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Say hello to Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share


Alaska Airline CEO Brad Tilden unveils the system look.
Alaska Airline CEO Brad Tilden unveils the system look.

Puget Sound Bike Share announced the name, look and major sponsor of the system set to launch this fall. Alaska Airlines will have branding on the first 500 Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share bikes, which make up the initial launch in the U District, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Eastlake and the downtown neighborhoods.

“Will they be available at the airport?” asked one person sporting an Alaska Airlines shirt to laughs (No).

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Alaska Airlines will contribute $2.5 million of five years to support the program.

“I made one call, and they said, let us know how to do it,” said Mayor Ed Murray of his role in helping to find the system a sponsor, a goal he set shortly after taking office.

“For just $8 a day, someone can ride a bicycle,” Murray said. “There is an equity issue here.”

Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Airlines, was excited to see so many people attend the launch celebration.

“This is a lot more people to show than we get to show up when we announce a new route or even a new order from Boeing,” he said.

“Alaska Airlines is proud to help people get out of their cars and enjoy what our great city has to offer in a more personal and healthy way,” said Tilden in a press release.

Pronto! is funded in part by government grants and part by private sponsorships. The rest of the operating budget will be made up from user fees. Other sponsors include Seattle Children’s, Group Health, Vulcan, REI, Fred Hutchison and Spectrum Development Solutions.

It will cost $8 for a 24-hour membership, $16 for three days or $85 for a year. Every station will also have a helmet-vending kiosk where users can rent or buy helmets (rentals cost $2). Here’s a photo of a pricing card:

IMG_0150The next big community outreach step is to figure out where exactly the stations will be located. You can get involved by attending one (or more) of the following workshops, which begin Wednesday:

full_bold-RESIZEUPDATE: Pronto Cycle Share will utilize different bikes than the other Alta Bicycle Share systems around the nation, including CitiBike in New York and Capital Bikeshare in DC. The company that supplied those bikes declared bankruptcy earlier this year before Pronto made any business deals with them (good job, Pronto staff, on dodging that bullet).

So instead of using PBSC as a supplier (the bikes are actually made by Quebec-based Devinci, but PBSC owns the patents), Pronto is going with a custom bike from the French bike maker Arcade. The bike will have the key features expected from the PBSC-supplied bikes, including a small front cargo space, auto-on wheel-generated front and back lights, and seven speeds set at a Seattle-hills-ready gear ratio to help everyday people climb even Capitol Hill. Oh, and fenders (duh).

Seattle is set to be the first city to utilize the new business arrangement between Alta Bicycle Share, 8D Technologies and Arcade.

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60 responses to “Say hello to Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share”

  1. Huh. Seems like Alaska’s sponsorship didn’t buy them some of the things Children’s’ did.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      What do you mean? They get their logo on the sides and front of 500 bikes. That’s a pretty good deal, IMO.

      1. Joking about the question about bike share stations at the airport, in contrast to the station planned at Children’s.

        Only half joking in a way. Obviously Children’s is close enough to the initial network for a station there to make sense if you squint, and the airport (that is, probably, the light rail station outside it) just isn’t. But tossing dirt on Children’s’ greenwashing is fun. (They’re hardly alone in their field using the veneer of medical authority to support illogical laws, but they are unusually vocal, both about that and the greenwashing.)

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Oh! Yes, the station. You know, I’ve definitely wondered if a 2-3 station minisystem to connect the airport skywalks to the Link Station would work. I guess you’d probably end up with a bunch of people trying to carry too much stuff while biking, though. Maybe a cargo bike share? :-)

    2. Matthew

      Al, I’m not sure what you mean by “Children’s greenwashing.” As someone who has ridden my bike several times to Children’s Hospital to be with my child, I find that they are very bicycle friendly, both for staff and visitors. You could argue that they are car-unfriendly, since they have limited parking space for staff. Even doctors typically are not allowed to drive! Many take a shuttle bus, and many ride bikes. There are several bike cages, for staff only, which are fairly full. As well as a visitor bike parking area, which is also fairly full. I think their concern for cycling is very real, and for a parent with a child in the hospital, it can ease just a bit of the stress of the situation.

      1. Gary

        Childrens Hospital has had for the last few years one of the top organizations in the Cascade Bike to Work Challenge.


