Bluebikes Ridership Is Approaching Its Pre-Pandemic Levels

Bluebikes docked at South Station in downtown Boston.
Bluebikes docked at South Station in downtown Boston.

Public ridership data indicates that ridership on Bluebikes, the Boston region’s bikesharing system, has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, albeit with significant shifts in how people use the system.

Riders took 289,033 trips on Bluebikes in August 2020. That’s still 15 percent fewer trips than were recorded in August 2019 (when riders took 337,343 Bluebikes trips), but it’s over twice as many trips than were recorded in the month of May, when the region emerged from this spring’s COVID-19 shutdown:

bluebikes-rides-by-month

Ridership data for September is not yet available, but Bluebikes has announced that the system did set a new daily ridership on September 12th, with 14,400 trips made systemwide on that day.

The monthly data also indicates starting and ending locations, trip times, and whether the rider is a Bluebikes subscriber or not. These other data points suggest that the pandemic is affecting how people use the Bluebikes system.

One big change: there’s no longer a rush hour for Bluebikes. In 2019, the system saw a spike in use in the peak commuting hours between 7 and 10 a.m., and an even bigger spike in the evening rush hour, from 5 to 7 p.m.

But in August 2020, ridership by hour of the day had a much smoother distribution, and peaked after 6 p.m. – a time of day when users are more likely to be riding for leisure trips or recreation.

Note how most of the difference in ridership in 2020 compared to 2019 can be attributed to the loss of those peak-hour commuters:

bluebikes-rides-by-hour

Furthermore, fewer people seem to be using Bluebikes for “last mile” connections to and from MBTA stations. In August 2019, the five most-used Bluebikes origin stations were either in Cambridge, or at one of Boston’s two commuter rail terminals:

Top 5 Bluebikes trip origins, August 2019

  1. South Station (6,813 trips)
  2. MIT at Mass. Ave. / Amherst St (6,295)
  3. Central Square at Mass. Ave. / Essex St. (6,198)
  4. Ames St. at Main St. near the Kendall/MIT Red Line station (6,081)
  5. Nashua Street at Red Auerbach Way near North Station (4,864)

In August 2020, though, four of the five top Bluebikes stations were in the City of Boston, with more trips originating near the Charles River esplanade:

Top 5 Bluebikes trip origins, August 2020

  1. Charles Circle near the Charles/MGH Red Line station (4,974 trips)
  2. Christian Science Plaza (4,134)
  3. Central Square at Mass. Ave. / Essex St. (4,067)
  4. Boylston St. at Jersey St. in Fenway (3,970)
  5. Beacon St. at Mass. Ave. (3,644)

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