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City proposes ‘massive’ Pronto Cycle Share expansion

Images from the city’s 2015 TIGER grant application.

Pronto Cycle Share is an amazing transportation tool, but only if it’s limited service area fills a hole in your specific trip. If you live in the service area, it’s amazing. If you are headed to a city center destination that is an awkward distance from an express transit route, bike share can be a fast and easy way to cover that last piece of your trip.

But the biggest problem with Pronto is that the service area is simply too small to meet most people’s needs. And under the current business model, the system would expand slowly over time as more private sponsorship investments or city budget line items lead the way. It’s a plan that creates solid benefits for relatively little public investment, but it’s not a plan that can truly revolutionize transportation and low-income access to bicycling in Seattle.

That’s why the city has put together a visionary plan for a massive, fast expansion of Pronto that would increase the service area from five square miles to 42 square miles, reaching from Northgate to Rainier Beach to Alki. The number of stations would increase from 50 to 250, and the percentage of Seattle residents within walking distance of a station would go from 14 percent to 62 percent.

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“Having a massive expansion of the bike share will make it really functional public transit,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “Bike share is a great way to expand the reach of transit” because it helps connect more homes and destinations within reach of a high-quality express transit route. It’s a way to fill the “last mile” and “first mile” problems of transit trips, where slow local buses or long transfer waits make transit use less appealing and effective.

On top of all this, the city would also roll out electric assisted bikes in the fleet, which will be especially helpful for stations in very hilly areas and for users who have trouble climbing hills or going longer distances.

The e-bikes “will effectively flatten the city,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly, and “open it up to people of different ages and abilities and different levels of fitness.” Kubly said studies looking at the effect of e-bikes in Norway showed that people took 50 percent more trips and traveled distances twice as far, an effect more pronounced in women. 

It’s possible that all 2,500 bikes in the system would have pedal assist power, though it could also be mixed. The city has not identified exactly which maker they would want to utilize for the e-bike system.

“There are a number of manufacturers debuting e-bike bike share systems this year for 2016 launches,” said SDOT Spokesperson Norm Mah. “We are watching all of them to see what makes the most sense. There is an argument both for having 100 percent e-bikes for consistency, as well as for less to accommodate those that want to pedal.”

1App-fundingThe $18 million bikeshare expansion plan would be funded in large part through a Federal TIGER grant application Seattle submitted last week in partnership with WSDOT, Sound Transit, the Puget Sound Regional Council and North Seattle College. Motivate, the company contracted to operate Pronto, would also pitch in $3 million.

The grant application also includes the $15 million needed to fill a funding gap for the Northgate bike/walk bridge. We have reported on the Northgate bridge several times, and the details have not changed significantly. See our report from last year for more.

TIGER grants are extremely competitive, and the city did not win the requested Northgate bridge money during the 2014 cycle. But city leaders think they have a really strong application this time around.

“TIGER is exactly the kind of funding source that you would want to use for this,” said Kubly, noting the focus on access to community colleges meets up with many of the national governments goals. “We think we’re putting in a really competitive grant.”

1App-tripsexampleAdding bikeshare to the application dramatically increases the access to transit element of the application, according to the grant proposal:

The bikeshare expansion will increase the population with ready access to bikeshare from 88,678 to 392,625 and increase the catchment area of frequent transit by 342%.

While the Northgate bridge would dramatically increase access between North Seattle College and the under-construction Northgate light rail Station and mall, bike share would enhance the value of this connection even further.

1App-studentmapWhen looking into the value of the Northgate bridge to connect to North Seattle College, SDOT officials noticed that “South Seattle College doesn’t have great access to transit, either,” according to Kubly. In fact, the closest “high-frequency” bus stop at Delridge and Juneau is 1.5 miles from the college. So the bikeshare system also includes connections between South Seattle College and quality transit service on Delridge. That 28 minute walk would take seven minutes on Pronto, according to the proposal.

The University of Washington already has Pronto stations, since it was part of the initial launch. But expanding the range would certainly make those stations much more useful. Today, they are used far less often than the center city and Capitol Hill stations, likely a result of how disconnected those stations are from the rest of the system and the fact that students may not have the cash to buy a membership.

Which brings us to the next brilliant piece of the Pronto expansion plan: Half-price memberships for college students as well as people who qualify for the reduced cost ORCA Lift program. People making less than 200 percent of poverty qualify for ORCA Lift, which lowers King County Metro bus fares to $1.50. 120,000 Seattle residents between the ages of 18 and 64 currently qualify for this program. Assuming the annual pass price remains $85 (the city is researching whether to change the rate system), qualifying people could score a year of system use for only $42.50. To steal from a joke Kubly told during a recent talk, regular users make that money back in reduced wear on their shoes.

