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U Link opening is the perfect chance to show Seattle why they bought Pronto

Base map from James Wing’s Prontolyzer.

Now that the city owns Pronto (or will very soon, anyway), the people of Seattle need to understand why they bought it.

Well, Saturday, big crowds are expected to turn out at Capitol Hill and UW Stations for the long-awaited opening of the U-Link light rail extension. You could hardly find a better time to demonstrate bike share’s potential than this party.

It will be extremely disappointing if no bike share station is present (or at least within view) at each station on Saturday. Even if the station location is only temporary, Pronto needs to be there to greet the crowds. This is what bike share was made for.

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As we discussed on Twitter yesterday, one short-term option for Capitol Hill Station would be to temporarily move the 12th and Denny station two blocks west into the new Denny Way light rail plaza (as shown in the map above). There’s a ton of open space for a station, and it’s directly in front of a light rail exit and adjacent to the Broadway Bikeway.

People have questioned both these investments, so let’s show them how, finally, they all work together.

Base image from King County Metro (we added the Pronto station)
Base image from King County Metro (we added the Pronto station)

UW Station already has an imperfect-but-workable station a two-minute walk away on Pacific near a major bus stop. The biggest drawbacks are that it is not easily visible from the light rail station and, due to trail construction, does not have a direct and easy link to the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Pronto can’t do anything about the trail construction other than wait it out like the rest of us (scheduled to open this summer), but having a station in the light rail plaza (or, my personal favorite, up on the walk/bike bridge) would provide an easier point of access that is hard to miss.

Base image from Pronto, modified by Seattle Bike Blog
Base image from Pronto, modified by Seattle Bike Blog (the UW hat is the station’s official pictogram)

Because UW Station is so far from the heart of campus and U District businesses, Pronto will likely be the easiest and fastest way to access light rail in this very dense neighborhood. So cutting out a two-minute walk to the nearest station will only make it that much more convenient.

I can’t wait for Saturday when these light rail stations dramatically improve transportation not just in these neighborhoods, but in any part of the city with access to light rail or one of the newly-frequent bus lines. And bike share can and should play a big role in this change.

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15 responses to “U Link opening is the perfect chance to show Seattle why they bought Pronto”

  1. I did not fully appreciate how crazy some of the U District station locations were. I knew about the Hec Ed station being on ground-level, which is bonkers, but the stations nearest the UW Medical Center are just silly. Ridership has to be way low. Time to move the Hec Ed station to the Burke-Gilman Trail and the Pacific Pl Station to the Rainier Vista-to-UW Link Station Ped Bridge. And move the Columbia/San Juan station to almost anywhere else. Agua Verde would be better, or maybe somewhere on University Way in North U-District, such as in-front of Jet City Improv.

    1. Jake VanderPlas

      Agreed. I would *love* to use Pronto to get around campus, but often the walk to/from the nearest stations on each end is longer than the trip I want to make!

    2. Tim F

      Keep in mind that moving a station to somewhere in such a small system moves it away from something else. Move it near a bus stop, it may not be near housing or retail. Near housing, a workplace might lose access. Near a workplace and it may not be near good biking infrastructure anymore. These placements are all compromises. Truly useful systems have hundreds of docks. Cap Hill has maybe a dozen. Same with UW.

      Until there is some real expansion, it’s more productive to match people interested in riding Pronto with routes that are already available. I do agree with moving the Cal Anderson dock because it works so poorly with the Broadway bike lane for getting to Link, but in general tuning dock locations gets you at best a 2x increase in ridership. 2x not much = not much. Expansion is key, and in the meantime it’s probably more productive matching potential riders to routes that do exist via bike-to-work month and something like the Cascade rides for beginners. Or the Commute Seattle workshops.

      None of these station placements would look particularly poor if there were already 50 docks in the UW area with a density of 8 per square mile.

  2. Also, there needs to be a Pronto station in Red Square.

    1. Alkibkr

      I’ll second that. Convenient for performances at Meany Hall, too.