        576 registered riders. I don’t know what the percentage of riders/total employment but the agreement to expand included promotion of alternatives to driving and cycling seems to be well supported there.

      2. biliruben

        Children’s provides bikes to employees, sponsored and funded the 39th Ave Greenway, pays you not to drive, built a link to the Burke (though they made it sidwalk-y with nasty metal rails and pointy rocks all along it – be careful), and provides showers and bike cages. Pretty good, imho.

        Of course, they chose to lease for the research institute in a brand new building that insists you take the elevator – with bike, on foot- all elevator, all the time. Can’t take the stairs. Can’t ride the ramp to the bike cage. But that’s just a minor complaint. That’s more a comment on inadequate spec regs for new buildings downtown.

        Most if this money was from a required remediation settlement with uber-queen of Laurelhurst and her henchmen in the neighborhood, Jeannie Hale. That allowed them to expand.

  2. dave

    That’s a random name. Is there any explanation of how they came up with that?

    1. Andrew Squirrel

      & unveiled on Cinco de Mayo?

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Ha! I am pretty sure that was a coincidence (they certainly didn’t mention Cinco de Mayo during the press event).

        Most bike share systems have a unique branding scheme (as in not sponsored). Examples include Divvy in Chicago or Nice Ride in Minneapolis. You might be surprised how hard it is to come up with a good bike share system name that does not infringe (or get close enough to make it not worth fighting) on existing bike or nearby business trademarks. Thus, “Pronto!”

        They also wanted something short and quick. “Puget Sound Bike Share” is a mouthful, and there’s no good shortening. It’s not the greatest name in history, but it’s growing on me. I think it works fine, is easy to remember, is not intimidating or XTREME, and seems fun.

      2. Josh

        “Puget Sound Bike Share” may be a mouthful, but I suspect the real fear was being known forever as the “pus bus”

        Seriously, some people must not try pronouncing their acronyms before picking a name….

  3. Chris

    Looks like no stations in CD, Rainier Valley, West Seattle, if I’m reading it right. Underserved communities continue to be underserved, more at 11.

    1. Jayne

      If I were setting up a bike share system I too probably wouldn’t put stations in the parts of town where they were going to be vandalized and not used by 99% of the people there.

      1. Ints

        Then what does that make bike share, is it a city supported service?
        If so, should it not be available and accessible to a broad range of Seattle residents?
        If not, then the Mayor should not be framing the purported 8 dollar/day cost as an equity issue.

        My opinion has been made clear in response to previous articles on the issue both here and on the Seattle Transit Blog. I am not planning on holding my breath to see how this plays out in Seattle.

      2. Kimberly Kinchen

        The comment about vandalism, implying that it will happen only in some parts of town, for some mysterious, unmentioned reason . . . is . . . off. To say the least.

        As for usage. . . Even in NYC, the largest US system, there are only 6,000 bikes, so only a very small percentage of people can use them even in the service area, even if different people are riding them all day. (Which is what happens because. . . it’s popular . . . in every neighborhood . . . and areas that don’t have it want it . . . now/yesterday.) You can’t serve a very high percentage of potential users when the system is small to begin with. Oh, yes there was vandalism: some creative class smartypants types created “Shitti Bike” stickers . . . and some a posh Manhattan co-op tossed all its garbage onto a station.

      3. Ints

        Another instance of vandalism reported in the New York Times was the drunken hipster crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, using bikeshare as his “bar bike” and actually crashing the bike into a streetpost just to laugh about it.
        For those who can take it or leave it, there is no real value other than convenience when they want to ride home after last call/closing time.
        I want to see bikeshare be a useful alternative to single occupancy vehicles for the city and not just a convenient ride for those who meet the membership criteria.

    2. Brock

      Also no stations in Magnolia, Queen Anne, Ballard, Fremont, North Seattle, Lake City, Madrona, Madison Valley, Madison Park, Leschi or anywhere except Downtown, SLU, Capitol Hill, and the U District.

      The basic idea is to focus on the job centers for quick rides during the day. There needs to be lots of density of people and a strong density of bike share kiosks. So, in Phase I, the priority was Downtown, SLU, Capitol Hill, and the U District. It’ll grow from there.

    3. Jay

      These are just the initial stations for the launch of the bike share. Those areas will get their stations too, just not right away.

