The City announced this week that it is in the final stages of signing a contract with Blue Bikes – owned by Lyft – to bring five new docking stations and expand the full Blue Bike system to Chelsea.
The news comes after state officials rewarded Chelsea a $100,000 Workforce Transportation grant this month, which will pay for the stations and the implementation. The news comes just as the City learned in January that LimeBike – the former dockless bike share provider in Chelsea – was withdrawing from the market of bike sharing, and focusing only on the emerging e-scooter business.
Now, the City will once again have a bike share provider, and one that is connected to Everett, Somerville, Cambridge, Brookline and Boston.
“That grant allows us to really execute an agreement and enter into a contract with Blue Bike and develop the system,” said Ben Cares, of the Chelsea Planning Department. “We are tying up all the loose ends and getting the money from the grant. We are in contract discussions with our City Manager and Lyft and our Planning Department to fully roll out the program and implement it in the near future.”
Cares said the grant covers all costs of the five station rollout, and he hopes that it will be implemented in late spring or early summer.
Cares said having a bike share system is not just a fun amenity, but a way for workers to bridge the “last mile” from public transportation hubs in Chelsea. Using the bikes can get workers home outside regular transportation hours and can also help them get closer to home from Silver Line Stations.
“It will be used for outside of regular transportation hours certainly,” he said. “It should be and will be used as supplemental to the existing public transportation system. It’s also offering another way for transporting people and getting them out of single-occupant vehicles and cars. It’s sustainable and a critical piece of transportation for the workforce population.”
As the program begins to roll out, Cares said residents should look for meetings to discuss the details, particularly the locations of the five new stations. Nothing is set in stone, but he said there would like have to be one in the downtown area on Broadway near City Hall.
“The specifics where they’ll go are to be determined and we’ll look to go through a public input process to determine the locations of those five stations,” he said.
The 23 grants, including Chelsea’s, are a result of a recommendation in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) 2019 Congestion Report to encourage employers to create innovative solutions for assisting employees to commute to work by using public transportation or shared transportation. These 23 grants will fund a total of 21 groups, including Regional Transit Authorities (RTA), municipalities, Transportation Management Associations (TMA), business organizations and others which have demonstrated an intention to shift commuters from single-occupancy vehicles to other modes of transportation to help alleviate roadway congestion and reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
“These Workforce Transportation Grants will allow employers to provide additional commuting options to their employees, increasing access to jobs, alleviating traffic congestion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration will continue to work with the business community, local leaders and the legislature to support ways to address congestion on the Commonwealth’s roadways.