie Bikes. “There are seven Hubway stations within South Boston, which seems like plenty, but it’s not.”

Ramos said an expansion into South Boston proper, which currently only has two stations, would be welcome news to area cyclists and commuters.

“If a resident of South Boston wants to use the Hubway to commute to work, that person will likely need to walk about ten minutes or more before arriving at the Hubway station,” said Ramos. “The two existing stations would be much more beneficial if we had a few other Hubway stations within the residential neighborhood and at our most desirable neighborhood destinations so that users would have some place to ride to.”

In Dorchester, Andy Schroeder, a long-time member of Dot Bikes, a bicycle advocacy community in Dorchester, said the system is a great resource for the city, something he’d like to see more of in the neighborhood.

“Hubway is great for the city and for cyclists. Also having more cyclists on the road makes everyone more aware of cyclists and that hopefully leads to safer roads for all,” said Schroeder. “It increases the options for people getting around and this would be especially helpful for many in the neighborhood that have few options.”

Although many cyclist advocates have called for an expansion of the system, they understand the challenges Hubway faces.

New stations are placed based on their proximity to nearby stations, expanding out from the center of the city, one station at a time.

“We’re always working on ways to make the best system possible,” said Nicole Freedman, director of the city’s Boston Bikes program, which oversees the Hubway program.

Freedman said administrators of the system are in the process of looking for ways to expand out and add more stations in the coming year. The group is currently looking for areas to add between 15-20 stations to the more than 40 stations already in Boston.

The system also has locations in Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

“These locations are based on one-way trips that extend out of a network, it’s a classic public transit system based on density,” said Freedman, who added that an average trip for a rider is just a little over a mile.

With more than 1,000 of the bikes out on the city’s streets, Freedman said the program is gaining traction and popularity as it continues to expand.

Hubway is expected to hold its official season opener Apr. 8.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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