Biking To A Healthier MIT: Impact

By Eric Lau, Iris Fung, Judy Chang, and Julia Appel

MIT puts student health and wellness at the forefront of much of its community programming. Community Wellness Classes range in topic from exercise and fitness, healthy eating, smoking cessation, stress management, and sexual health; the getfit@mit program encourages exercise via a 12-week team-based exercise challenge. Further, MIT offers a subsidy on Hubway membership for students to the tune of 70% of the total cost. We wanted to think of a way for MIT to publicize both their Hubway subsidy program and the benefits of using Hubway to increase physical activity and save time commuting around the area.  

Our goal with this project is to inform MIT students who are non-bikers and/or non-Hubway members about the benefits of the Hubway bike share program and biking as a form of physical activity, raise awareness about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and encourage those in the MIT community to join for use as an alternative form of transportation to the T. Using a Hubway bike instead of the T will save the students time commuting, increase physical activity, and promote exercise, health, and wellness. As such, our intended audience is MIT students, or others in the MIT community, and our call to action is for currently unengaged students to join the Hubway bike share program.

Our hope was to evaluate impact of the game by tracking how many students actually used the coupon for a free Hubway (that would be easiest enough to track with access to Hubway data on single day passes). However, due to time constraints we were not able to connect with people who work at Hubway, and so decided to rely on a pre/post survey that we disseminated using Google sheets that asks indicator questions to represent the major goals of our piece. We asked game participants to take a survey before playing the game, and then again after the game happened on the following topics:

  1. General level of physical activity/enjoyment of physical activity
  2. Self-efficacy related to biking, and bike-commuting
  3. Awareness of Hubway bike share program/MIT subsidy program
  4. Likelihood of joining the program within a 10-day period.  

We asked audience members to take a survey before and after watching the video, to gauge the effectiveness of the video in increasing audience knowledge of and excitement for using Hubway in the future.


We received lots of positive and valuable feedback on our project from members of the MIT community who we recruited to game. (See more in our slideshow!) From key informant interviews with those who played the game and watched it being played, we found out that people really enjoyed the physical activity component of the game, learning about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and some of the public health facts. They also enjoyed cheering for the biker, seeing the biker get the power up boost, and watching the biker complete the race. 80% of people who took the post-game survey said that they would probably take a free Hubway ride if they were given a coupon for one. 60% of players were thinking about or considering joining Hubway, and one rider changed her pre and post survey response, from “I might consider joining Hubway in the next 10 days” to “I will probably join Hubway in the next 10 days”. Some audience members were more interested in the MIT subsidized Hubway membership, which they said they learned about via the facts that pop up on the video.

We also received some unanticipated feedback on the game. First, many players and audience members were actually turned off by the GoPro footage: it was a bit too “real”, as it depicted biking up Mass Ave at rush hour, in the rain. (There were too many near brushes with cars, other cyclists, etc.) One game player said  that the “biking was fun but the traffic is terrifying, which is the main reason I don’t bike now.” To our dismay, biking self-efficacy did not increase as we’d expected, but rather decreased! The second piece of valuable feedback we received was to edit out those parts of the video where the person was stopped at a light, so the bike motion was continuous the entire time. We also received feedback on the physical bike stand setup: namely, that it incorporate some form of resistance in pedaling, so that the simulation is a bit more “real life.” Finally, we were told that having a leader board might encourage even more friendly competition among players.

With more time and resources, we would love to refilm the GoPro video, build a more realistic bike stand that incorporates resistance, and also build in the leaderboard component. Overall, though the audience and game players seemed to enjoy the game very much, especially the audience interaction and support pieces. They also took away valuable information about the MIT Hubway subsidy program, and the health benefits of biking, which were two of our main objectives with this piece. We are confident that, with a few tweaks and possibly a Hubway partnership, our game would be a big success.

Will you join us in biking to a healthier MIT?