The city also hopes to help homeless people access the system by “building on successful programs from other cities such as a program in Washington DC, which donated bikeshare memberships to homeless people to assist with getting to and from appointments like job interviews, classes and training.”

The expanded system will also create 35–40 full-time equivalent jobs. The city will also partner with Bike Works to create youth apprenticeships for 8–10 young people to get work experience maintaining the bikes and stations.

Racial and economic diversity among bike share users has been a problem for systems across the county, though evidence shows that lower-income populations are more likely to mix biking and transit use, according to the grant application:

Since 2001, bike-to-transit connections have grown fastest in lower-income groups. Percentage gains have been more than twice as large within lower income groups compared to higher income peers (earning over $75,000 per year). The largest percentage increases of any group was for the lowest-income users (earning under $25,000 per year). Expansion of bikeshare, paired with extension of Link Light Rail, and discounted bikeshare memberships (using ORCA Lift as a model) will provide residents in Northgate and other economically disadvantaged communities increased access to jobs and education throughout the region.

One major problem with bike share systems under the current Pronto model is that the need for the system to fund its own operations requires slowly expanding to areas where either a sponsor wants to fund a station or where high density of destinations assures a very high use rate. This often means that stations will be cited in economically advantaged areas and work best for people who are already well-off. Or, as Charles Mudede put it in a story for the Stranger: “Money follows money.”

The only kind of planning that can break with the automatic effects of the market has to be entirely public. It has to be deaf to the tireless call of money. If Pronto was fully funded by the public, it might have avoided reproducing the racial/economic map of our city.

Seattle certainly isn’t going to a fully-public model for Pronto. Sponsorships will continue to be important. But the city does want to go a very different direction from the purely market-driven model by siting stations within lower-income neighborhoods where access to a working bicycle is often a huge impediment to cycling and where access to high quality transit often requires long walks or slow local buses. Any transportation system, whether it’s roads for cars or a transit system, requires more subsidies for lower-density areas. But providing access to transportation is important for everyone. Why should bikeshare operate differently? The grant application puts it this way:

TIGER funds for a major expansion will offer Seattle the opportunity to introduce bikeshare to low-income communities throughout the city, siting stations based on the community’s need for low-cost active transportation modes. This approach is contrasted with a slow, decades-long expansion plan where each new station must be sited with short term return-on-investment as a primary criterion.

SDOT also hopes that Pronto pass holders will be able to access the system using their ORCA cards, though this would likely not include being able to pay for short-term passes with e-purse money or transfer to/from transit (my dream for the system).

1App-timelineWe will find out in September if the city wins the TIGER grant. It’s also possible they will win only some of the requested funding, which would obviously change the scale of the roll-out. If the grant is won, the new stations could start rolling out in 2016 with all stations operational by the end of 2017.

Though this grant would grow the system to 250 stations and 2,500 bikes, the city hopes to continue growing the system beyond 400 stations in future phases. The grant assumes the existing stations will not be compatible with the e-bikes, so funding for replacements is included.

Part of the grant process includes a benefits-to-cost analysis of the projects. The bikeshare element alone is calculated to return 3.3 times it’s costs, mostly in the form of increased health of users and reduced car trips.

Part of the expansion plan could also see Seattle taking a more direct role in the operations of the system, though “that’s something we want to have a conversation with the folks at Pronto about,” said Kubly. Today, the system is owned by a non-profit called Puget Sound Bike Share, which is a partnership of many local governments and private organizations. PSBS contracts with Motivate to operate Pronto. The TIGER grant notes that the city may contract directly with Motivate instead.

Concurrent with the submittal of this funding request, Seattle is working to contract directly with the operator of bikeshare as opposed to having a third party non-profit contract with the operator. This proposed business model is consistent with that of successful systems in large cities across the country. The specific terms of this agreement are under negotiation.

Before being hired as SDOT Director, Kubly was acting President at Alta Bicycle Share, which was bought by Motivate last year after Kubly came to Seattle.

You can read the full application and the letters of support from a long list of government, non-profit and private organizations on the project website.

