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Pronto submits permits for bike share stations, is on schedule for September launch

Dragon Fest attendees test out a Pronto bike. Photo from Pronto.
Dragon Fest attendees test out a Pronto bike. Photo from Pronto.

Pronto Cycle Share is moving forward on schedule, and outreach has begun to finalize station locations. The bike share organization has applied for permits for what will be 50 stations, all operational by the end of September.

The Alaska Airlines-sponsored system will launch with 500 bikes in the center city neighborhoods and the University District. If all goes according to plan, the service boundary and density of stations will increase in future phases.

The organization has been getting in touch with nearby businesses to inform them of the station plans, especially for stations that could displace a parking space. As a rule, Pronto is only using on-street stations when there are no good off-street alternatives nearby. Many on-street stations will also be placed near street corners in space where it is illegal to park anyway. This is why a 55-foot station can take only one parking space, as Capitol Hill Seattle reported yesterday.


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The station permits do not necessarily mean these are absolutely final, as Executive Director Holly Houser noted in an email: “Station locations shown have been submitted for permit approval where applicable and are not yet finalized.”

Below is a look at those permit locations:

DraftPrimarySitesUW7-21-14DraftPrimarySites7-21-14 (2)The goal is to have stations close enough together that it is not difficult to find one near you so long as you stay in the service area.

This is the perfect place for a bike share station. Image from Google Street View.
This is the perfect place for a bike share station. Image from Google Street View.

At first glance, there is one omission that leaps out: There is no Pike Place Market station. The closest stations are at Westlake Park and on the waterfront downhill from the market. Pike Place Market was one of the most highly-requested stations in the Pronto Cycle Share feedback-gathering map, but Houser said they had trouble getting one in the market’s historic district due to stringent regulations there.

That seems like a big missed opportunity for businesses in the market, and I hope they find a way to remedy it soon.

To get downtown ready for bike share, the city is also moving forward on a two-way protected bike lane on 2nd Ave from Pike Place Market to Pioneer Square. As we reported previously, that pilot project bike lane is on track to be installed by the time Pronto launches.

You will be able to get ready for the launch of Pronto by buying a membership starting August 25. A year membership costs only $85, a killer deal since a 24-hour pass will cost $8 and a 3-day pass will cost $16.

A membership or pass gets you unlimited 30-minute bike trips, which is enough time to get to and from most of the bike share stations in the system. The pricing structure is designed to encourage short trips within the city’s dense urban core. If you need more time, you can always check in at a nearby station to renew your 30 minutes. They just want to make sure the bike stays in rotation and that you didn’t lock it up outside a bar or go for a joyride to Golden Gardens.

Launching the bike share system in 2014 and getting 2nd Ave ready for it has been a big goal of Mayor Ed Murray in his first year at the city’s helm. Pronto has a couple demo bikes they are taking around town for outreach events (they are prototypes, and some details like the basket will likely change). Looks like the mayor is ready:


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29 responses to “Pronto submits permits for bike share stations, is on schedule for September launch”

  1. Bob Payne

    I saw in the Eastlake neighborhood newsletter that the community organization is suggesting the station in the middle of Eastlake be up between Roanoke Park and Seward School, instead of at foot of Lynn St. So yeah, like you said, I suspect several of these will change.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Thanks, Bob! (though I like that station plan near the wine shop and that little park). It’s interesting that they are urging people to follow the Cheshiahud Loop route along Fairview Ave E instead or Eastlake Ave. I personally prefer the Fairview route, but Eastlake is probably more popular.

      The Eastlake portion is definitely the most awkward part of the system, since it is largely there to connect the center city and U District system areas. I’m interested to see how many people actually use Pronto to travel between the two areas, and how many bike from the U district straight up to Capitol Hill or vice versa. Tell Gene Balk there’s gonna be a whole lot of data to crunch!

      1. Ints

        Equally awkward as the Eastlake series of stations is the “orphan” Children’s Hospital station.
        I understand why there is a station there, but really, if the the stated goal is to call this a network then there has to be more than this lone station out in this neck of the woods.
        It will be interesting to see how much use this station gets, and whether bikes end up accumulating there as a destination, it ends up always vacant from heavy demand from people going to other areas or just sits as it’s nearest neighbor is the 25th AV NE and BG trail station.

