When Mayor Ed Murray presented his proposed 2016 budget, he had to assume there would be no replacement for Bridging the Gap, and it was pretty devastating. There was an exciting $5 million one-time expenditure for expanding Pronto Cycle Share, but the budget for biking, walking and safe streets was dismal. The sidewalk maintenance budget would be zeroed out, and the trails and bike paths budget would have declined from about $6 million annually to $1.3 million, for example.
But that won’t happen because you all approved Move Seattle by a commanding 17-point margin (as of the most recent count). The levy adds nearly $100 million to the 2016 transportation budget, including massive increases in biking, walking and safe streets investments.
These additions as well as other transportation elements of the budget — including funding to expand Pronto Cycle Share and a proposal to focus ten percent of red light camera funds on safe streets projects — sailed through a major Budget Committee meeting Monday. Nothing is official until the full Council votes on the budget next Monday, but yesterday’s committee meeting (which included all Councilmembers except Bruce Harrell) is typically where most of the big budget changes happen.
Pronto would double in size, with Council permission
The Council did add a proviso to the Pronto funds requiring SDOT to present an expansion plan and get Council approval before moving forward, an action supported by Cascade Bicycle Club (full disclosure: My spouse Kelli works in the Cascade Advocacy Department. I’m gonna be writing this disclosure a lot, it seems).
The Pronto funds attracted a bit of attention when the mayor first proposed the budget, and this proviso is intended to provide extra oversight on the city’s investment. The Seattle Process™ can often be too much, but there are enough questions about Pronto’s expansion that presenting a plan to get Council sign off doesn’t seem egregious. The trick will be getting the plan together and approved fast enough to get the stations on the ground for the summer.
The $5 million investment would be matched by $1 million from Motivate, the company that operates Pronto, on the condition that the system grows to at least 100 stations. Motivate has determined that an expansion that big would be necessary to ensure more sustainable operational income if they are going to take on financial responsibility for operational costs.
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.
Red light cameras will fund safety
The city’s school zone speed cameras keep proving to be hugely successful. Not only does the presence of cameras immediately slow traffic, but the money they raise goes directly into Safe Routes to School projects. And projected 2016 revenue for the existing cameras will fall nearly $800,000 short, which is actually good news. It’s a revenue stream that puts itself out of business by reducing speeding in school zones and, therefore, raising less money. This is government at its best. It’s almost beautiful.
But, of course, we want to keep funding Safe Routes to School. So in part to offset this reduction in the Safe Routes budget, outgoing Councilmember Nick Licata put forward a change to move ten percent (about $400,000) of the existing red light camera funds into the same safe streets account as the school zone speed camera money. Move Seattle will invest another $800,000 into the account.
“While no one wants to get a ticket while driving, knowing fines go towards making streets safer and more predictable takes some of the sting out,” said Seattle Neighborhood Greenways Director Cathy Tuttle, who has been pushing for more funding sources for Safe Routes to School. “There is an added bonus knowing that putting money into intersection improvements improve behavior of all road users.”
Other budget notes
The Council also responded to actions by Rainier Beach High School students by adding $1 million to the budget to expand access to free or discounted ORCA cards for high school and middle school students. This is awesome.
Thanks to Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and pushing from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, development of the new “megablock” site at Mercer and Dexter (where Broad Street used to be) is now instructed to consider extending the Mercer bikeway. This could be an important step toward connecting the bikeway to other South Lake Union bike routes, something that really should have been done during the initial project. We’ve ranted about this before.
You can dig through all the Council changes considered yesterday in this PDF.
12 responses to “Move Seattle saves the transpo budget + Pronto gets oversight + Red light cameras will fund school safety”
Do we have any clue yet how much Pronto is going to expand, now that we don’t have the federal grant? I hope they focus on station density in known-bikeable regions, rather than trying to spread stations loosely across the city.
I can sort of understand ignoring headlines and pull quotes and the like as they often are just noise, but still, Tom did write (in a large size) “Pronto would double in size, with Council permission” and also in the body text: “The $5 million investment would be matched by $1 million from Motivate, the company that operates Pronto, on the condition that the system grows to at least 100 stations.”
Now the latter says “at least” allowing the possibility of more that that, but considering that the first 50 cost about 5 million, if I recall correctly, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot more. I should be obvious to any one that too low of density is useless, but with only doubling the size I can’t really imagine what they would cover, well, considering the existing presence in the U district, then Wallingford and Fremont, and filling in the sparse coverage between downtown and the areas to the north perhaps seems plausible, particularly considering the number of bikes counted on the Fremont bridge is many times Pronto’s total ridership , but beyond that they are still way too small to do much with useful station density.
