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After week of strong sales, Pronto plans first ever ride ‘free’ day

3A9D583F-F5F7-4457-8F02-E75DFC98B6AAPronto Cycle Share just had its strongest week of new membership sales since autumn October 2014, though the system still has more work to do to catch up to its 2015 membership levels.

124 people signed up during the system’s Pronto Week promotion, General Manager Demi Allen said. That puts membership levels on the upswing for the first time since the end of summer 2015, when many people who signed up before the system launched chose not to renew.

“We were pretty happy,” Allen said of Pronto Week sales. “We’re just going to stay on the marketing. And obviously the the objective is to sell more new memberships than we lose through renewals.”

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The system also had its strongest ridership week of the year, perhaps because Pronto Week happened to coincide with the Viaduct closure when people were looking for other transportation options. But rides are still lagging behind 2015 levels along with memberships, so there is a lot more work to do.

Ride ‘Free’ Day May 20

After a rough start to the year for Pronto’s public image, the system still has a lot of work to do to win back support and gain new riders. So with sponsorship from Chipotle (also in need of an image boost right about now), Pronto will offer its first ever Ride Free Day on Bike Everywhere Day May 20.

People will be able to sign up online from a computer or their phone to get a promo code for a free 24-hour system pass, allowing unlimited 30-minute trips. I put “free” in quotes in the headline because usage fees apply for trips over 30 minutes as usual. Helmets are $2 to rent. Users will still need to dip their credit or debit cards to get a bike, but they won’t need to pay the initial $8 for the day pass.

Working to rebuild the user base

May 2015 memberships were at 2,246, so the current 1,936 is a couple hundred below that mark. It is common for bike share systems to lose a lot of its initial members who sign up out of excitement for the system but don’t end up finding it useful enough for their lives to renew. So you have to gain enough new members to make up for those inevitable losses.

“In San Francisco … they had a renewal rate from year one of about 50 percent,” said Allen. Pronto was seeing renewal rates in the 35–40 percent range, but that was before the system’s future was thrown into uncertainty as the City Council debated for months this winter about whether to buy it.

“During the period where there was debate about whether the system would survive, the renewal rate was lower,” said Allen. And this makes sense, because who is going to invest in a whole year of a service that might only last a couple months?

Pronto’s renewal rate was also hurt by the decision to launch the system in October, yet another lesson for other cities to stick with spring or summer launches.

“When you’re considering renewing … and you’re looking at four months of rain coming up, that’s probably going to affect your decision,” said Allen.

So not only did an October launch put a dampener on the vital initial launch excitement — an irreplaceable marketing opportunity — it also hurt renewals the next year. Pronto Week works in part to get more people may get on a spring-to-spring renewal pattern, when paying $85 on bike share is a bit more exciting.

Pronto has also recently started advertising a monthly payment plan option for annual memberships, and about a third of new members are choosing to pay monthly rather than a lump sum for the year. You save $10 if you pay up front for the year, but paying in monthly chunks of $7.95 is easier for people on a tight budget.

As we reported previously, a month of bike share costs less than Netflix.

For visitors or those who want to try it out, here’s a short video explaining how to buy and use a short-term pass:

Here’s the full press release from Pronto:

Pronto Cycle Share and Chipotle are teaming up to celebrate Bike Everywhere Day by offering free 24-hour passes to the public on Friday, May 20.

“We’re grateful to Chipotle for creating this terrific opportunity for new users to see what bike share is all about,” noted Demi Allen, General Manager of Pronto Cycle Share. “Pronto allows riders to customize their transit experience and navigate the city on their own terms in a fun and healthy way. We look forward to sharing the experience with many new faces on May 20th.”

This promotion coincides with Bike Everywhere Day, an annual Cascade Bicycle Club event promoting bike commuting with dozens of celebration stations around Seattle on National Bike to Work Day. Pronto will be giving away free Chipotle coupons and other freebies at 2nd & Vine and Pine & Summit from 6:30-9am that morning.

Starting today, individuals can sign up at prontocycleshare.com/freeride to obtain a promotion code for 24-hours of unlimited short trips with Pronto Cycle Share on May 20. The promotion is valid at any of the 54 Pronto Cycle Share stations in Seattle. Station locations are found on the Pronto website (secure.prontocycleshare.com/map) or in the Spot Cycle app.