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64 responses to “City proposes ‘massive’ Pronto Cycle Share expansion”

  1. Mike Lindblom

    Actually, South Seattle College does have a convenient bus stop at the front entrance. My daughter will be getting there on the Metro Route 125 (California Ave., Westwood, SSC, downtown) this fall quarter. Students can transfer to the frequent Route 120 (future G Line?) on Delridge Way SW, though of course any transfer slows the trip. Bike Share on a map is great for SSC, but the three main roads downhill to Delridge are narrow and trafficked. If priced low, Pronto bikes might be a boon for college students riding the level, roomier streets south to Westwood and White Center, especially during lulls in the 125 schedule.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I should have clarified that they are referring to “high frequency” transit stops. I’ll update the story.

  2. kptrease

    So, the grant app is for 18M, 15M of which is the (much needed) Northgate Ped Bridge? So, we could have everything but that for 3M? Am I reading that right?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Grant app is $25M, $15M for Northgate and $10M for Pronto.

      The total plan for expanding Pronto is $18M, $10M of which comes from this grant. $3M would come from Motivate, the company that operates the system. The balance falls to the city, but I assume sponsorships would be a big part as well. That isn’t spelled out in detail in the grant.

      1. Kptrease

        Ah, that makes more sense. Seems like a pretty great use of 13M to me, even if we can’t get the grant.

  3. Alkibkr

    Hallelujah, this can’t happen soon enough. As a “founding member” of Pronto, I thought it would be a great idea to buy my bike-shy 24 year old daughter a membership to use, since she works in Pioneer Square, thinking it would be a way to get her comfortable with biking. She has never used it. When I thought again about it, there is no place in the downtown service area that I could honestly recommend an inexperienced rider to ride Pronto safely. Even the flat Seattle waterfront is a total mess for bikers right now. Get the service area out into the neighborhood commercial areas where more people can feel comfortable riding them. And by all means, fix the downtown cycling infrastructure ASAP so that Pronto bikes can be a transportation option for all ages and abilities.

  4. Alkibkr

    Mike, depending on where you are riding from, I have found the safest and least steep route to SSC from northern West Seattle is the 26th Ave SW Greenway up to Barton, then Delridge to Juneau, then pedestrian activated signal across Delridge, Juneau east to Croft, right on 21st from Croft (21st Ave SW Greenway to be constructed next year) south to Myrtle, Myrtle to 16th Ave SW, then backtrack north a few blocks along 16th Ave SW to SSC. The only problem is Myrtle is in horrendous condition (massive potholes) which will be corrected when the Greenway is built. And a little like a roller coaster. Electric bike share for the hill-shy!

  5. Joseph

    This gives me a great chance to ask a Pronto question I’ve often wondered about.

    WHY IS THE MINIMUM COST OF ENTRY $8? Who do they think their customers are?

    If I want to try Pronto and am not sure whether I like it, $8 for a 30-minute bike ride is ridiculous. Oh, and add $2 for a helmet and you’re now at $10 to ride a bike for under 30 mins.

    Even if I want a round-trip on Pronto, that’s $5 each way (need to rent helmet twice).

    Metro charges me only $2.50-$2.75 (one zone). Pronto isn’t even close to being price-competitive.

    All those folks in the expansion zone who don’t already earn princely sums of money aren’t going to want to fork over $10 to extend or replace their metro bus ride.

    How do you get folks at Pronto to reconsider this???

    1. Josh

      On helmet rentals, Pronto says you can keep the helmet for 24 hours — a pain to have to carry a foam hat around with you between rides, but you don’t have to spend $2 per ride for the helmet. (I think the real solution to that is to repeal the counterproductive health department helmet regulation, but that’s a debate for a different day.)

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Yes, please! No helmet debates here. Those interested in that topic should check out this story and comment thread: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/05/11/pronto-cycle-share-starts-charging-day-pass-users-2-to-rent-a-helmet/

    2. jay

      “Who do they think their customers are?”


      Annual memberships do not cover the costs of (as far as I know) any public bike share. They need to be subsidized by someone, either a government which considers it a viable part of public transportation*, or tourists (or both).
      Since Tom wrote: “One major problem with bike share systems under the current Pronto model is that the need for the system to fund its own operations ”
      It looks like tourists it is, and it is not just the $8, they expect overtime charges too. Still, it is a pretty good deal, one can ride a Pronto bike 2 hours for $20 (without returning to a station, if one does stop at a station every half hour one can ride all day for the initial $8) $20 might be less than a taxi ride to a bike shop for a conventional rental (which one also has to pay for)

      If one buys an annual membership, owns their own helmet and uses the system once a week, than knocks the cost down to about $6 a trip, well, actually it is currently $1.65, but I’m guessing that if they do get electric bikes which are probably going to cost about twice as much, they will eventually be charging twice as much as Citibike which is, I think, $140/yr. Even so, if one uses the system daily, the cost becomes pretty much insignificant (I spend more than the current $85/yr on sales tax for bike stuff)

      *or if not viable transportation, maybe an unwillingness to admit they screwed up, which may perhaps explain the continued existence Melbourne bike share, which of course has some similarities to Pronto.