  4. Ballard Biker

    I’m curious about the funding of this… In a previous article on PSBS you noted the title sponsor was $1.5m per year for 5 years. Looks like Alaska got a pretty big discount, or is this not the same scale?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Alaska is not branding the system, they just bought major display ad rights to the first 500 bikes. But the name is not “Alaska Air Bikes” or anything, which is what I believe the initial price quote referred to.

      Also, there are a bunch of other sponsors putting their names on stations. I would guess that the full-on sponsor deal would have also included those.

  5. Matthew Snyder

    Am I understanding correctly that Alaska is getting the “presenting sponsor” treatment for 1/3 of the asking price? PSBS initially wanted $7.5 million (which was way too much), and they got $2.5 million (which is still a lot). Or is Alaska getting a still-high-but-somewhat-lower tier of sponsorship with this deal?

    I like the rave green. Too early to say anything about the name, but it does make me think of Toronto. I would maybe have gone with “Skedaddle” instead.

    1. Ballard Biker

      Or at least used “Emerald” green…

  6. Brock

    I’m piling onto the #RaveGreen love fest. I love it.

  7. daihard

    Unlimited “30-minute trips?” Does it mean you can make as many trips as you wish, but each trip must end within 30 minutes? That’s a little short if you intend to ride from the U-District to Downtown Seattle, for instance, isn’t it?

    1. Matthew Snyder

      Yes. We’ve discussed this here in earlier posts, but essentially the U District stations will operate as a separate network, at least during the first phase of the rollout. These bikes may be better suited to Seattle’s topography than the 3-speeds you find in Montreal or DC, but they’re still (probably) tanks. It could easily take 30 minutes to get from the Burke Museum at UW to the SAM, especially if you don’t really know where you’re going or where the drop-off stations will be.

      One potential issue I haven’t seen addressed is what happens if you get a flat somewhere between the U District and Capitol Hill? With no intermediate stations, are you supposed to push your bike up the hill? That could be quite a haul. Call someone and wait for help? How quick will the response be?

      In general, there seems to be a missed opportunity to ask for improvements on the run-of-the-mill fee system, especially given that we’re essentially agreeing to beta-test new software:

      1) longer trip times for longer distances covered — i.e., if picking up in the U District and dropping off in Capitol Hill, allow 45 minutes instead of 30, in part because there won’t be any intermediate stations for a layover.

      2) get bonus (bankable?) time for going from low to high elevation.

      3) bonus time if you’re trying to drop off at a station and it’s full (this has happened to me many times in other cities), by somehow “checking in” and maybe getting a reserved parking spot at a nearby station, or at least directions to the nearest station.

      4) Is there really a need to make tourists subsidize annual users? Why not charge $5 a day and $120 a year? I guess I don’t understand the rationale here. Citibikes is already trying to raise its annual fee to $140 because it gets “too much use” from its annual members.

      Finally, helmets just absolutely need to be free with rental, if there’s going to be any kind of enforcement of the helmet law at all. Build the $2 charge into the cost structure some other way, but don’t expect people to elect to pay an additional $2 just to avoid the chance they might a ticket.

      1. It’s not new software. 8D will be using a version of the software that’s proven in earlier Alta contracts, like DC.

        Yes, the financial model of bikeshare depends on charging tourists more to subsidize locals. In DC, raising the daily access fee from $5 to $7 did not hurt ridership — the lower price was just leaving money on the table.

        If you get a flat, call the customer service number and they’ll help you out. You will NOT be charged extra. If you’re “dock blocked,” you can either ask the kiosk for directions to the nearest dock (and get a bonus 15 minutes free to get there), or if you’re truly unable to get the bike back, call — I’ve known several people who got to keep the bike overnight, for free.

      2. David Amiton

        Actually, it IS new software!

        The DC system and other earlier 8D systems operate on 8D’s BSSv3 platform. Pronto! will operate using the new BSSv4 platform. There are a number of upgrades with the new platform version, the most important of which (in my mind) are the facilitation of key distribution at the kiosk itself (convenient!), as well as power management improvements. The latter should have positive implications for using solar to power the docking stations and kiosks (http://altabicycleshare.com/news/2014/02/03/alta-bicycle-share-and-8d-technologies-forge-new-strategic-partnership).

