Seattle director not giving up on bike share despite federal rejection

Dec 7, 2015, 7:47 AM | Updated: 8:38 am

The City of Seattle is strongly considering taking over the citywide bike share program, Pronto. (A...

The City of Seattle is strongly considering taking over the citywide bike share program, Pronto. (AP)


The City of Seattle is strongly considering taking over the citywide bike share program, Pronto.

The Seattle Department of Transportation may present a business proposal to the city council this week.

The city hoped for a $10 million grant to help fund Pronto’s expansion. But last month, the feds said no.

Related: Why was Seattle denied federal funds to expand bike sharing?

Critics say the city overshoots its financial predictions and did so in the federal proposal. They also say the Pronto program, with 50 stations around Seattle, is already underused, so growing it is too expensive.

Nicole Freedman, Seattle’s first active transportation director, is focusing on increasing pedestrian and bicycle transit. Freedman, who implemented Boston’s bike share program before coming to Seattle, says you have to expand bike sharing to get it to work.

“If you’re talking about public transit, it would be a train station that has three stops,” Freedman said. The full-size [bike share] system for Seattle would be well over 250 stations, about five times as big.

She says that means more people will have options by their home and work.

“Right now, the system is primarily downtown but most people need to get to downtown or from downtown … so expanding that increases the origin destination combination,” she said.

Freedman is preparing the business plan to present to the city council. She says her data shows that the bike share program as it stands now has a 50 percent recovery rate. That means 50 percent of Pronto’s operating costs are covered by user fares and member fees. Once Pronto’s debt is paid off, that number is expected to shoot up to 80 percent.

However, that 80 percent assumes sponsorship will continue. Freedman says sponsorships tend to be easy to get for high-visibility bike share programs.

Overall, Freedman believes the bike share program is financially solid.

“When Seattle grows to the size of peer cities, it’s going to be a very financially viable system,” she said. “Peer cities are well over 100 percent on their recover rate and over 80 percent is not a big gap. You look at most public transit and you’re lucky to recover 40 percent.”

Will the city council agree and give $5 million? That’s the next step.

MyNorthwest News

Image: An embryologist works on a petri dish at the Create Health fertility clinic in south London,...

Matt Markovich

Washington Senate passes bill criminalizing fertility fraud

The bill would make the practice an assault in the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

8 hours ago

Image: The Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia....

Matt Markovich

Possible constitutional challenge to income tax initiative spotlighted during hearing

Behind the scenes, opponents, Democrats in the House and Senate, have searched for legal landmines that may render the initiative invalid.

10 hours ago

Seattle rain wettest november month...

Ted Buehner and Bill Kaczaraba

Another atmospheric river on the way bringing snow, rain, wind

The latest atmospheric river will reach Seattle Tuesday night, forecasters report. New precipitation is expected as well.

11 hours ago

FILE - A sign stands over a Wendy's restaurant . (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)...

Heather Bosch

You know about ‘surge-pricing’ for rideshares; how about your lunch?

Uber-like "surge pricing" may be coming to a fast food restaurant near you.

11 hours ago

An entrance to a Macy's store in the mall. (File photo: Ted Shaffrey, AP)...

Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press

Macy’s to close 150 stores as sales slip, pivot to luxury with Bloomingdale’s locations

Macy’s will close 150 unproductive namesake stores over the next three years including 50 by year-end, the department store operator said Tuesday after posting a fourth-quarter loss and declining sales. As part of the strategy, Macy’s aims to upgrade its remaining 350 stores, with plans to add more salespeople to fitting areas and shoe departments, […]

14 hours ago

maple valley horse killed...

Frank Sumrall

Maple Valley horse killed by gunshot wound, second incident last two months

A horse was found dead in her pasture in Maple Valley Monday with a gunshot wound to her forehead.

16 hours ago

Seattle director not giving up on bike share despite federal rejection