      2. jay

        While on the map above, the Children’s station looks lonely, if one asks for directions from Google maps for Children’s to (for example) UW Medical center it gives three option for biking, ranging from 10 minutes to 14. I don’t know how Google estimates ride times. I do know when I first started to commute by bike (after not having ridden at all for a decade) I was about 50% over Google’s estimate, riding a relatively heavy, upright, IGH “Commuter bike” (probably not totally unlike a “Pronto” bike). But even 50% over 14 minutes, is still less than 30.
        Also, for the brave (or those with money to burn on over time charges) Google estimates 25 minutes from MOHI to UWMC, with 2 route options, one of which is over the Fremont bridge! If one is in Pronto’s target audience I’d suggest not taking the Fremont bridge, but rather take the University bridge and make a stop at station a bit the south of the bridge. Still, for the adventurous, and/or experienced, the Fremont route is plausible. After a year and a half riding cargo bikes, I can routinely meet or beat Google’s estimate while riding a large cargo bike, so matching Google’s estimate on a share bike certainly seems possible.

      3. Innts

        It’s just that when someone rides out to that outlier of a station at Children’s and finds all of the spaces taken because of the excellent programs they have at the hospital to support things like bike share, that rider gets to ride back to 25th AV NE and the BG trail to see if there still are spaces at that station. The point of a network is to provide options. Whether a bike route network or a bikeshare network, without options it really isn’t a network.

      4. jay

        Oh, wait, (as you pointed out while I was writing this) ; “in all this excitement I kind of lost track” of the fact that share stations have finite capacity, well, “you’ve got to ask yourself one thing, do I feel lucky?”
        If one is going TO Children’s and the station is full it would really, really suck, sure you get an additional 15 minutes, which you can use to, what? go back to exactly where you started from? On the other hand, most people will realize that problem, and therefore not even try going to Children’s. but leaving Children’s would not be so bad as there are a number of stations in the U district, so if one is the gambling type, maybe the odds are not so bad that there will be an empty slot at Children’s.

        But, since Children’s put up, what? half a million? for this thing, I suppose Pronto will have a technician with a truck stationed there pretty much 24/7 (to keep the helmet vending machine working if nothing else, or more likely, BE the helmet “vending machine”).

      5. Innnts

        It depends in the end on how well they manage this system. With Children’s as a major sponsor, if there is a lot of demand at that station, I would think that the station would be expanded or that bikes would be relocated by truck to provide room at that station and redistribute bikes back into the system. That kind of popularity might warrant additional stations nearby which would start to develop more of a network out in NE Seattle. Another great potential location in a year or so will be the Husky Stadium link station.

      6. Josh

        Surely, during the average day, nearly as many people leave Children’s as go to Children’s? Are people going to arrive by Pronto then leave by some other mode?

        Sure, you’ll need to start the day with enough empty rack space to hold the float of people who have arrived and not yet departed, but for most of the day, shouldn’t departures roughly equal arrivals?

      7. LWC

        Josh – not necessarily, and that is the point! In any given day, I might arrive somewhere by bike, go across town by Car 2 Go, carpool with a friend somewhere else, walk to another part of the neighborhood, and take the bus home. I imagine bikeshare to simply enter that mix, not to become my primary means of travel on any given day. I imagine others will use it in a similar manner much more often than they use it for strict round-trips.

        I’d be extremely worried about riding Pronto to such an isolated spot, given that the only recourse if it’s full is to ride 20 minutes away and walk back. I think it’s a problem that could significantly impact the usability of the service.

      8. Bob Payne

        What if you could sign up for text alerts for when your favorite corral is full? Would be hard to check your phone when riding I guess, but it might save you some hassle. I agree that the prospect of backtracking to another corral and then walking to your destination could defeat the advantages of the system. I’d continue to bus it instead. And I also agree that a single day for me could include bikeshare, zipcar, bus and walking.

      9. Tom Fucoloro

        FWIW, I am not worried about the one Childrens’ station. It’s kind of an odd outlier, and its success or failure will have little impact on the system as a whole.

        The downtown station density, capacity and recirculation is what will make or break the system. If people arrive to a full downtown station often enough, they could quit trusting it. So that’s Pronto’s biggest challenge, I think. But they can do it.

      10. asdf2

        “It’s interesting that they are urging people to follow the Cheshiahud Loop route along Fairview Ave E instead or Eastlake Ave.”

