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Support the Pronto expansion at today’s 2016 budget hearing

A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach "vulnerable" populations. Map from Seattle's pending TIGER grant application.
A plan to expand Pronto aims to reach “vulnerable” populations. Map from Seattle’s pending TIGER grant application.

Pronto is just one year old, and already people have pedaled the equivalent distance from the earth to the moon and halfway back. That’s not too shabby considering the average trip on Pronto is less than 20 minutes and only 14 percent of Seattle residents live within an easy walk of a station.

Well, that could all change, but it’s going to need your support. We’ve already outlined the city’s plan for a “massive” expansion of the bike share system. If funded fully, the system could be within an easy walk of 62 percent of Seattle residents. The expansion is especially focused on access to transit and reaching more low-income residents.

Mayor Ed Murray proposed funding for the expansion with a $5 million one-time budget expenditure in 2016, hopefully bolstered by more funding from a Federal grant request.

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You can support the mayor’s budget funding today at a public hearing on the 2016 budget. 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers in City Hall.

The Seattle Times Editorial Board has come out against the Pronto proposal arguing in part that we should build out the Bicycle Master Plan first. That’s rich coming from a Board that also doesn’t want to pass Move Seattle, our city’s current effort to fund all kinds of transportation improvements including the Bicycle Master Plan.

Pronto is urging members to support the budget at the hearing and by emailing City Council. Here’s the email they sent:

On Tuesday, October 20th, the Seattle City Council has an important budget hearing that could have a big impact on the future of bike share in Seattle.

Will you take a minute to tell your City Councilmember that you think bike share is important and should expand?

Pronto is excited to see that the Mayor is proposing funding to help bring bike share to more Seattle neighborhoods. Residents and visitors have taken over 145,00 trips using Pronto, and each one represents a choice to get around the city in an affordable and healthy way that helps reduce traffic congestion. With extra resources, Pronto can extend its network with more stations and bikes to become an even more important part of Seattle’s transportation system.

Some suggested language for a note to Council is below. It’s important that you send this note as soon as possible as the hearing is tomorrow.

If you’re free tomorrow night (Tuesday, 10/20) at 5:30pm, and want to give your comments in person, you can attend the hearing at:

Council Chambers
600 4th Ave
2nd Floor
Seattle, WA 98104

Thanks in advance for your time and helping push for a bigger, better Pronto.

The Pronto Team

Sample Letter to Seattle City Council

Re: Support a Bigger, Better Bike Share

To: [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

Dear Councilmember:

I live at [INSERT ADDRESS], and I ride Pronto. It’s a great service that gives me more choices for getting around Seattle. However, it would be far more useful to me and thousands of other Seattleites if the service were expanded and covered additional neighborhoods. It would offer me, and others like me, another option to get where I need to go or connect to the bus and light rail.

Right now, the City has the opportunity to allocate $5 million to help expand Pronto, just 1% of SDOT’s budget request this year. This relatively small amount of funding would allow thousands more people to take advantage of this affordable and healthy form of transportation and help minimize congestion on our streets.

That’s why I hope you will support this important piece of Seattle’s budget.

Thank you,


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12 responses to “Support the Pronto expansion at today’s 2016 budget hearing”

  1. jay

    Why would I want to do that? no, seriously, why?

    Being well aware of Hanlon’s razor and the Peter Principal, I am just being facetious when I speculate that Pronto was designed to fail so as to discredit bicycle riding, but sometimes I have my doubts. Yea, yea, I know about Paris and Hangzhou, but Seattle is neither of those, it is not even NYC, who’s bike share, while very popular, was, last I read, somewhat iffy financially (though that was before Motivate), even with an annual membership considerably more expensive than Pronto’s, and no helmets or expensive e-bikes to maintain. Really, the closest comparison is Melbourne, AU and Vancouver, BC. Oh, that’s right, Vancouver doesn’t have a PBS.

    “The Seattle Times Editorial Board has come out against the Pronto proposal arguing in part that we should build out the Bicycle Master Plan first.”
    What a bunch of copycats, I already said that (more or less) http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/10/13/happy-first-birthday-pronto-a-look-at-use-and-how-the-bike-share-system-can-grow/#comment-664719

    “This relatively small amount of funding would allow thousands more people to take advantage of this affordable and healthy form of transportation and help minimize congestion on our streets.”
    Supposing that “relatively small amount” is the 5 million from the city (ignoring the grants that I doubt they’ll get) it is about 25 times as much as spent on http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/10/16/new-protected-bike-lanes-in-ravenna-complete-smart-new-connections-at-a-low-cost/
    Sure, thousands more people riding bicycle sounds good, but remember that well over 15 thousand were interested enough to signup and log trips for the bike month challenge (and then rode over 2 million miles, and >300,000 trips in one month), and there are about 4000 crossings (presumably 2000 people making a round trip) of the Fremont bridge on a good day. The potential for privately owned bikes is likely far greater than even a good PBS in a bike friendly city, and both would benefit greatly from better infrastructure, so why not do the infrastructure first? (remember the 2nd Ave cycle track? (the one that doesn’t go much of anywhere yet))

    As far as “form of transportation and help minimize congestion on our streets.”, Pronto is a very minor component, encouraging (and increasing) the far greater number of people riding their own bikes is probably a better use of any available money, at least at first, in the long run, good infrastructure is likely even more important for a casual PBS rider.

    The possibility of grants targeted at specific projects means this is not exactly a zero sum game, but it does have some similarity.

    “become an even more important part of Seattle’s transportation system.”, LOL! perhaps you mean “become just slightly more than totally insignificant”?