      1. Joseph

        If they think tourists are their customers then expansion to many areas in this plan make little sense.

        If they think they want to be public transit, then they need to be price-competitive with Metro.

        I’m hard pressed to see how $10 accomplishes that. Am I missing something?

        You may spend more than $85 on taxes on bike stuff, but the I assume the target audience doesn’t.

      2. Josh

        I wouldn’t be surprised if electric-assist could actually lower system costs overall.

        One of the big issues in hilly cities is rebalancing the fleet, hauling bikes back up the hill after users coast down.

        If you can figure out the safety/legal issues, electric-assist could make biking up the hill easier than walking, without the delay of waiting for a bus — attracting a whole new category of user and making the fleet self-balancing.

      3. jay

        “I’m hard pressed to see how $10 accomplishes that. Am I missing something?”

        Yep, you are missing the annual membership, at the current price (get it before it goes up) if one makes a round trip every work day, it will cost about 17 cents a trip, far less than Metro, that does suppose you are one of the very few that has Pronto stations tolerably close to both ends of your trip.

        One problem with electric bikes is they have to be recharged, that would either require really big solar panels, hard wiring, or trucking the bikes or batteries to a charging station.
        I would be quite surprised if the system costs were lower. It is not only going up hill, but commuting traffic tends to be somewhat directional depending on the time of day, they might find they have to truck bikes down hill at times!

      4. There’s also the little issue of funding system operations. How much money comes from usage fees, how much from subsidy, and the size of the system will always be in tension unless the system is profitable without subsidy; this is a matter of history/inertia and politics. That’s how it works in public transportation, that’s how it works here, too.

        On the political side, I doubt bike share advocates have convinced the public that such systems provide the broad public benefit necessary to justify a large subsidy in absolute terms. Despite their best intentions, they haven’t convinced me they provide a broad public benefit, and I believe in radical stuff like a ubiquitous bike network and high carbon taxes.

      5. RossB

        Charging the batteries doesn’t seem like a huge issue to me. Compared to moving bikes from one place to another (balancing out the stations) supplying and swapping out a bunch of batteries seems pretty easy. That being said, I think the big challenge is figuring out when to do that (once a day?).

        I’m not sure how popular they will be, either. Electric bikes (at least the ones I’ve tried) don’t have that much torque. You still have to work hard to go up a steep hill. So someone in Fremont, for example, might think it is easy to peddle up to Phinney Ridge — it isn’t. On the other hand, going up 8th NW is a lot less of a grind (especially compared to a clunky Pronto bike). But this will make them even more clunky.

        In general, I think this addresses the problem in the wrong way. I’m sure people (when asked) said they didn’t use Pronto because their trip had too many hills. Or the bikes all ended up at the bottom of the hill. The answer, as folks have said over and over again, is to focus on the main bike throughway in the area. The Burke Gilman should have stations every few blocks from the UW to Ballard. That is where most of the rides would come from. It is flat and safe, with plenty of jobs and shops and everything that makes sense for bike sharing. The fact that in a few months we are about to add a light rail station (connecting the UW, Capitol Hill and downtown) seems to be lost on these folks. There has never been a faster way to get from the UW to Capitol Hill, but the idea of taking the train and then hopping on one of these bikes to ride on the most popular bike path in the state to a couple of thriving neighborhoods is ignored — or at best considered part of a “phase four plan”, implemented after most of the rest of the city.

        I think the city is right in trying to take over the operations. They obviously don’t understand Seattle, and haven’t listened to any of the comments.

    3. Bernard

      $8 gets you a 24 hour pass, for which you have access to the bikes for that period. You can take as many – or as few – trips as youd like during that 24 hour period. Add $2 for a helmet that you can keep for the duration of that. Whys that so expensive? Ive tried a restaurant to see if i like it and have spent $10 on crappy food. Perspective.

      $85 gets you a YEAR membership. Unlimited rides of under 30 minutes. And free helmet rental. Compare that to a $99 1 zone $2.75 MONTHLY pass for Metro.. How exactly is that not comparable to the cost of the bus? Its way cheaper.

