Councillor Carlone looks to expand Hubway access for low-income residents

57BF429229064D0F99D2D6F06F9804ED.jpgCambridge City Councillor Dennis Carlone has introduced a policy order to create a subsidized Hubway program for low-income Cambridge residents. 

"The City of Cambridge has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's best cities for biking, but as we continue to develop our multi-modal transit infrastructure, we ought to look at ways of expanding access to the Hubway program in an equitable fashion," Councillor Carlone said.

Indeed, just this week, the Boston Globe lauded the fact that the number of bicycle miles traveled in Cambridge is up some 237% since 2004. And with new bike paths and innovative safety technology now in the works, it's clear that we are fostering a culture that promotes biking and other sustainable transit options. We even have traffic signals just for bikes!

But in recent days, neighborhood leaders have contacted Councillor Carlone asking whether we could establish a program similar to Boston's subsidized Hubway membership for low-income residents. The Boston program offers deep discounts and other benefits for people who otherwise may not be able to afford a Hubway membership.

The Cambridge city council moved to explore the idea of a subsidized Hubway program in late 2012, but in a subsequent memorandum from city staff, the concept was deemed "as yet unproven." The memo further noted that, "ridership in lower-income communities has been shown to be constrained by cultural and perceptual, as well as physical barriers that are generally unrelated to cost."

However, the City of Boston recently presented this report from Boston Bikes, which shows that under the direction of Nicole Freedman, their subsidized bike share program has succeeded at engaging low-income residents while also expanding access to underserved populations. Bostonians who participate in the program also report that they are now getting more exercise.

A standard Hubway membership costs $85 per year if paid upfront – but that figure rises to $240 per year if paid in monthly increments. While such costs may not seem prohibitive for many Cantabridgians, the Poverty in Cambridge report that "stunned" councilors earlier this year suggests that a subsidized Hubway program could go a long way toward expanding access to all Cambridge residents.

Councillors Denise Simmons, Leland Chueng, and Nadeem Mazen have signed-on as co-sponsors of the order, which will appear as agenda item O-10 during Monday's council meeting in the Attles meeting room at CRLS, 459 Broadway. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm, and members of the public arriving prior to 6 pm are welcome to speak for up to three minutes during public comment. The full text of the order is posted below...

  Order #10
  October 20, 2014


WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge strongly supports the Hubway bike sharing system, which offers more than 1,300 bikes at 140 stations throughout the metro area and provides an excellent transportation and recreation option that aligns with our sustainability goals; and
WHEREAS: A standard Hubway membership costs $85 per year if paid upfront (or up to $240 per year if paid in monthly increments), and riders incur additional usage charges for trips lasting longer than 30 minutes; and 

In an effort to ensure that bike sharing is financially within reach for every Bostonian, the City of Boston offers low-income residents a subsidized Hubway membership for $5 per year, which includes a helmet and other benefits; and 


For low-income residents participating in the Boston program, the allotted time before usage fees are applied is also extended, from 30 minutes to 60 minutes; and

WHEREAS: On December 10, 2012, the Cambridge City Council requested that the City Manager work with City Staff to consider a program of subsidized Hubway memberships for low-income Cambridge residents; and

On January 3, 2013, the City Manager reported back with a memo that stated that the effect of subsidized Hubway memberships "is yet unproven" and further noted that "ridership in lower-income communities has been shown to be constrained by cultural and perceptual, as well as physical barriers that are generally unrelated to cost."; and

WHEREAS: The City of Boston recently presented data to demonstrate the value of offering discounted Hubway memberships to its low-income residents; and

The subsidized rate program has succeeded in engaging low-income residents while also dramatically increasing participation among people of color; now therefore be it



That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to work with all relevant City Staff to revisit the possibility of providing a reduced-rate Hubway membership to low-income Cambridge residents; and be it further


That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on this matter.

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