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New Ownership For Hubway Operators And An Extended Winter Season In Boston

A Hubway station in Boston. (Mr.TinDC via Compfight)
A Hubway station in Boston. (Mr.TinDC via Compfight)
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The operator of bike share Hubway is getting new owners and winter service is expanding in Boston. Here's what riders need to know about the Hubway news this week:

Bike share acquisition deal

Alta Bicycle Share, which is contracted by Boston, Brookline, Somerville and Cambridge to operate Hubway, has entered into an agreement to be acquired by investment group Bikeshare Holdings LLC. The newly formed investment group includes the CEOs of Equinox Fitness Clubs and real estate firm Related Companies.

In addition to Boston, Alta Bicycle Share currently runs bicycle shares in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Melbourne, Australia.

In announcing the deal Tuesday, the company said the acquisition will bring in more capital and allow them to expand operations and serve more riders.

But what does all this mean for Hubway riders?

The sale price of Alta Bicycle Share has not been disclosed and it's unclear when the ownership changeover will take place, but Hubway officials said they don't expect many changes for riders in Boston.

Hubway marketing manager Benjy Kantor said the influx of resources from Bikeshare Holdings LLC could "help Hubway on the technology side on the back end to make things a lot smoother in terms of the operations."

In terms of oversight of Hubway, that is expected to remain the same. Each Hubway system is owned by the city in which it operates — Boston, Brookline, Somerville and Cambridge — and that will not change with the deal, Kantor said. What will change is the ownership of the contractors used by each city to run Hubway.

"Most of [Bikeshare Holdings LLC's] focus is actually going to be on the New York system, Citi Bike," Kantor said. "They’re expected to double the size of their system within the next three years or so."

With the new deal, New York is also increasing the price of its bike share program, raising the cost of annual membership from $95 to $149.

Nicole Freedman, the director of Boston Bikes, which oversees the city's bicycling programs, said she does not anticipate any changes in Hubway's operations in the city.

"It’s fully our decision in Boston where the stations go and we decide what the prices are," Freedman said.

Kantor said the pricing discussion is "always open," but he also anticipates that riders won't see many changes.

"We are actually expecting, at least in the short term, to be operating business as usual and that riders will likely not see a whole bunch of changes," Kantor said. "They will continue to see the same sort of service ... and dock and bike availability that they have in the past."

Boston signed a new one-year contract with Alta Bicycle Share in April with the option to renew for two more years. Freedman said the city pays a flat fee for operations to Alta Bicycle Share and the cost to the city to operate Hubway will not change under the deal with Bicycle Share LLC.

Extended winter service

There are some changes, however, that Boston Hubway riders can expect.

Freedman said Hubway will extend service in Boston this winter, and will be available through December and reopen in March. Last year, Hubway stations in Boston were closed in late November and reopened in April. The Cambridge Hubway system will stay open all winter (as it did last year). Brookline and Somerville are not expected to be open at all this winter.

In the next year, Freedman said she is looking to expand the Hubway system by adding 10 to 15 more stations, "filling in some gaps in the system and making different areas more dense."

Longer term, she's hopes to expand Hubway into more neighborhoods, particularly East Boston.

Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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