      1. Joseph

        Indeed, perspective.

        $85 is fine once you know you want Pronto. Just like I wouldn’t pay $99 for a once-month Metro pass to find out if I like the bus.

        $10 to try out a sub-30-minute ride may seem reasonable to you. Not so much for me. To each their own, but I’m suggesting Pronto could snag more fans by lowering the cost of entry.

        Of course $10 isn’t bad for 24-hour all-you-can-eat, but if I don’t know if I like Pronto I don’t know if I want any more rides. Again, this is all about getting NEW PEOPLE TO TRY PRONTO. I’m suggesting they make that easy…an attractive impulse buy.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Pronto gives out promotional free day passes sometimes. I wonder if a targeted program to give these passes to new users (hopefully residents, not tourists) would help. I agree, that very first ride is the hardest sell. A free day pass might be all it takes to be convinced to buy a year pass.

  6. Josh

    Adding electric-assist to the fleet would certainly expand the range of people who could use the bikes on hills, but I’m wondering how the City would deal with the legal restrictions on electric-assist bikes.

    Electric-assist bikes are illegal on sidewalks state-wide [RCW 46.61.710 (3)]

    Electric-assist bikes are allowed on paths/trails under state law, but only on paths/trails open to motorized vehicles. [RCW 46.61.710 (5)] For example, BGT is posted “no motorized vehicles,” so electric-assist bikes aren’t legally allowed on the trail.

    There’s no real enforcement of these laws in Seattle today, but will it become an issue if less-experienced users on bike-share e-bikes take to the sidewalks or trails in significant numbers?

    Will Pronto be able to deflect liability onto riders simply by adding “no riding on sidewalks or non-motorized trails” to its warning stickers?

    1. bill

      I immediately thought of these issues, too. I would not mind speed-limited electric bikes on trails.

      I would like to see a crackdown on gas-powered ones, though. Thankfully there aren’t many, since most tend to be smoky two-strokes.

      1. Josh

        I think we will eventually need a new low-speed e-bike category in addition to the current 20 mph electric-assist bike category if we’re going to make it safe to mix e-bikes, pedestrians, and more vulnerable cyclists.

        A 20 mph adult hitting a child can be crippling or fatal.

    2. Adam

      Electric-assist bikes are allowed on paths/trails under state law, but only on paths/trails open to motorized vehicles. [RCW 46.61.710 (5)] For example, BGT is posted “no motorized vehicles,” so electric-assist bikes aren’t legally allowed on the trail.

      That’s not what I’m reading. RCW 46.61.710 (2) and (5) say (emphasis mine):

      (2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a moped may not be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.

      (5) Subsections (1), (2), and (4) of this section do not apply to electric-assisted bicycles. Electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may have access to highways, other than limited access highways, of the state to the same extent as bicycles. Subject to subsection (6) of this section, electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters may be operated on a multipurpose trail or bicycle lane, but local jurisdictions may restrict or otherwise limit the access of electric-assisted bicycles and motorized foot scooters

      I’d like to know the specific text you’re talking of when you’re talking about this “no motorized vehicles” thing, as RCW 46.61.710 appears to me to contradict that.

      As far as “local jurisdictions” go, King County prohibits electrically motorized vehicles on trails (7.12.295):

      E. No motorized vehicles shall be allowed on King County trails. For the purposes of this section “motorized vehicles” means any form of transportation powered by an internal combustion or electric motor. This includes but is not limited to automobiles, golf carts, mopeds, motor scooters, and motorcycles. This section shall not apply to wheelchairs powered by electric motors, or authorized maintenance, police or emergency vehicles.

      I can’t find anything in the Seattle Municipal Code concerning electric bikes specifically. The closest I can find is this page that states:

      Q: Are electric bikes allowed on Burke-Gilman Trail?
      A: Yes, city officials say. According to SMC 11.44.120, as long as you operate your electric bike in a “careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper” then you are allowed to ride on a sidewalk or public path including the Burke-Gilman Trail.

      The referenced SMC pretty much says don’t be a dick when biking on city trails.

      1. Josh

        Electric assist bikes are a class of motorized vehicle under state law. See http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.04.320
        “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled and every vehicle that is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails.

        Thus “no motorized vehicles” includes electric-assist bikes, since it applies to all motor vehicles.