    1. Gary

      The main advantage of a large Pronto system is that is makes the other Mass transit systems better. You ride the last mile on a bicycle vs having a stop every other block, it becomes a stop every 4 blocks. Yes this is a problem for those who are disabled and perhaps we should have an “off load anywhere along the route, and “pickup anywhere along the route” if you have a wheelchair. We could use a cellphone app to alert the driver to the need to stop and where. Sort of like flagging down the bus or train in Alaska.

      And yes I would love to see more infrastructure but we’ve been pushing that rope for 40 years and we haven’t gotten very far. Better to put more voters on bikes and let them see for themselves how bad it is.

  2. Ballard Resident

    Bike share is an attractive alternative to owning a bike if one is concerned about bike theft.

    I like the idea but don’t feel safe using it downtown and there none of these bikes in Ballard. I’d love to grab one to ride to/from downtown (on the Elliot Bay trail) or around Ballard. I don’t see that happening in the near future though.

    I used the system in DC to get between monuments which was handy but it seemed so much safer and easier than Seattle.

    1. Law Abider

      As a fellow Ballard resident, I’m still not going to get a membership, seeing as the Pronto limits are south of Market and east of 15th, effectively cutting out the majority of Ballard’s density. So living north of Market and west of 15th, Pronto is still useless for day to day use.

      I hope whomever drew the cutoff line there, instead of, oh I don’t know, 24th Ave and 65th St, should be fired, out of a cannon, into the sun.

    2. z7

      It’s also fantastic to not have to lift your bike downstairs from your apartment (because you’re worried about theft).

      I support Pronto in concept, pan it in current execution, but will support it if it enables the Fremont / Ballard -> Husky Stadium trip along the Burke Gilman.

  3. Gene Balk

    In fairness, Tom, the Times editorial was specifically saying that the $5 million from the city’s general fund that they want to invest in Pronto would be better spent going toward projects on the Bicycle Master Plan. That doesn’t seem to contradict their opposition to Prop 1…

    Of course, I personally support Prop. 1. I want the Bike Master Plan fully implemented AND an expanded Pronto, too. So I really hope we don’t wind up having to make choices between the two. But if we do, there is no question that implementing the Bicycle Master Plan will have a much greater impact for those of us who bikes as transportation on a daily basis in Seattle.

  4. Tim F

    Just yesterday I reluctantly got off the 65 bus to have dinner in Wedgwood with family, knowing I’d probably have a half-hour walk back up to Meadowbrook after. Yup, just missed a 65 on the way out. Pronto bikes would really tie the long narrow business corridor along 35th Ave in NE Seattle together and augment the bus system (which is also due to be expanded). There’s already bike lanes (though they could be better) as well as a parallel Greenway. The Lake City/Northgate connection along 125th could similarly benefit. I had a similar long walk getting home after Lake City errands earlier this week. Sand Point is so close to Children’s Hospital. Right along the Burke Gilman, and there’s also a stretched-out business district along Sand Point Way. Those are just areas that I’m most familiar with.

    I often forget and leave my personal bike in my other coat pocket, at which times I’m really grateful to be near a Pronto station.

  5. Enduser

    How might a heavily subsidized Pronto help an area such as Rainier Beach with it’s Safe Routes to School program?

  6. asdf2

    With two new light rail stations opening next year, especially the one at Husky Stadium so close to the Burke-Gilman Trail, Pronto has the potential to be a big part of how a the entire Burke-Gilman trail corridor – from Wallingford all the way to Magnusun Park – accesses the station. Almost anywhere along the Burke-Gilman corridor, access to the station will be quicker by bike than by bus – even in a slow Pronto bike.

    Now, one might argue that you could just ride your own bike and lock it up at the station racks, but as we all know, lock up a bike at a light rail station, all day, every day, the bike will eventually get stolen – it’s just a matter of time. By eliminating the theft issue, Pronto becomes quite useful, even for people that already have their own bikes.

    There’s also people traveling in the reverse direction who may not want to lug their bike on and off the trains or pedal all the way – Pronto will work for them too, or at least it would if the system expands.

    1. Ints

      Leveraging the BGT would be transformative but it looks like the city drew a line up 25th AV NE that is the boundary of their expanded Pronto service area. It would be great if they could look at expanding out along the BGT to Magnuson Park as there are populations in and around the park that would benefit greatly from this and some of them would definitely meet the city’s “vulnerable populations” criteria. Single-parent families and low-income housing are in the park, and there is student housing just south plus elderly populations in the surrounding condominium complexes.

  7. Stephen M

    As a bicycling and busing commuter who doesn’t mind walking a bit for a bus that makes less frequent stops I’m struggling to make the case for adding bikeshare to my commute mix and I don’t think major expansion will change the equation much. Fully implementing the Bike Master Plan (BMP) on the other hand, would be huge, for me, but especially for folks who would like to bike but are rightly too scared by our current infrastructure.

    If this is an either/or question – and while financially it may not be (due to alternate funding sources) but politically it is (if Pronto continues to fail despite massively subsidized expansion we may never implement the BMP) then I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the Seattle Times. BMP first. It’ll make biking in Seattle and Pronto expansion both more viable.

  8. Richard Schwartz

    Cycling proponents can cite all the numbers they want but the eyes don’t lie. Anyone who stands in one place for half an hour at ANY LOCATION in Seattle will clearly observe that scores of pedestrians and vehicles pass by for every bike that is observed. I recently spent a full day walking around downtown Chicago, which is touted as a model bike city, on a sunny warm day and saw almost no cyclists. In addition the bike share racks had almost no bikes in use. The impression that is being pushed by bike enthusiasts that cycling represents a significant element of the transportation mix is a dishonest ideological scam which is sucking up taxpayer money. But then as we see everyday in the news, ideologues aren’t interested in facts.

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