      3. Gary

        Why would I want that? My plan is to leave a helmet at work so I can rent a bike anytime I want.

        Plus if you have checked out those new “Ospray” backpacks at REI, they come with a helmet strap.

  8. Chetan

    That helmet fee is going to get annoying.

    1. Joseph

      Agreed. You can thank Children’s for that.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        The helmet vending solution was going to be a required part of the system because King County has a mandatory helmet law. There was no way around that this side of repealing or changing the helmet law (which is pretty much a non-starter politically). Seattle Childrens didn’t just talk, they put up $500K to cover the extra cost for the helmet vending system. There are other medical institutions that are all about helmets and the helmet law that did not put up any money to help solve the problem, so credit where it’s due…

      2. Gary

        Harborview would have come full out against repealing the helmet law as well. As the 4 state regional trama center they see the results of all of the serious head injuries…. Trust me, wear a helmet. It isn’t 100% effective but it’s way better than a visit to Harborview.

      3. Tom Fucoloro

        Yeah, I don’t think a repeal of the helmet law is a productive conversation to have right now. I think changing it to a secondary offense could be a good compromise, as I’ve said before: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/06/04/feds-no-longer-back-1989-seattle-helmet-effectiveness-study-city-should-modify-its-helmet-law-before-bike-share-launches/

        But even that could be a really hard debate that would could derail a whole lot of other good bike things going right now. Plus, there’s exactly zero political movement in that direction from what I can tell.

        I just really hope the police don’t do helmet stings to catch casual bike share users otherwise cycling safely and obeying the rules. That could really put a damper on the system’s success. But if it’s more of a “You’ll get a double ticket if you bike dangerously AND don’t wear a helmet” kind of thing, that wouldn’t be so bad.

    2. Matthew Snyder

      It seems like the helmet fee is $2 per *use* — am I understanding this correctly? So if you’re a tourist buying the $8 daily membership, you either carry the helmet around with you all day when you’re not actively biking, or you pay $2 each time you get a bike? Do you even have the option of carrying the helmet around with you, or are you required to return the helmet every time you return the bike?

      Really, it HAS to be free to rent the helmet. It just has to be. Here’s your very real equity issue: poor people are less likely to voluntarily pay the $2 extra and are thus at higher risk for head injuries.

      1. Gary

        If the Helmet machine works the same way as the bike rental machine, it should dispense you a helmet whenever you return one, along with your bike for as along as your “pass” is good for.

        Anything less is a terrible design of the software.

    3. another Jay

      While carrying around your own helmet all the time may become annoying, I wouldn’t worry too much about the rental fee.

      In Melbourne it looks like they give helmets away (or did for a period of time) , In Vancouver, well, Vancouver doesn’t have bike share . In Boston it seems they don’t have a helmet law, so the deafening lack of information about (and presumable dismal failure of) the demonstration helmet vending machine is not very useful. If people don’t have to wear used helmets they probably wont, so we don’t know if it was a technical/logistics problem or a marketing problem. Perhaps more interesting is that Helmethub’s web sight refers to the release of the new model in spring of 2014 as “Next year”, well, ok they are probably so swamped building the machines for Seattle they don’t have time to update the web sight.
      SandVault’s machine seems to consist of one computer generated rendering and some broken links.
      Still, there are 2 machines in Melbourne so maybe they are not quite so much vaporware as I’m trying to imply, but probably close.
      I wonder if the 7-11s in Seattle will want to have their $15/hr employees dealing with helmet sales/returns, at $2 net (with return), a pop it can’t be very lucrative. And how many 7-11s are there in downtown Seattle? (in Melbourne you can get a helmet at some 7-11s)
      Also I’ve seen references to either “steam cleaning” or “high heat” for sanitizing returned helmets. I’m not certain, but my helmets seems to be lined with something that looks a lot like polystyrene foam, high heat and polystyrene are not usually a good combination. While a class of MIT students might build a demonstration vending machine, tooling up to mass produce helmets from a novel material is another thing entirely.

      Buy your own helmet, don’t worry about the rental. Maybe buy a bike too, ’cause there won’t be bike share in Seattle this year.