Biking To A Healthier MIT: Methodology

By Eric Lau, Iris Fung, Judy Chang, and Julia Appel

Biking to a Healthier MIT draws on ideas generated during the participatory data games and maps/creative maps sketch projects. We began using data from Hubway, which lists the starting point, terminus, and length of every Hubway ride between April 2011 and November 2013, and analyzed routes that are frequently traveled by people from the Hubway station at the corner of Mass. Ave and Amherst St., right in front of 77 Mass Ave. We chose that station to maximize relevancy to our intended audience: the MIT community.  We analyzed length of frequently traveled routes from that station, and chose one of the most frequently traveled routes in each direction: northwestern to Harvard Square, and southeastern to Boston Commons. As mentioned, we chose two routes that were similar in distance (each about 2 miles from the starting point), and had similar projected average travel times on public transportation (Google maps estimates 13 minutes on the number 1 bus to Harvard Square, and 16 minutes to Boston Commons using the number 1 bus and Green Line D extension from Hynes Convention Center). Out of 33,685 rides taken from the Hubway terminal in front of Mass Ave, 2,419 were taken to the 5 Hubway terminals in and around Harvard Square, and 969 to the four in and around Boston Commons.

Northern Route to Harvard Square. (Pins represent Hubway terminals.)

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Southern Route to Boston Commons. (Pins represent Hubway terminals.)

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The game is designed to promote physical activity, increase excitement for and awareness of MIT’s Hubway subsidy program, and encourage audience participation among people watching. A stationary Hubway bike – an actual Hubway bike on a stand we built –  is set up in the second floor lobby of 77 Mass Ave. A poster hanging on the wall behind the bike read: “Can You Beat the T? Hop On!”, and prompts the rider to begin pedaling to start the game. The user enters their email address, chooses either the Northern or Southern route, and beings pedaling. Then, a GoPro video begins playing with footage of a bike trip along the chosen route, and a map pops up on the side of the page showing the precise location of the biker. Faster pedaling corresponds to speeding up in the game: the video plays more quickly, and the icon on the map moves more quickly. If you complete the route, you win the game! The user has the actual experience of biking – they are pedaling the bike and the GoPro video shows an actual bike ride along the route they chose – and gets the physical benefits of spending 4-5 minutes doing vigorous physical activity. The rider then receives an email with information about their ride: its duration, distance, average speed, and calories burned.  

The game is also built to encourage audience interaction and participation: as the person is riding the stationary bike, facts about the benefits of Hubway pop up on the screen (i.e. it increases physical activity, and saves time and money).  (For a complete list of facts that show up during the game, click here.)  Also, a sign to cheer for the person on the bike appears on the screen; if the audience cheers loudly enough, then the rider receives a “turbo boost”, goes more quickly, and is more likely to finish and win the game.

We felt it was important to simulate reality as much as possible and create a truly immersive user experience. To that end, we use an actual Hubway bike and several data streams – GoPro footage from the selected ride, computer vision speed inputs, and audience noise levels. There are several feedback loops built into the game, from the speed of pedaling to the noise level of the audience affecting the speed of the video and what is shown on the screen. The game incorporates several components and frameworks, including d3.js, Popcorn.js, OpenCV, and PyAudio. The multiple levels of user-controlled feedback create a dynamic experience where everybody – from the rider to the audience members – join in a collaborative, interactive journey and living story of biking to a healthier MIT.

Here is a link to a slideshow (with lots of pictures!) that details our methodology, and includes video footage of the game being played.

How Much Do You Actually Know About Commuting In Boston?

By: Catherine Caruso, Judy Chang, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Tiffany Wang

For this assignment we created a Buzzfeed quiz. You can take the quiz here.

The data say that since Hubway’s inception in 2011, ridership has increased. In fact, earlier this month Hubway had its 4-millionth ride. However most of its riders were born between 1981-1986. People in their early to mid-thirties make up 38-percent of Hubway riders. Yet those born after 1991, currently only make up four percent of Hubway ridership. Getting young people to start riding Hubway is important for the system’s longevity because once people habits become entrenched it is difficult to get them to switch. This is why marketers target people during life transitions – marriage, pregnancy,  etc – because it’s easier to get them to try something new while they’re already in transition. Similarly, we wanted to target young people as they made the transition from students to adults.

