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Newton taking more time before adding new Bluebikes stations

A Bluebikes station outside the Newton Free Library.Aidan Walsh

A plan to install new Bluebikes rideshare stations across Newton by the end of September will likely be delayed until the spring.

Nicole Freedman , Newton’s former director of transportation planning, said in an interview earlier this month that officials need to consider new ridership data to ensure stations are installed where they’re needed most.

Ridership in Newton is significantly higher than a year ago with an almost 50 percent increase in rides from August 2021 to August 2022, according to Freedman, who left the city Sept. 22 to serve as executive director of the New England Mountain Bike Association.

Freedman said in an email the city is looking for a one-year extension on a grant it received from the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization to build new stations and is working with Bluebikes to renew the contract.

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Initially, the city planned to add Bluebikes at Auburndale Center, Watertown Street at Albemarle Road, and on Needham Street, according to the grant.

The city originally planned to start building two or three new stations in February and hoped to finish by September. But construction has not begun on the new stations.

Arlene Lowney , a Newtonville resident, said in an interview more Bluebikes stations are “essential for the city” for work and recreational purposes.

“Newton is a rather dense city, so shorter bike trips are a huge benefit for the environment,” Lowney said.

Marah Holland , a transportation planner for Metropolitan Area Planning Council, said in an email, “the increased density of stations and bikes will continue to increase sustainable transportation options for more people.”

John Oliver, Newton councilor-at-large, said in an interview that new stations will encourage residents to ride bicycles instead of drive.

The new stations will “get some people on bikes, get them out there, get them riding around the streets,” he said. They will “get people more active around the core of Newton between some of our village centers that tend to be far-flung.”

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Newton, Arlington, and Watertown received $272,000 to share in funding for new docks for Bluebikes last year, according to the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Tegin Teich , executive director of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, said in an email the expansion of the Newton Bluebikes network will “enhance connections between transit hubs and biking paths, providing greater access to the city’s amenities for students, residents, and visitors.”

In Newton, Freedman said, the dock at California and Chapel streets is “one of our best-performing stations.”

“It has direct access to the Charles River Greenway bike path, which sees high ridership,” she said. “It also connects to stations in Watertown and being on the northeast side of town has good connectivity to stations in Cambridge.”

Oliver said people who are using the California at Chapel street location as “a last mile.”

“They’re taking [Bluebikes] to get from Watertown Square to and from Nonantum for some of the businesses that are just over the bridge in Watertown,” he said.

Freedman said she would like to add a station on Needham Street but must wait until improvements to the Needham Street Corridor are finished. Oliver described the construction as “massive” with “everything from repaving new curb cuts, widening the sidewalks.”

“The timing is such that this grant will likely not add the station at Needham Street, but hopefully, we will have future money from another source to add one,” Freedman said.

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Oliver said Bluebikes are providing a “reasonable alternative” for Newton people as the MBTA is considering and has “dramatically reduced” the number of bus and train services in and around Newton.

Ruth Dain , who also lives in Newtonville, said in an interview more Bluebikes are a “health benefit” for the community and will also help with traffic.

“It’s really going to help keep the cars off the road,” she said.