  3. Tim F

    Also the full station map is here: https://secure.prontocycleshare.com/map/
    And Google maps does a fairly good job of planning bike routes. You can also buy a year pass in advance there (it’s a much better deal than the short term passes). It’s fine to just check out a bike and ride it up and down the trail (or bike lane), but after the novelty wears off, the ‘last-mile’ commute or errand can be a real time-saver.

    Some docks that look useful for getting to/from Capitol Hill Link are:
    -Seattle University at E Columbia St & 12th Ave
    -Central Coop (Madison) at E Pine St & 16th Ave
    -Frye Art Museum and St. James Cathedral at Terry Ave & Columbia St
    -Top Pot Donuts, Toscana Pizzeria and Summit Public House are block North of Summit Ave E & E Republican St

    As for UW, unless something changed very recently I thought the Burke-Gilman Trail is open to the East of ULink. The stations in the graphic above are good choices for the most useful ones for getting to/from ULink. I noticed a restaurant with a deck on Sand Point not too far from the Seattle Children’s dock, or U-Village is not a terribly long walk from the Blakely/24th stop (we really need more docks and density). Westbound note the dock on the Ave is at 42nd/University Way (follow the detour West on Stevens Way/Grant Ln/Campus Pkwy).

    Note also a lot of the downtown Link stops are a short walk from Pronto docks on the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane.

  4. The BG trail is open to the east of the plaza, yes. Closed to the west – to the west, there’s a hard to use detour that gets you back to the trail eventually via Stevens way and 40th.

    I’ve been in the habit of pointing out that the station nearest Husky Stadium exists. Then I went and looked at it, and they couldn’t have put it more out of the way (though technically still a two minute walk) if they’d tried. You can’t ride directly there from the station on the path, as it’s down either some stairs or down an accessibility ramp with a sharp turn. You have to go on the sidewalk to get your bike to the pronto station. If you didn’t know it was there, there’s no way you’d stumble upon it.

  5. Alkibkr

    I wonder why two docks at 9th and Mercer? Something to do with a sponsorship? Or maybe they really need two docks at that location. If not it would be nice to move one to another location that cries out for one.

    1. Tim F

      They’re sponsored.

  6. asdf2

    The IMA Station is in a very poor location, that is useful for reaching the IMA building and nothing else – any other destination requires out of direction travel. This station should move to be right next to the light rail station.

    I like the idea of putting the Pronto Station at the top of the bridge, minimizing the vertical distance required to bike from the Pronto Station to the Burke-Gilman Trail, UW campus, or anywhere useful. For the vertical gap between the bridge and the train platform, there is something called an escalator which does the job much better than a bike.

    In practice, though, I am somewhat pessimistic about the prospect of any of the stations moving in anticipation of Saturday’s launch.

  7. […] E Harrison and another at 12th Ave and E Denny Way. The Seattle Bike Blog has raised the idea of shifting the 12th Ave Pronto station to be closer to the light rail […]

  8. […] The bike angle — Seattle Bike Blog hijacks the train to make the case that the city should use the big celebration as an opportunity to showcase its newly acquired bike share. […]

  9. Eli

    This is why Cascade’s argument that we needed to support Pronto because big, successful things like Amazon and Microsoft started small and grew big feels so utterly bogus and disingenuous.

    If Pronto was being managed by Amazon (circa 1997), Jeff Bezos would be personally sending an “!” e-mail asking why the hell the docks weren’t relocated in time for the light rail opening. It’s obvious as dirt that you’d put your bike share closer than 3 blocks away from the light opening.

    And if it hadn’t gotten done, Bezos would have been out there himself personally moving them, after firing the people who didn’t see the obvious business opportunity and jump on it.

    Same thing for Microsoft. And there wouldn’t be a blogger having to write posts like this.

    And that’s in a nutshell why Pronto is — thus far — a failed bike share system, and Microsoft and Amazon grew to be huge and successful (without needing active taxpayer bailouts.)

    1. Alkibkr

      They are moving one Pronto station to the Capitol Hill Link station in time for the launch tomorrow. Unfortunately it was a dock I often use to get up to First Hill (Frye Museum). I guess I was in the minority using that dock.

  10. […] transit system. Just in time for Saturday’s opening of Capitol Hill Station — and after a little advocacy — a Pronto station is being moved to the newly re-opened one-way Denny at […]

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