      A politician said: ” protected bike lane on 2nd Ave downtown before Pronto Cycle Share launches … ”
      “Chair of the City Council Transportation Committee Tom Rasmussen said be thought it was “very optimistic” for a protected bike lane to be in place downtown before 2016. ”

      Ok, like the guy said, optimistic, but still, sounds plausible.

  9. James Stefonidis

    They don’t describe the over-30 minute fee structure. This is not a user-friendly practice.

  10. Anthony


    They are actually going to do this boondoogle, oh well.

    I hope Alaska gets the PR out of this that they are looking for. One can only guess as to how long it takes for this system to implode.

    Who is making the money on this, as in what executives from what companies are jumping on-board the govt and private party gravy train since its funded?

    Well, best of luck to Seattle now…

    1. Jayne

      Go cry to your mother.

      1. Anthony

        Nah, you whine way more than me. I don’t look forward to the day this crashes and once again we discuss how this money could have been better spent.

        Seattle at its best.

    2. Gary

      In terms of “wasted” money, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to that stupid SR99 tunnel, or the 520 bridge mistakes.

      1. Anthony

        Gary, you are so right on that one! I was just telling my co-workers about Bertha being stuck, and the wasted cash on this pile of, errr, never mind.

        I just wish the cash was used wisely across the board, it seems more and more like its just another project to blow some cash on whether its auto-related, defense-related, or bike/pedestrian related.

  11. Emily

    Bummer, no stations in Ballard. Yet again Ballard is cut off from the city. No train, and soon no buses. Traffic congestion could not get any worse. Why are so many people flocking to live here again?

    1. Jayne

      Somehow I don’t see the Burke dumping out right at your doorstep equating to being “cut off from the city”. Try living in west seattle aka north burien.

      1. Anthony

        Somehow I don’t see you riding the Ballard Bridge and having to deal with a total lack of cohesion up in that area. And thankfully I don’t have to deal with your neighborhood either, it doesn’t sound like fun.

        The Burke is useless in some cases, doesn’t do any good for the north-south route through Interbay for starters.

    2. Gary

      Hey, I tried. I carried that monorail model in the Solstice parade… stuffed envelopes, went to city council meetings. But nooooo.. Monorails can’t be used in this city.

  12. […] If you can’t attend the first workshop, there are several more throughout May, including one at noon Thursday downtown at GGLO (a good way to spend lunch). See details on the other meetings in this post. […]

  13. […] Bike Share gets its sponsor (Alaska Air), now ready to […]

  14. […] Cycle Share is on schedule to launch in September, bringing 500 public bikes into Seattle’s dense central neighborhoods and the U […]

  15. […] there’s no reason to think that will be the last bike record the city breaks this year. With bike share and a downtown protected bike lane planned for September, Seattle is just getting started on this […]

  16. […] closely involved with bike share system in those cities, which could be great experience to have as Pronto Cycle Share launches […]

  17. […] In a city known for it’s overly-laborious process for just about any significant decision, Mayor Ed Murray has given the green light to build an ambitious protected bike lane on 2nd Ave to be in place by the time Pronto Cycle Share launches in September. […]

  18. […] launch until 2015 at the earliest. Ironically, new launches that were planned later, like Seattle’s Pronto system, will proceed sooner, as they were designed with equipment not sourced through […]

  19. […] bike is the product of a new supply chain for Alta Bicycle Share, who used to get bikes through the now-bankrupt Montreal-based company Bixi. […]

  20. […] Portland and Vancouver, B.C., balked at launching their systems, Mayor Ed Murray put his full support behind the system to get it launched in 2014. It was an ambitious goal that required pulling […]

  21. jeremy

    We finally get somthing good for our city and everybody wants to come here to the internet comment sections to bitch and whine about it…fuckin shut the fuck up already. (forgive me if you werent one of the people bitching guys) :)

  22. […] Ed Murray solved those problems personally. He placed a sales call to Alaska Airlines; they signed on as sponsor. Alta turned to a new hardware supplier to get […]

  23. […] Seattle Process-busting leadership by current Mayor Ed Murray. According to the Seattle Bike Blog, Ed Murray called up Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden and made a sponsorship deal, thus demonstrating an impressive amount of leadership and, along with the 2nd Avenue protected […]

  24. […] 2014 – The new name for the system is announced: Pronto! Emerald City Cycle Share (popular usage immediately drops the “!” and […]

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