        The problem with the Chesiahud Loop route is that it just doesn’t work. I tried it once and about halfway between the U-bridge and Fairview Ave., you run into private property, which you have to go up the hill all the way back to Eastlake to go around (and the hill is quite steep). There is no reason to do all that up and down when you can just go straight-up down Eastlake all the way.

        As to the Children’s station, there are two things that will help balance demand somewhat. First, the hospital operates 24/7, so there are people beginning shifts even the evening as the daytime shift ends. Second, people living in homes near the hospital might use Pronto to ride in the reverse direction to jobs in the U-district. Even if the station isn’t right in front of their house, if they have to walk right by it to reach the bus stop along Sand Point, it becomes a might-as-well, as pedaling down the Burke-Gilman trail (or even up the sidewalk on the 45th St. viaduct) is often quite a bit faster than waiting for a bus and riding it.

        One big thing that is missing though, to make taking bike share from Lauralhurst to campus is a station alongside the Burke-Gilman trail at the bottom of the hill. I see stations planned around the HUB, but nobody wants to lug a bikeshare bike all the way up that hill. Much easier would be to just return the bike at the bottom of the hill and walk up the stairs unburdened.

      11. Tom Fucoloro

        I agree the Cheshiahud route isn’t great and it’s actually kind of hard to follow. However, if you spot the non-standard routing signs (easy to miss), it turns out you don’t have to go all the way to Eastlake when you hit that private property area. There is a cut through a couple alleyways. You can see it here: https://www.google.com/maps?saddr=University+Bridge,+Seattle,+WA&daddr=ZymoGenetics+Inc,+Eastlake+Avenue+East,+Seattle,+WA&hl=en&ll=47.642738,-122.325597&spn=0.007633,0.015793&sll=47.64206,-122.323607&sspn=0.030534,0.063171&geocode=FUkh1wIdlou1-CkXGVpU8BSQVDH7FJ1nnlnkSQ%3BFTPL1gIdvG21-CGXs__8sx3Q8ymtbYloJBWQVDGXs__8sx3Q8w&t=h&dirflg=b&mra=ltm&z=16&lci=bike

        Though it’s not unhilly, it’s not as bad as going all the way to Eastlake. And since I find biking on Eastlake very stressful, I choose to deal with the hills.

        If you look at the Bike Master Plan, you’ll see that they make vague reference to the possibility of a trail of some kind through or around that private property cut-off. I don’t know what they have in mind, but I would love to see something like Portland’s floating esplanade path. I explained that idea here: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2012/09/18/regional-council-recommends-westlake-cycle-track-more/#comment-189667

  2. Matthew Snyder

    Is there another way to get a list of these proposed stations with more details about the specific placement at each site? I’d like to know which of them are being proposed to be located on the street vs. on the sidewalk, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to tell just by looking at the maps.

  3. Kristina

    I really do hope they change the baskets as they don’t reallly look like they would function as a true basket and would only work with a purse not other items. I think they should switch to the type of basket they have on the Denver b-cycles. It worked great on my last business trip in Denver where I often thru loose items in it and didn’t have a bag.

  4. Kristina

    Also I am concerned about how far apart some of the stations are. My experience in Denver was that sometimes I would have to go 3-4 stations out from my preferred to find a docking station in the morning with openings. If this happened with the separation of our stations you would be in for a long walk and negate any time savings by taking a bike.

    1. jay

      A bit off topic, sorry, but since you did mention B-Cycle (which has 83 stations) Who is going to be the first to complete the Tour de Pronto? https://denver.bcycle.com/About/TourdeBcycle.aspx

    2. Yeah, especially the one lonely First Hill station. It’s a slog from that one to any of the others.

      1. Not just that it’s a long way — it is in the context of “I want to go here but I need to dock somewhere else” — but you have to either cross I-5 or cross Boren and Broadway and deal with a pretty discontinuous local street grid to get to the nearest station. If you have to go dock somewhere else you’re probably going downhill to there, but you’ll have a steep walk back up, and that’s all after making the steep climb up there for nothing.

  5. Breadbaker

    Based on my recent experience with CitiBike in New York, simply watching which stations were full or empty in the morning and the evening, the actual problem with the system may well be the lack of spaces downtown, particularly during the non-summer months. There are a lot of racks in places where people live and very few racks where people work. In New York, at least, the racks near the midtown office buildings were all packed (as in, “no space to park”) during the workday and empty at night when the bikes were in the neighborhoods. In summer, CBD bikes will circulate because tourists at the downtown hotels will use them, but during the rest of the year, they’ll just languish there until it’s time for the Capitol Hill residents to go home. But there appear to be only six racks in the middle of all those tall buildings. Where do you go when they’re full?