We wanted to tell this story because Hubway provides a vital service that complements mass transit systems, while reducing the carbon emissions associated with driving and improving the health and wellbeing of riders. In addition, Hubway doesn’t just benefit Hubway – it makes the streets safer for cycling generally and by proxy for pedestrians. Writes Emily Badger in a 2014 Washington Post article about the rollout of New York City’s bike sharing program, Citibike.

As more people bike and walk, cycling and pedestrian fatalities actually decline. That’s because the more people bike and walk, the more drivers become attuned to their presence (either on sidewalks or road shoulders), and the more cities are likely to invest in the kind of infrastructure explicitly meant to protect them (all of which further encourages more cyclists and pedestrians).

Our audience is 22-30 year old young professionals who live in the Boston area and need to commute to work. Our goal is to get more car and subway commuters using Hubway. Because it’s notoriously difficult to get riders to change habits, rather than an aggressive hard sell we thought we could get younger people to try Hubway through the game approach of a Buzzfeed quiz. We choose Buzzfeed specifically because according to its ad sheet:

  • It has 200+ Million monthly uniques visitors 50% are 18-34 years old
  • BuzzFeed’s in-house experts help the right audience discover a brand’s content across BuzzFeed and on social, specifically allowing us to target people within hubspots footprint through IP filtering
  • Brands can track content performance in real-time using BuzzFeed’s social dashboard, allowing us to assess performance, adjust content etc on the fly.

Our goals are to increase ridership among our specified market by 10% over YTD performance. For this experiment which has some limitations – namely that we’re not actually Hubway, that we’re using Buzzfeed’s community sharing profile as opposed to its viral advertising and don’t actually have Buzzfeed support, we’d like to have 500 views/clicks over the week in which we launched the quiz with a 50% completion rate. To date we have a total of 108 views.

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We’ve also received some support from Hubway itself. Last week Kendra tweeted out the link copying both Buzzfeed and Hubway on the link:


Hubway retweeted it,


it  garnered:

Impressions 662
Total engagements 22
Link Clicks 15
Likes 2
Detail expands 2
Profile clicks 2
Retweets 2

To produce this data we used Hubways 2014 bikeshare data. In addition, we used a wide variety of additional data sets for comparison points. For example, to compare the cost of commuting in Boston by Hubway, T, and car, we used the current cost of a full-priced monthly T pass provided by the MBTA. For the car cost data we used 2011 AAA  which put the cost for a medium sedan at 57.3 cents a mile, and calculated out the cost of that car commuting the average 7.6 miles per day for 50 weeks a year (assuming 2 weeks’ vacation). The carbon emissions data was based on. Calorie data was based on a bicycle calculator from and USDA calorie data.

We think this was an appropriate way of approaching the issue – the stereotype of the daily commute is one of a painful slog. We, instead, wanted to portray bicycle riding and Hubway use as the opposite of that – fun, whimsical, AND the smart choice. Testers within the target demographic responded that they laughed, and they learned something.

In addition, we felt like it was the right tone both for the audience we were seeking to target and for the data itself. Hubway data, unlike say the refugee data, isn’t particularly serious or fraught. And, on balance the story of Hubway so far is a positive story. People are embracing the system – we just want more people to embrace that system because doing so will make the system bigger and better as well as more enduring. Years ago, Kendra interviewed a woman working with the National Park system and she said that the fact that fewer young people are going to the parks and staying for less time when they visit is a problem. Without a connection to the park system they’re not going to vote for dollars to maintain it, or for politicians on the basis of how they feel about the national parks. The same is true for Hubway – we need young people adopting the system for its long term longevity. This isn’t to say that we don’t love and want to maintain our older riders – and the quiz does nothing to denigrate that audience.