        The State Patrol has a good summary of relevant state laws for electric-assist bikes at http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/docs/equipmt/elect_bicycle.pdf

        Now, if a jurisdiction comes up with “no motorized vehicles except electric-assist bicycles” signs, then electric-assist bikes would be legal, but as far as I know, Seattle uses only blanket bans on motorized vehicles, no electric-assist bike exceptions.

        I’ve been told this is a known issue for SDOT and they’re looking into solutions that would permit electric-assist bikes on facilities like BGT or the new Westlake cycletrack without also opening those paths to other motorized vehicles such as scooters and mopeds.

      2. Adam

        I’m reading 46.04.320 as classifying throttle e-bikes as being classified as motor vehicles per the “self-propelled” phrase. However I wouldn’t consider pedelec e-bikes as being self-propelled due to them only assisting human power without the ability to propel on their own.

        The PDF you link refers to RCW 46.04.169:

        “Electric-assisted bicycle” means a bicycle with two or three wheels, a saddle, fully operative pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor. The electric-assisted bicycle’s electric motor must have a power output of no more than one thousand watts, be incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than twenty miles per hour on level ground, and be incapable of further increasing the speed of the device when human power alone is used to propel the device beyond twenty miles per hour.

        My interpretation of all this is that throttle e-bikes (self-propelled) are classified as both electric bikes and motor vehicles while pedelec e-bikes (require human power) are just electric bikes and not considered motor vehicles.

        SDOT has mentioned that they’re looking into solutions such as the Copenhagen Wheel, which is a pedelec conversion thus, in my non-expert interpretation, would not be considered an electric bike non-motor vehicle thus would already be legal under state law to operate on multiuse paths.

        I’ve been told this is a known issue for SDOT and they’re looking into solutions that would permit electric-assist bikes on facilities like BGT or the new Westlake cycletrack without also opening those paths to other motorized vehicles such as scooters and mopeds.

        Again IANAL, but to me it seems they’re already legal on trails in the city. However some distinction in both SMC and RCW on the difference between throttle and pedelec would be nice. Though in this matter I trust SDOT’s lawyers more than I trust myself.

      3. Adam

        “would not be considered an electric bike non-motor vehicle thus would already be legal under state law to operate on multiuse paths.”

        Sorry, extraneous “not”. Meant to say:

        “would be considered an electric bike non-motor vehicle thus would already be legal under state law to operate on multiuse paths.”

      4. Josh

        It appears the city agrees with the State Patrol on this one:

        Q: Can electric-powered or electric-assisted bicycles ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail?

        A: No, city officials say.

        They’re not allowed because the Burke-Gilman Trail is intended for people-powered transportation, Seattle Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Dewey Potter said.

        “It is a rule and not a law, and there is some expectation that people will respect their fellow pedestrians and cyclists,” she said.

        Motorized foot scooters also are not allowed in bicycle lanes or on park pathways intended for recreation, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation. That includes the Burke-Gilman Trail.


      5. Josh

        Also worth noting, the City Council page you reference also claims that electric-assist bikes are allowed on sidewalks, which is flatly contradicted by state law, “Operation of a moped, motorized foot scooter, or an electric-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk is unlawful.


      6. Adam

        Well this has been an enlightening discussion with disappointing conclusions.

        There’s still far too widespread the assumption that bicycles are for recreational or fitness use only and not a legitimate form of transportation, a thought that the laws seem to reflect.

  7. Marley

    This is incredibly exciting! I love the idea of building more equity into the bikeshare system with donating memberships to homeless people (heck, why don’t we do that now? I’d donate a membership), reduced membership rates for those who qualify, and expanded service areas. Also, e-bikes- fun!!

    I wonder if with the expansion they’d consider bumping out the time from 30 minute rides to an hour to be able to get further?

    1. Tom

      Agreed Marley (and get a car you hippie.)

      I really don’t understand the 30 minute limit. That is not even enough time to run an errand while you race between stations. Also, seems completely nonsensical that you can use the bike all day for a low price but only if you ‘check in’ every 30 minutes. What difference does it make?

      The pricing structure should incentivize a quick return to keep the bikes in circulation but if you go over the 30 minute mark the charge should be like an extra dollar at most to just keep the bike all day and it should be automatically tacked on, not a decision you have to make at check-out time.

  8. William C.

    Good work! However, this still doesn’t go far enough. Large portions of the Burke-Gilman Trail are still left out of this expansion. The Ballard Locks are also omitted, as is Golden Gardens Park, and many neighborhoods near Children’s Hospital.

    Meanwhile, I’m skeptical about how many stations can be added in such a large simultaneous expansion – station density is vital for a good program. Still, it’s a good goal.