This promotion comes on the heels of Pronto Week, a celebration of Seattle’s bike share system. Pronto Week was a great success, with the largest number of new individual membership sign-ups since the weeks surrounding Pronto’s 2014 launch. Pronto Week also generated the highest ridership of 2016 to date. Pronto continues its marketing and service optimization efforts to build on its current momentum in system membership and ridership.

How to Ride for Free on May 20

Register today at prontocycleshare.com/freeride to receive a free 24-Hour Access Pass code by email. Then, on Friday, May 20, use that code at any Pronto Cycle Share station to buy a 24-Hour Access Pass ($8 value) – free thanks to Chipotle. A credit or debit card is required, as standard usage fees apply to all trips over 30 minutes. Riders can take an unlimited number of rides of 30 minutes or less rides during the 24-hour period without charge – they can start a new ride at the kiosk of any Pronto station by dipping their credit card for validation and entering the number of their selected bike. Helmets are available for rental at each station, or users can bring their own. Users are encouraged to keep rental helmets for the duration of their pass. Registration is open until 11:59pm on May 20.

Learn more about Free Ride Day: prontocycleshare.com/freeride

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13 responses to “After week of strong sales, Pronto plans first ever ride ‘free’ day”

  1. ChefJoe

    When will the 45 minute time limit go into effect ?

    1. ChefJoe

      Or has the marketing department not caught up with what was announced earlier and reported by SBB as –
      “But maybe the bigger news for members is that starting May 2, you will get 45 minutes of free ride time per trip. Since Pronto launched, the free ride time has only lasted 30 minutes, which is not enough time to get from one end of the service area to the other (well, unless you are really hauling ass, which is not the point of bike share).”

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      The 45-minute limit is for members only. Another perk.

      Short-term passes (24-hour and 3-day) are still 30 minutes.

      1. RDPence

        Bummer. Time to get some creative marketing people into this program. Short ride times just make no sense.

  2. MikeG

    My family bought two yearly subscriptions during Pronto week to support the bike share system. Despite living on the eastside, I think we’ll be able to use the system for getting around the city when we go to Seattle and don’t want to worry about our personal bike security.

  3. Todd

    This program is defeated. Time to scrap it.

  4. William

    Quite a contrast in the 2 articles today. Gordon has a vision and plan to get Seattle moving to a safe bike network. Tom’s plugging a bike sharing network that will never work well until Gordon’s vision is a reality. I know where I want the city and SDOT to devote their limited bandwidth.

  5. Randy

    This is, indeed, superb news about Pronto. In one short week, Pronto has gone from serving 0.27% of Seattle’s population of 665,000 to serving 0.29% of the population. And at a cost of only $6 million-plus, by some estimates.

    At this astounding rate it growth, it should take only another 8 months to reach 3,000 members — thats’s the number of members SDOT erroneously told the City Council that Pronto had at the time the Council voted to bail out the program. (That’s assuming, of course, that everyone currently a member remains a member.)

  6. dreeves

    I find pronto to be an exceptionally useful way to get around town – have been a member since launch. It plugs a lot of holes in the transit system, and it’s fast! As long as you’re not going uphill :-)

    Any time you’re launching a service that expects some degree of behavior change, it’s not going to take off quickly – but with some vision, good marketing and commitment, I think it’ll do well here.

    I would also love to eventually see them adopt electric bikes – I do think the hills are a barrier to bike share.

    1. Breadbaker

      I’ve taken it uphill from Seventh and Union to across from the Capitol Hill Link station about half the days since the station opened, mainly to get the exercise and get in shape. In downtown rush hour traffic, the cars are moving slowly enough so that climbing the hill on Pike is pretty safe. It’s slow, obviously, but I’m almost 60 and I can make it without getting out of breath.

      1. Internalist

        Agreed, the low end of the seven speed hub (1 – 3) is perfectly suited for hill climbing. You’ll spin out at the high end on descents but since these aren’t exactly thrill machines that’s not a big deal. But that first gear is pretty much the equivalent of a small chainring on triple cranks. Pine up to capitol hill, 15th up to beacon, 3rd on the north end of queen anne, all perfectly fine with an internal hub even with a heavy bike.

  7. poncho

    Now they need to relocate some stations like those stations on Union St downtown over to Pine. Union is a terrible street for bikes, it starts as an off ramp from I-5. Move stations closer to UW station and the Burke Gilman and not at the bottom of steps on the west side of Montlake Triangle.

  8. […] don’t forget that you can get a free 24-hour pass to ride Pronto Cycle Share today (unlimited 30-minute trips). So if you still haven’t even […]

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