Explore Hubway

Michelle Thomas, Katie Marlowe, and Jane Coffrin

The data say that people are most frequently using Hubway on weekdays and that some stops are more utilized than others, such as South Station and MIT at Mass Ave.  We want to tell this story because if more people take advantage of what Hubway has to offer, it can lead to enjoyment, health benefits and environmental benefits . Our audience is existing Hubway users and encouraging new users to join (specifically targeting those who are college age). We use the data about their trips to encourage them to take more trips. Our goals are to encourage Hubway Riders to explore Boston and use Hubway on the weekends as well as for their daily commutes.

Our data comes from, and includes every trip taken through 2013. When we looked through the data, we saw that there were many more trips on weekdays than there were on weekends. From that we gathered that there are many people using Hubway for their daily commute to/from work or school, but they aren’t using it as much for other activities such as exploring a new neighborhood. The data also told us that there are many stations that are very heavily used and had 15,000 or more trips ending at them, whereas some stations were used very little and had less than 1,000 trips ending at them. From this we decided on a goal of encouraging Hubway riders to utilize Hubway for more exploration of Boston, which comes from incentivizing them to use Hubway for reasons outside of their daily commute.


We decided to create a concept for a mobile phone application that users would get for free with their purchase of a Hubway membership. The application, Explore Hubway, links to users’ accounts, and tracks the information about their rides. The features of the application include:

Social Networking: The application includes a social networking aspect, allowing users to see what their friends are doing. This serves as a form of extrinsic motivation, incentivizing users to bike more so they can show off to their network.

Earn Badges: Explore Hubway also incentivizes users by earning badges, which each are worth a certain amount of points. This is also a form of extrinsic motivation to get out and bike more.

PrintProfile: Each user has a profile page, where they can view stats about themselves, a form of intrinsic motivation.

Rewards: Users can cash in the points they earn in for real rewards, which for many users, would probably be the biggest piece of motivation. These rewards come from the Hubway Bicycle Benefits program that is already in place. The rewards program also helps the businesses by getting bikers to visit their stores.

Leadership Board: Users can see how they stack up against other Boston riders.

Map: The map feature allows users to easily see where they can find a Hubway station nearby. Users can also search for stations by both station number and station name.

Because the app is linked to the user’s Hubway membership, it would be able to keep track of when you check bikes in and out of stations. This means it will keep track of badges for the user and knows when a new station used. It also means that at the end of the ride the app will send the user a notification on their phone and show up with one of several possibilities such as: the number of people who used the end station in the past month, the number of minutes the trip took, the number of calories burned, how the length of your trip compares to the average trip length. These notifications will serve as immediate feedback and another intrinsic motivation to continue to use Hubway.


Check out the other concept pictures here!

Beat the T! Biking Toward a Healthier Boston

Julia Appel, Iris Fung, Eric Lau

The data says that in Boston, more than 30% of work commuters depend on the T to get to work and that biking is a faster and healthier way to do it. Within city limits, biking often saves time when compared to the T. Furthermore, bike commuting helps Bostonians stay healthy and active, adding up to 50 minutes/day of moderate to vigorous activity with an average round-trip commute. Bikers can burn almost 400 calories per day this way! Still, only 1.9% of Bostonians commute to work by bike. We want to tell this story to encourage more people to reevaluate their commuting options, by creating an intervention in their daily routine encouraging them to bike – for their time and health.

To that end, we propose an interactive data game that is commissioned as a joint venture by the Boston Public Health Commission, Hubway system, and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). A stationary bike that looks like a Hubway bike will be installed onto various T station platforms.When the user begins pedaling, the game begins on the large screen in front of the stationary bike. For the purposes of this prototype, we are assuming that this bike is installed in the Brigham Circle T station and the user has chosen the Museum of Fine Arts, two stations along the E extension of the Green Line.

Our audience is the regular MBTA Green Line commuters who have not yet seriously considered other commuting options and may not even be aware of those available to them. The Green Line, in particular, is notorious for late trains, weather delays, and unexpected breakdowns. Furthermore, the Green Line covers areas that are easily bikeable, especially further away from the city. We envision a commuter standing on the station, with some time to kill as they are waiting for their train to arrive. The explicit invitations from the screen and implicit invitations from the empty bike seat entice the person to hop onto the stationary bike. They would then play the game, which would automatically start as they pedal. As they play, facts about biking, the T, and public health appear on the top-left corner of the screen, engaging not just the participant but also the surrounding audience. The data is drawn from a variety of sources, including the suggested Hubway 2011-2013 dataset; and annual statistics from the MBTA (2014 Ridership and Service Statistics) and National Institutes of Health. At the end, the benefits of biking are strongly emphasized by the fact that players are able to “arrive” at the destination station faster than if they had taken the T!

