Float Away with Hubway

By Erick Friis, Sam Resnick, and Sean Soni

The data say that Hubway is often used for short rides of a few miles or less.  We want to tell this story because we think people don’t realize that taking these short trips can prevent CO2 emissions and have a meaningful impact on climate change.  Our audience is college students, specifically MIT students, and as such we have designed our data sculpture around MIT.  We want to encourage MIT students to use Hubway instead of calling an Uber or Lyft.  We used the Hubway dataset to look at a few of the most popular Hubway destinations from MIT, and then calculated the mileage between these points.  We then calculated the volume of CO2 that a Hubway rider would save by not taking a car on this trip.  We then filled giant balloons with helium to represent CO2.  The larger the balloon, the more CO2 saved by taking Hubway.  Each balloon was tied to its respective route on a giant map of Boston.  What makes our treatment so effective is that we do not scale the numbers.  If a Hubway trip saves a cubic meter of CO2, its balloon will have a volume of a cubic meter.  In this way, our audience can see that even small trips can have a sizeable impact, and they can fully appreciate the size of that impact.  Audience engagement is often a key aspect of ensuring an audience remembers your message, so we decided to add an interactive aspect to our data sculpture.  We envision our demo being deployed at a booth where it is accessible to MIT students, and we would like to make it memorable and have it generate discussion.  Thus, we would ask students what a popular Uber route they take might be.  We would then calculate how much CO2 they could save by taking a Hubway instead.  If they agree to try out Hubway, we will inflate a giant balloon with that amount of CO2.  This is a light-hearted way to encourage students to use Hubway, and has the added benefit of promoting discussion among any students who happen to inquire about the balloon.