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Puget Sound Bike Share ‘optimistic’ about sponsorships, supplier troubles

Image from the Nice Ride website
Image from the Nice Ride website

Bike share boosters across the nation are biting their nails this week as Nice Ride, the Minneapolis public bikes organization, is pursuing legal action against Montreal-based PBSC.

The problem is complicated, but the short version is that PBSC supplies the hardware and (in some places) software used by most major public bike systems in the US and Canada. Alta Bicycle Share — the contractor for Puget Sound Bike Share and also the company behind systems in DC, New York, Chicago, Boston and more — depends on PBSC, which has struggled in recent years.

Details from Atlantic Cities:

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The troubled company that provides the equipment for bike-share systems in many cities in the United States, Canada, and beyond has a new problem this week: an unhappy customer in Minnesota. In a move first reported in the Montréal Gazette, Nice Ride Minnesota, which runs the bike-share system in Minneapolis–St. Paul, has filed a “notice of a material breach” of its contract with PBSC, the Montréal-based company that supplies hardware for the Nice Ride program.

It’s just the latest cloud in an already obscure financial picture for the Montréal-based PBSC (also known as Bixi), which supplies bikes and stations for similar programs in New York, Washington, D.C., Melbourne, Australia, London, and many other major cities. As we wrote earlier this month, PBSC has had a long history of money and management woes, and has required bailout loans from the city of Montréal, which created and operates the company. According to the most recent numbers, it is $42 million in debt, with a $6.5 million deficit and $5 million in outstanding payments.

Read more…

So what does this mean for Puget Sound Bike Share?

“We’ve been following it really closely,” said Director Holly Houser. She said she is hopeful the situation will be resolved soon.

Puget Sound Bike Share should be in a good position because they are still negotiating contracts with Alta. Houser says they are learning from the experiences of other cities to make sure Puget Sound Bike Share contracts adequately shield them should PBSC problems persist or grow.

If Puget Sound Bike Share is going to launch in the spring or early summer, orders need to be made in the next couple weeks.

Search for sponsors has ‘momentum’

From a bike share business plan. Actual roll-out may be a little different
From a bike share business plan. Actual roll-out may be a little different

Last we checked, Puget Sound Bike Share was pushing hard to find sponsors for the system so that they could launch in full in the spring instead of scaling back to include only grant-supported areas like the University District and South Lake Union. The full first phase would also include downtown and parts of Capitol Hill and First Hill.

The system’s budget depends on a combination of grants, user fees and private sponsorships to launch, run and grow. They have successfully secured grants and ridership projections are strong, but private sponsorships have been lagging. Seattle Children’s pitched in to help bear the added costs of the helmet vending solution (bike helmets are required by law in Seattle and King County), but more companies or organizations are needed.

Sponsorships could either be one company purchasing branding rights for the entire system (think “Citibike” in New York) or multiple companies buying display advertising on the sides and front of the bikes.

“We have some new momentum,” said Houser of the search for sponsors, though she is not ready to make any announcements. “I’m feeling very optimistic.”

If your company wants to take advantage of the marketing deal of a lifetime, then get in touch with Holly Houser ASAP.

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6 responses to “Puget Sound Bike Share ‘optimistic’ about sponsorships, supplier troubles”

  1. Ints

    This is a repost from the greenways levy blog post but I think its valid here as well.

    While this might not be applicable for the outlying parks at least in the near term, it would be nice to see Parks and Rec coordinate with SDOT to prioritize this effort. One potential opportunity could be to work with Puget Sound Bike Share to provide space for the bike share stations at parks where possible. There are plenty of parks in the initial roll out areas that would be ideal locations for this. Occidental, Steinbrueck, Denny, Mc Graw plaza, Cal Anderson, Olympic Sculpture Park, South Lake Union plus all of the pocket parks,…. Typically, bike shares have to lease property or at least use of ROW (sidewalk) for locating stations, why not have parks be part of a solution that gets people to these locations within destination areas and builds on the idea of providing improved access to parks for city residents as well as visitors? This would not only bolster the rationale for developing a safe, interconnected cycling network between parks with greenways, but it would improve access to parks for those who can ride (or walk), and make bike share more than just a convenience for in city professionals and visiting tourists.

  2. Matthew Snyder

    I was recently in Boston and had a chance to check out the Hubway bike share system (another Alta project). The sponsor for this system is New Balance (it’s actually called the New Balance Hubway), which kicked in $600,000 for three years. PSBS is asking for $7.5 million (over 5 years) for a similar sponsorship.

    Maybe the problem is that PSBS is just asking for too much money.

  3. […] Puget Sound Bike Share — On the verge on launching, bike share will redefine what urban cycling means as more people use bikes for more kinds of short trips […]

  4. […] common fear I hear when people talk about the launch of Puget Sound Bike Share next year is that the system will be dangerous without safer bike infrastructure […]

  5. […] Enter: Puget Sound Bike Share. With plans to launch in spring or summer, PSBS could provide public bikes near the end of trips in major destination areas and near transit centers. This way, there is no need for everyone to bring their own bikes on the bus. […]

  6. […] uncertainty have plagued PBSC, which has significant financial backing from the City of Montreal. We reported previously that Puget Sound Bike Share was aware of financial struggles at PBSC and were making efforts to […]

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