JASON RANTZ

On Pronto! bike share program, we’re owed an apology (and $1.4 million)

Jan 17, 2017, 6:17 AM

Ahead of the long weekend, Mayor Ed Murray quietly killed the epic failure known as the Pronto! bike share program, hoping he’d get hit with limited blowback.
Murray, and a majority of the Seattle City Council (in particular, Mike O’Brien), owe Seattle voters an apology and $1.4 million.

Despite knowing that a statistically insignificant number of people used the Pronto! bike share program, the city council voted 7-2 to spend $1.4 million of your tax dollars to purchase the lemon. No one had faith that the bike-share program would work, including bicycle activists (after all, they didn’t even use it); not even Seattle Department of Transportation bike leaders signed up for Pronto!

Related: Ethics investigation launched into SDOT director over Pronto bike share

Everyone knew this was a horrific investment, made especially worse given the city complaints that they’re underfunded in addressing the homelessness crisis.

But people like Councilmember O’Brien pushed hard to save Pronto! because of his ideological affinity for bike-share programs. These bike activists did what they could to excuse away the poor membership numbers (which Pronto! seemingly lied about). They blamed helmet laws, claimed there just weren’t enough Pronto! stations, and bellyached that if only we had more bike lanes, the ridership would come!
But we knew that was nonsense. It failed because the people most likely to utilize bikes were people who already owned them.

Yet we threw money at the problem hoping it would get better. We’re owed that money back.

Related: More people vandalize Pronto! bikes than ride them

What’s so troublesome is carelessness that this bad decision was made. O’Brien, for instance, told me he “spent an inordinate amount of my time on Pronto!…” He admits the time he spent on this, in relation to the SPD precinct that he helped block, was “disproportionate.” For that, he owes you and me an apology.
It’s really easy to spend other people’s money; so easy, you write $1.4 million checks on a bike-share program no one used.

Not everyone deserves to be criticized on this. In particular, Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Lisa Herbold deserve applause. Perhaps, more so, Herbold who took an unpopular opinion with her Progressive voter base. She put the city ahead of ideologues. Maybe O’Brien and Murray should take note.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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On Pronto! bike share program, we’re owed an apology (and $1.4 million)