Bluebikes Support MBTA Shutdowns

with generous support from the
Better Bike share Partnership

During the Ashmont/Mattapan service outage October 14 – 29, Allston-Brighton TMA with financial support from the Better Bike Share Partnership, enabled and encouraged free bicycle connections from the closed Red Line stations at Field's Corner and Ashmont with the fast, free Fairmount Line service at the Talbot Ave station.

Our approach was two-pronged. First, we published an online resource page with free Bluebikes coupons, route maps, Fairmount Line schedules, cycling tips, and more. Second, we staffed a consistent ground presence to engage people directly and provide information, Bluebikes coupons, and 1-on-1 guidance.

We rolled out this program through a comprehensive digital strategy to our TMA employers and the general public through our network of partners. We then deployed a ground game to meet commuters during the ten weekdays of the shutdown. Our field team distributed flyers and Fairmount Line schedules, informing people about the fast, free service less than a mile away and encouraging them to use Bluebikes, or their own bike, to make that short connection.

Our effort was a small part of a broad, coordinated push that included the Boston Transportation Department, the MBTA, Commuter Rail/Keolis, advocates including Boston Cyclists Union, Mattapan Food & Fitness Coalition, WalkMassachusetts, Bikes Not Bombs, Dot Bike Kitchen, MassBike and more. 


The Boston Transportation Department staff were engaged and found the resources to:
  • Coordinate a weekly stakeholder meetings to develop routes and a coordinated outreach plan;
  • Install a pop-up bike lane on Park Street to calm the route between Fields Corner and Talbot North;
  • Allocate a new Bluebikes station at Talbot South;
  • Cover the cost of design and production of wayfinding signs.

The MBTA Station Access team was able to:
  • Site and permit the new Bluebikes station at Talbot South in record time;
  • Install new bike racks at Talbot North and South to accommodate private bicycle parking.

  • Installed the new Talbot Ave South Bluebikes station in time for the Surge;
  • Provided ridership data related to this effort (summarized below).
The Keolis/Commuter Rail team:
  • Lent and delivered a-frame sign holders for wayfinding posters at affected stations;
  • Provided Fairmount Line paper schedules for us to include with our flyers during field outreach.
The local advocacy community helped with:
  • Route planning;
  • Design of wayfinding signage, and field installation;
  • Public outreach;
  • Field team staff sourcing.

Future opportunities

While there is much to celebrate from the collaboration described above, we have identified some key areas of opportunity to ensure mitigation planning related to the ambitious 2024 Track Improvement Program is as robust as possible:

  • Sixty percent of MBTA rapid transit stations are co-located with Bluebikes stations, and bikeshare should be fully integrated into the mitigation planning process;
  • The modest cost for Bluebikes mitigation should be covered by the MBTA as shuttle bus operations are;
  • Rider's Guides and other supporting documentation should be comprehensive and available with as much advance notice as feasible;
  • Transit Ambassadors should offer multiple language support and be cross-trained to promote multiple alternate options available.

Ridership Summary:

Thanks to data provided by the Bluebikes operations team, we can report that 49 trips either started or ended at the new station at Talbot South during the surge. Most notably, these were new trips, not cannibalized from the Talbot North Bluebikes station which saw no reduction in ridership. The Ashmont Bluebikes station saw a spike of 45% in trip starts and 41% in trip ends. Relatedly, Keolis announced a near 35% jump in ridership on the Fairmount Line during the surge period.

The Fields Corner Bluebikes station did not fare as well, with declines of 10% in trip starts and 21% of trip ends compared to the same period in 2022. Anecdotal feedback collected by our on-the-ground staff indicates that the moderate grade of Park St between Field's Corner and Talbot Station North was considered a barrier by many. In the weeks following the surge, the City of Boston added e-bikes to the Bluebikes system which could likely mitigate similar issues in the future.

neighborhood Sentiment

During this ground push, we found many people interested in the idea of riding, but not ready to leap in the moment – even with our team ready to guide them. “Maybe tomorrow,” was a common response from folks we spoke with and who took our flyer and complimentary Bluebikes ride coupon. To uncover the reasons for this hesitation, we worked with Green Streets Initiative to capture the experiences people had with bike share and biking in this part of Boston. We did this through video interviews and an online video survey platform (you can view our survey questions here). The dominant themes that emerged include the desire for better bike infrastructure, the benefits of greater access to biking, and experiences of freedom and community provided by biking.

Hear from Dorchester Cyclists in their own words:

What’s Next?

After the surge concluded, travel times along the branch improved significantly and the MBTA announced an ambitious Track Improvement Program mapping out a repair plan through 2024. Based on our learnings, we will continue to promote the flexibility and convenience of using bike share as a supplemental mode during MBTA surges, weekend closures, and early access disruptions. Nearly 60% of subway stations and 70% of Zone 1A Commuter Rail stations are co-located with Bluebikes stations, which are uniquely positioned to support short, convenient trips to adjacent service options. Our team is committed to working closely with the MBTA to ensure bike share and bicycling are fully integrated into the mitigation planning process.