  6. Mmmmm

    $8 a day is very expensive and I think a deterrent to casual use of the bike system, especially given the current map of stations. Why are prices in the USA so much higher than in Europe (e.g. a bit more than $2 in Paris—and $40 for a yearly pass— and $3 in London)? The cost of a bike pass needs to be basically the same as a bus pass to encourage the alternative transportation.

    1. Hmmm

      With respect to the price for Vélib’, one might read the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A9lib'#Financing
      I don’t know that Seattle even owns any billboards (I suspect most are privately owned), but perhaps they could give Pronto control over the parking meters on Westlake and Shilshole Avenue NW (including the authority to meter parking spaces of course) Bwahaha!

      Actually, if one purchases the annual membership (and uses your own helmet) Pronto will be less expensive than the bus. Though you are probably right in your statement: “The cost of a bike pass needs to be basically the same as a bus pass to encourage the alternative transportation.” Supposing Pronto could get a large number of people to sign up at $90 a MONTH (like a Metro monthly pass) then they’d probably be able to afford to expand the system to the point where it is “effective transportation”. Of course there is vicious cycle there, raise the price, you get fewer users, and those you do get will of course demand service commensurate with the price, which you can’t really afford with so few users. Therefore, subsidizing if with other funds might work better, Like bus/train transit is. But the “war on cars” folks won’t like that. Ironic that, the “war on cars” people do have a point, they just chose not to know who the “enemy” is.
      A door zone “bike lane” (that arbitrarily starts and ends without reason) can be made without removing any parking, but you can’t run a bus down a 4 foot “lane” !
      “We have met the enemy and he is us”, the reason for a “war on cars” is to decrease congestion, so that it will be more convenient for the important people to drive their cars. (Welcome to human nature 101)

  7. […] Pronto Bike Share applies for its station locations. […]

  8. Jonathan Callahan

    I just wanted to comment that I am pleased the initial rollout plan seems to have taken user input from their interactive map to heart. Although I would still prefer a “neighborhoods and bike paths first” rollout, I think the suggested placement of stations within the targeted area largely makes of sense.

    I will only offer a few suggestions for what I would like to see in an expansion:

    Burke Gilman stations at Steven’s Court, Blakely and NE 45’th Place, 40th NE and NE 52’nd Place

    Gates Foundation station (or are they above riding bikes?)

    Myrtle Edwards stations at the W Thomas pedestrian bridge

    Westlake (parking lot) stations at the foot of the Galer pedestrian bridge, near China Harbor, FREMONT!!!

    even more Burke Gilman stations strung out between the UW, Fremont and Ballard

    1. A system like this succeeds if it helps people. It can help people most by allowing them to make short trips quickly. And it faces logistical problems doing this if stations are in an area where a single kind of trip predominates, so that bikes aren’t redistributed by other random trips. It’s plausible, for example, that bike share along the waterfront path might help people working at Amgen get to work, but it can only help about as many people per day as there are spaces at the station, because essentially nobody will take bikes away from that station during the morning rush.

      Bike-share in Seattle is threatened less by our lack of bike paths than by our lack of truly mixed-use neighborhoods. If you ride the bus, think about bus stops that really gum up the works, where a bunch of people get off and then a bunch of people get on pretty much all day. Where does that happen? Mostly it happens in the places where we’re putting bike share. It also happens in First Hill and the ID, as well as The One Bus Stop In Lower Fremont and a couple places in Ballard; First Hill and the ID are a lot closer to the rest of the system, though, so I’d say the poor coverage of those areas is a much greater omission than anywhere north of the cut. And I say that as a Fremont resident.

  9. […] Cycle Share has a couple prototypes of the 500 public bikes they will put into service around the city center and the U District in September, and I had the chance recently to test one […]

  10. […] the discussion. Learn about a planned parklet at 43rd and University Way, bike share stations that will open this fall, Seattle’s green street designs for the area, upcoming University […]

  11. […] is easy to use with over 50 docking stations throughout Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods (see map of planned stations): Capitol Hill, Downtown, South Lake Union, Eastlake, and the University […]

  12. […] It’s really happening. Today, you can buy a membership for a Seattle public bike share system. […]

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