  9. Capitol Hillian

    Why Magnolia but not west Ballard? Seems like a strange choice – does anyone know why?

    1. Southeasterner

      Agreed. I actually saw more than 6 people with PRONTO bikes at Golden Gardens yesterday, not to mention a few more at the locks…that’s a long trip to the nearest PRONTO station.

      West Ballard seems like a no brainier for expansion, especially given that Market, Shilshole, and Leary are turning into a parking lots on the weekends.

    2. asdf3

      So you can ride to Discovery Park.

  10. Donna

    I use Boston’s/Cambridge’s bikeshare (Hubway) often and the entry point is $6 for a 24 hour pass (all the 30 min trips you want). The $8 is a bit off putting.

    1. asdf3

      I agree. If you’re in a pinch for time and only need to go 1 mile, why pay $8 for pronto, when you can take a cab for the same price. Or, if traffic is really bad, just get up and run.

  11. Haley

    Can we please increase the time from 30min to 60min trips? Or possibly the length of time to ride between any 2 stations?

  12. Harrison Davignon

    The bike share expansion is a great idea. People who live in or visit the city will benefit a lot from this program. I see bike share as the equivalent to public transportation vs driving. Bike share is great for people who can’t afford a bicycle, don’t have the room for one in there living space, or don’t ride all the time. Bike share you have to go to a station, insert your card, and grab a bike, bikes can run out, station may not be working, and you have to keep the bike within the city( I have not used it, just read about bike share) Vs owning a bicycle you can hop on and go anywhere you want, but you have to deal with maintenance yourself. I think Seattle streets from my experience could use bicycle safety improvements and there is ways around hills. One way around hills that is safe and easier to fallow is, instead riding on the magnolia bridge to get to discovery park, take the eliet bay trial to the end, turn left and you will a bike lane, gentle hills, lower traffic streets and signs to guide you to the park.

  13. […] Cincinnati could improve mobility by building smaller, less expensive, multi-modal bridges; and Seattle Bike Blog reports on a city plan for a major bike-share […]

  14. asdf3

    Any plans to increase station density in the existing service area? The U-district , especially, is quite thin. I hope the existing area is not forgotten.

  15. […] Cincinnati could improve mobility by building smaller, less expensive, multi-modal bridges; and Seattle Bike Blog reports on a city plan for a major bike-share […]

  16. Dave F

    Does anyone know Pronto’s expansion plans if they don’t receive the grant? I haven’t heard about anything significant (other than 4 sponsored stations mentioned in the last ~2 weeks) since the mayor proposed funding for the central district. Did the city adopt that budget proposal?

    I’m one of the lucky few with Pronto stations near my office and my apartment (it was actually one of the factors I used when choosing a place). It’s a great way to commute, and I’m excited for more options.

  17. Gary Anderson

    I wish they would make repairs to the BGT first. The city portion is now in more need of maintenance than the UW section.

    Are there plans for Pronto stations near Ballard Oil or Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel?

    1. Joseph

      +100 on repairs to the BGT.

      The County part is immaculate.

      The City part has been slowly improved, but still has some major fixes needed (eg: sharp root bumps north of NE 65th, southbound approaching 40th NE , …, …

      At least UW found a grinder and got rid of their root bumps. Can they lend the city the grinder and show them how to use it?

  18. I really wish Pronto and the City would be much more open with their data on bike share usage and cost. It is my understanding that bike usage in the spring was averaging 0.5 rides per bike per day. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with annual or monthly numbers for rides/bike/day and, after assessing total system cost, $/ride. I suspect those numbers will be pretty ugly.

    With open data, Seattle’s open source tech community could run stats on which stations are used the most and help do a better job of planning where new stations should go and moving those that don’t perform. The customer is always right after all.

    So far it seems like the entire Pronto endeavor has been based on guesses and anecdotes with no one making it possible to have a hard look at the numbers. In other words, it’s not being run like a business.

    Before siting a bunch more stations, it’s time for Pronto and its advocates to set up some “effectiveness monitoring”:

    1) measure the utility of each station in rides/day to and from
    2) make those numbers available to the public
    3) ask for public input in interpreting the numbers
    4) move stations that underperform

    I’m not at all surprised that Pronto bikes are seen in Fremont and Ballard and at the Locks. Those are precisely the places that a lot of us proposed for the initial rollout with a focus on “safety first” and “neighborhoods first” and “let tourists pay”. The downtown rollout was based on a misunderstanding of how bike share can best serve Seattle. I agree with an earlier commenter that the entire downtown area where Pronto bikes are available is an area that is well served by transit and that most people feel is unsafe for biking. Put bike stations near light rail stations if you want to have a big impact.