Since Tom mentioned both Kelli and ORCA, some time last week on the Tweets sidebar, there was a Tweet from Kelli about her desire to see Pronto combined with a transit pass. But note the last sentence in this section of the Wikipedia article on Citi bike : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citi_Bike#Payment sure, it is Wikipedia, but note that an actual IRS document is cited. One might also look at the first sentence in that section, if Motivate is interested in not hemorrhaging money in Seattle, I see something similar in our future, well, except that if there is insufficient coverage, people will not pay that price, so then what?
I have a question about the school zone speed cameras, does anyone know if drivers really slow down, or do they just move over to parallel streets and continue to drive like maniacs? Considering that the actual school zones don’t seem to be particularly large, I’d think many people walking or biking to school will be traveling on streets outside of the school zone.
I agree, the budget attachment specifies at least 100 docks, and there’s probably not money for much more.
There was an original phased expansion plan before the TIGER expansion was proposed, and that might still makes sense as a guide. It looks like it would maybe double the size of the too-small University area network (currently about 15 docks), add coverage to Fremont with narrow connections West and North of Lake Union. There would also be expansion South and East of the core network. An expansion like that could actually go a long way to improve the usage of the University area network and would draw Fremont commuters along Dexter at least as much as the BG trail. SE expansion makes sense for network density (which drives usage) and equity considerations and avoids creating a network with a big lake-union shaped hole in the middle. Some infill would make sense too because the original plan had about twice as many bikes in the same area (number of docks would be a better measure).
I’m guessing switching over to electric assist bikes similar to Birmingham’s (?!) new Zyp system might still be on the table as well. It’s the first all-electric system I know of without extra per-use charges, and is otherwise similar to Seattle’s current system, so that’s something to watch. I’m torn on electric vs. more docks, but if it helps reduce re-balancing costs and is not an excuse to skimp on density any more than we’ve already done it could be worth it to switch while the network is still small.
I imagine they’re waiting until the budget is finalized before proposing any specifics, though.
I bet the CD and Yesler Terrace will be included in the expansion, since the Mayor promised that previously. And I hope there is some infill and station relocation work to put existing stations to better use. The Urbanist wrote a great post recently about the need for better transit hub locations: http://www.theurbanist.org/2015/11/11/in-advance-of-expansion-improve-station-placement-before/
We don’t need to wait for the expansion to start relocating stations.
I hope Fremont makes the cut, since demand is so clearly already there and Westlake should open not so long after. And the U District arm of the system needs help, perhaps with connections to (through?) Wallingford and by better orienting the system around UW Station connections. Maybe the U can include memberships with a their U-Pass somehow?
But I also think North Beacon Hill has big potential for bike share success, and would help set up a more successful launch in Rainier Valley. But already we’re exhausting the 50 new stations…
I would like to see how sponsorships can help boost system growth.
But spreading them too far apart in order to hit more areas would probably be a bad idea. It’s a lot harder to get momentum to go back and fill-in the gaps than it is to expand the boundary. I really liked the big expansion idea because it was big enough to get to Rainier Valley without sabotaging itself. Because a weak Rainier Valley launch would be worse than noting. I want it to get there and be successful.
Ultimately, a successful Rainier Valley bike share system is going to grow along Rainier and MLK, and that will be hampered until there are bike lanes on at least one of those streets. Today I can see people taking Pronto to and from, say, Columbia City Station and the neighborhood’s commercial core a lot. But bike share works best when connected to the larger network.
That’s why North Rainier bike lanes are at the top of my personal priority list. More on that soon, stay tuned…
I was able to find this info on the “megablock” there is a meeting about vacating broad street on the 19th. SDOT wants to sell the block to a developer in order to fund the Mercer west project but it could be an opportunity to get other public benefits which are usually required to gain approval for a street vacation such as a bikeway extension.
Please do not forget that the reason bills like Move Seattle were needed was Tim Eyman’s original excretion in 1999, I-395, which cut car tab fees drastically enough to bleed and butcher transit funding for the whole state.
Actually was I-695. But yeah, I love how the people that voted for it are the same people that complain that the state isn’t doing enough to fix our infrastructure.
Actually, I-695 was declared unconstitutional. Our elected lawmakers considered 56% of the vote “resounding support” and wrote up their own version of $30 tabs that they passed on their own.
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