Seattle Introduces Bike Sharing Service
By Jackson Quall
Originally published in the November 2014 issue.
They’re finally here! And they’re lime green and splattered with Alaska Airlines advertising! We all have a brand new way to get from point A to point B. Enter Pronto: Seattle’s new bike share service.
Here’s the premise: There are now 500 green bikes stationed at 50 stations sprinkled all around Downtown, Capitol Hill, South and East Lake Union and The University District, effectively creating a pear shaped territory. Once you find a station near you, walk up to the kiosk and shell out $8 for a 24/hr pass, read every line of the 89 page user agreement, push several more buttons, grab a bicycle (and a helmet if you don’t have your own) and you’re off. You have to return the bicycle in half an hour or suffer a $2 fee, but you can take as many trips in that 24 hour period as you want. Memberships are also available to those who anticipate utilizing the Pronto chariots on a regular basis. The memberships are priced at $85 per year.
The Service was officially launched on Monday October 13th. Since then it has not been uncommon to routinely spot the flashy green bikes being steered around the city by adventurous souls. On the first day, Pronto boasted 472 rides, though it didn’t rain that day. As winter progresses, Seattle’s trademark weather phenomenon will undoubtedly prove to be an interesting factor in the public’s use of Pronto. Capitol Hill Seattle Blog pointed out that “some 500 rides per day were taken on Seattle’s new Pronto bike share with about 42% of those traveling around Capitol Hill in the system’s first week of operations.”
Of the Capitol Hill pronto stations the one at East Harrison and Broadway saw the most usage within the first week of the bikeshare is launching, with a total of 305 people either depositing bikes or picking them up at the kiosks, according to numbers posted on the Capitol Hill Seattle blog. The Harvard Avenue and East Pine street station right outside our campus came in 4th with a total of 158 instances of usage.
Other cities around the country have had bike shares for quite some time. Citi Bike, New York City’s bike share program has been going for over a year and boasts a staggering 6,000 bikes. New York’s is the largest system in the United States and is owned by the same company that operates Pronto. Based out of Portland, Oregon, The name of this company is Alta Bicycle Share. It operates several systems throughout North America and Australia.
The primary sponsor of the bikes, to the tune of $2.5 million, is Alaska Airlines, whose logo can be seen pasted to the rear fender of the bicycles. Other sponsors include Seattle Children’s Hospital, Group Health, REI, Vulcan, and Fred Hutch.
The Seattle Transit Blog pointed out that Pronto stations are located within wealthier neighborhoods of Seattle such as Capitol Hill and downtown, bringing up issues low-income access. However they also note that bikeshare programs function as cluster networks, with most of the riders using the service in one way trips, requiring numerous stations within close proximity in a high density area such as Capitol Hill. Mayor Ed Murray has a line item in his proposed budget to fund Pronto service expansion to the Central District and Yesler Terrace.
“Thanks to Mayor Ed Murray’s commitment of a $600,000 allocation from the City of Seattle’s 2015 budget and an additional $400,000 CMAQ grant procured by the City, our first expansion will take place next year in Seattle’s Central District, Little Saigon and Yesler Terrace,” said Holly Houser, Pronto’s executive director.
“The pace of additional growth will depend primarily on funding from private sponsorships, public grants and user-generated revenues, with a goal of eventually reaching approximately 2,200 bikes and 220 stations throughout Seattle and King County,” she added.
Seeing as how successful bike shares have been in other cities, after one year the bay area’s bike share system has over 5,000 members, it’s exciting to see how our brand new system will pan out. Imagine if you missed your bus by just a few seconds on the way to work? No sweat, hop on a pronto bike and you’re well on your way! No third and final tardiness write up for you.
King County law states that anyone riding a bicycle on the street must wear a helmet. If you don’t have your own you can borrow one at the kiosk for no additional cost. The helmet system runs on the honor system, so Pronto is hoping that their users are the trustworthy type. People have expressed the risk of someone returning an unclean or defective helmet but Pronto insists that each one is inspected before it’s re-deployed.
Taking a pronto bike from the U District to Downtown and back will still be cheaper on the bus however. So what are they good for? Getting from the top of Capitol Hill to the Downtown core would work great. The other way around would work fine too if you are in decent shape. Those who have been neglecting their jumping jacks however might have bone to pick with Seattle’s hills.
“It’s good incentive to get out and ride around on bikes” says Central student Kevin Soto. “Though I’m a little worried that it might be too much too quick. I think they need to add bikes a little more gradually.”
Will Seattle’s bike sharers be able to make it up our notorious hills? Will helmet hair suddenly come roaring back in style? Will Seattleites have the budget for another transportation service? Only time will tell.