    As a founding member of Pronto I truly want bike share to succeed in Seattle. But it can’t just be a toy that makes us feel better. And it can’t be justified by misguided theories and anecdotes. It has to actually work for a lot of people. And we only know if it works with hard numbers. Unless we get those numbers up towards 4+ rides/bike/day most people will consider Pronto a failure.

    1. Alkibkr

      Put bike stations near light rail AND BRT (aka Rapid Ride). So we have a way to get back to our neighborhoods when local bus service is only hourly or non existent. All public transportation from Rapid Ride to my neighborhood of Alki ends at 11:47 PM weekdays and earlier than that on weekends even though the night life in Alki always extends into the wee hours. It would be great to see the drunks riding Pronto bikes back to the RR stop on Avalon to get home from the peninsula. We have pretty good bike infrastructure most of the way. And no, the Alki bike rental businesses do not operate at that time of night.

  19. […] first reported by Seattle Bike Blog, an expansion of the bike-share network, including part of West Seattle, is part of a city […]

  20. […] city applied for a TIGER grant to massively increase the bike sharing area.  Will an additional 200 stations be enough to cover such a wide area? […]

  21. […] a competitive federal grant comes through later this year, Seattle could see a massive, game-changing expansion of its bike sharing program, Pronto Cycle Share, in the coming years. The infusion of $10 million would allow for a much more […]

  22. […] dense Eastside cities. The program got off the ground with 50 stations last year, and Seattle has a grant pending to expand bike sharing to most of the rest of the city with an additional 250 […]

  23. Selena

    The Georgetown Campus of South Seattle College is on the corner of South Corson and East Marginal Way which is nowhere near a convenient transit stop with all day service. This campus houses the WorkSource training, apprenticeship, industrial manufacturing and certification programs and a large percentage of students are considered underserved populations. Many students are also eligible for (and recipients of) the low-income ORCA Lift. There is no on-campus cafeteria and no food establishments within walking distance. If the Georgetown campus (vs Delridge campus) of South Seattle College received the bike share program there would be dual benefits of access to transit and healthy food choices. To figure out the return on investment for this location would also be pretty straightforward. Figure out how many students are at the campus, currently receive Lift, and then if they would use a Pronto bike. One could even take this a step further by drilling down to the long-term cost of providing only Doritos and soda to populations known to be pre-disposed to high cholesterol and heart disease.

  24. Mason Taylor

    Don’t some electric bikes recharge the batts when the brakes are applied? And/or going downhill? And/or when pedalling without electric assist? My old 1956 3 speed Raleigh bike had Dynohub which generated electricity to power head & tail lights (as long as bike was moving). (Small rechargeable batts were not available.)

    Aren’t there bikes that only kick in with electrical assist when the bike “senses” you need it? And others that let you decide to flip the switch for electrical assistance? One product lets you change front wheel to convert to electric bike. And earlier this year I was surprised to see a guy straddling a single wheel easily going UP Pike (Pine?) Street!

  25. […] A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application. […]

  26. […] Now that the system approaches one year of operations, there are big plans from inside the City of Seattle to take over and dramatically expand the system (see our previous story). […]

  27. […] A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application. […]

  28. […] A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application. […]

  29. […] that investment will get some help from a pending federal TIGER grant proposal. If fully funded, Pronto stations could be within an easy walk of 62 percent of Seattle residents. Today, only 14 percent of residents can easily walk to a […]

  30. […] A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application. […]

  31. […] A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application. […]

  32. […] As we reported previously, the city is in the process of taking ownership of Pronto from the non-profit Puget Sound Bike Share. The city did not win a big Federal grant for a “massive” expansion of the system, but the 2016 budget would still pave the way to double the size of the system. […]

  33. […] months of operation — with the takeover plan and a late summer date for the transition, she said (we reported about those plans in June). At that time, PSBS (whose board includes SDOT membership) gave the […]

  34. […] to success. And to be fair, part of the trouble comes because the city threw a Hail Mary with their impressive Federal TIGER grant proposal, but they didn’t get it. It was a high risk play with huge potential gains. Had they won, we […]

  35. […] plan was to expand a little in 2015, but then the city announced their intention to buy the system and dramatically expand it using federal grant funds (they did not win the competitive grant). Work […]

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