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SDOT: More Seattle bikeshares, more fees

LimeBike is one of three bikeshare companies operating in Seattle. (KIRO Radio)

Operating bikeshares in Seattle may become more expensive in the near future.

Seattle residents took 1.3 million rides using bikeshares in the month of May alone, accounting for 7,300 rides a day across three private companies.

Despite common complaints, the Seattle Department of Transportation will recommend to city leaders later this month that a fourth bikeshare company be allowed to operate in Seattle, doubling the number of rentable bikes to 20,000. But the department will also aim to increase the costs of operating a bikeshare service.

SDOT recently announced:

Because the bike share pilot has provided Seattle residents and visitors another option for getting around conveniently, we’re recommending to the City Council that Seattle adopts an annually renewable bike share permitting program. That program gives us the chance to apply lessons learned from the pilot so that it can be even better for Seattle residents and visitors, more equitable, and provide even more options for getting around.

The Seattle City Council is expected to consider the new bikeshare regulations on July 23.

RELATED: Seattle bikeshare customers make national records

Though SDOT has announced it will recommend permitting changes to the city council, it has provided few details as to what those new changes will be. It has revealed a few points, however.

More expensive permitting costs

SDOT said the new permits for Seattle bikeshares will be “annually renewable.” A new, much more expensive, annual permitting fee will be proposed: $250,000 per company.

That’s much more than the $146 each company paid under the pilot program. They also paid $209 per hour for the city to review that permit (estimated to cost a total of $1,672) and $15 per bike. With about 10,000 bikes over the first year, Seattle has likely made $150,000 just off the per-bike fee.

A fourth Seattle bikeshare company

A fourth bikeshare would certainly generate more money via permitting. LimeBike, SPIN, and ofo have been in town since July 2017. The fourth company will likely be JUMP, which has been courting city officials since the start of 2018. JUMP’s electric bikes would operate unlike any other bikeshare company in town and would most likely require charging stations.

Parking and Seattle bikeshares

Seattle experimented with five bike stalls in Ballard to encourage bikeshare customers to park in appropriate areas. SDOT will expand those stalls to the rest of the city under the new permitting program. They are basically painted boxes on areas of the sidewalk apt for bike parking.

This comes after a year of bikes being left where they don’t belong: In the middle of the sidewalk; in front of driveways; in trees; or in Lake Union. SDOT admits it has received complaints from residents and businesses alike about improper parking.

Equity and enforcement

SDOT has also said it is making changes in response to public feedback. It wants the bikeshare companies to make a greater effort to make their bikes more available to lower-income areas, and to residents without smartphones and credit cards.

Transportation officials have noted that enforcement of permitting rules was lacking during the pilot. It is proposed that an audit of bikeshare companies will be done every six months by a third party. Companies not meeting Seattle’s standards will be penalized.

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