Our goals are to provide an immersive and informative experience to persuade people to reevaluate their own method of commuting and switch to biking for increased efficiency and fitness if it makes sense. We would like to ease their transition to becoming a Hubway member if they so choose. We have designed a receipt that will be printed out at the end of the game, with a code for a free Hubway ride if the player wins the game (i.e. beats the T). At that point, by choosing to hop onto the bike at the station to try and beat the T, the participant has already engaged in healthful, vigorous physical activity. Furthermore, with the receipt “reward” from the kiosk, they have a gratifying, persistent encouragement to become a Hubway member, speed up their daily commutes, and join the Hubway community in biking towards a healthier lifestyle for themselves and Boston as a whole.

So, can you beat the T?

*Please use Safari to view. 

Hubway Rides by Neighborhood over Time

Aneesh Agrawal, Kenny Friedman, and Katie Marlowe

The data show routes that people commonly take by using Hubways. We want to tell this story because Hubway can be a great alternative transportation for routes that the MBTA does not cover.

Our data came from, which was a challenge in 2012 to visualize data from Hubway rides. Our data includes information on rides from 2011-2013. We picked a chord chart to visualize this data because this type of chart emphasizes the connections between various stations. The thickness of the chords corresponds to the relative frequency of rides between the neighborhoods. The chord chart points out specific routes that are taken frequently, which leads to the question: Why are people taking Hubways between these stations? Is it because the MBTA does not currently provide a good way to get between these destinations? Or is it just that there are a lot of people traveling between these areas? Specifically, we can look at the blue region (MIT) and the gray region (back bay). There is a thick chord between these areas. We know that it is pretty difficult to get between these areas via public transportation, there isn’t a T line that runs between them. This could be a good indication of a route that many people take without many options of how to get between, so many people decide to utilize Hubways.

If you look at the data over time, then you can see that some stations didn’t exist at the beginning, but were built in the middle of time this dataset is from. By the end of the timeframe, these stations become about half of overall monthly usage. This points to the conclusion that expanding the Hubway system is effective, and we recommend expanding it further. In late 2015, Hubway did announce some future plans for expansion.

View the visualization here.

A Day in the Life of a Hubway


By Jyotishka Biswas, Phillip Graham, and Maddie Kim

The data say that Hubway has had a positive impact on health and the environment in the Greater Boston Area. We want to tell this story to show that choosing to bike can make a difference.

The Hubway Bike Share system launched in 2011, and completed over 1 million rides over the next two years. We decided to look at the benefits of biking on health and the environment, and to quantify the impact that Hubway has had along these dimensions.

We chose to focus on the positive message for this assignment, as if we were part of Hubway’s marketing team, which guided many of the decisions we made. The first was to de-emphasize the charts — we used only two charts, to show the age and gender breakdown of Hubway users, statistics which were fun facts rather than central to our message. When it came to the core of the infographic, we presented medians rather than distributions to avoid unnecessary complexity. Primarily, we focused on keeping the tone light and fun, to make the reader more receptive to the message.

The result is a scrollable infographic, in which the story is told in a loose sequential frame format. The numbers are communicated in the context of a day in the life of a Hubway bike, and small comments in speech bubbles are used to signpost the flow of the story and provide some humor. We used bright colors to frame our content, and large, bold text to emphasize important numbers. We made the conscious decision to have a clear opinion and message, rather than to lay out our analysis and ask readers to assess it for themselves. We believe that this resulted in a more accessible presentation, and hopefully one which is as informative as it is enjoyable.

You can find the infographic here. (It’s made up of large images, so don’t click if you’re worried about data usage.)