If a competitive federal grant comes through later this year, Seattle could see a massive, game-changing expansion of its bike sharing program, Pronto Cycle Share, in the coming years. The infusion of $10 million would allow for a much more rapid enlargement of the program’s service area over the current growth model based mostly on funding from sponsorships. In the meantime, ridership is approaching 4,000 trips a week across the first wave of stations in the system.
But while that service area expansion would envelope the Central District (and much more) by the end of 2017, it will push back plans to bring bike sharing to the neighborhood this year.
Here’s what Pronto director Holly Houser told CHS about the change in plans:
The City had originally allocated $600k for expansion of bike share into the Central District, Yesler Terrace and Little Saigon neighborhoods in 2015. They have since replaced that funding commitment with a much more aggressive plan to expand bike share city-wide in 2016.
Last year, Mayor Ed Murray’s first budget included funds to expand Pronto to the Central District and Yesler Terrace in 2015.
The city finds out in September if it won all or part of the the TIGER grant that will help fund the non-profit system operated by Motivate.
Pronto, like many other urban bike share programs, largely serves dense, economically advantaged areas where businesses are willing to sponsor stations and bike service. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, the infusion of federal funds could help buck that trend:
TIGER funds for a major expansion will offer Seattle the opportunity to introduce bikeshare to low-income communities throughout the city, siting stations based on the community’s need for low-cost active transportation modes. This approach is contrasted with a slow, decades-long expansion plan where each new station must be sited with short term return-on-investment as a primary criterion.
So just how big is the proposed expansion? According to the Seattle Bike Blog, the service area would go from five square miles to 42 square miles, reaching from Northgate to Rainier Beach to Alki. The number of stations would increase from 50 to 250, increasing the population with “ready access” to Pronto from 88,700 to 329,600.
The percentage of Seattle residents within walking distance of a station would go from 14% to 62%.
The grant application also proposes to add electric assisted bikes to the fleet, which could prove especially useful for Central District-to-Capitol Hill trips. The city is also seeking to add half-price memberships for college students as well as people who qualify for the reduced cost ORCA Lift program.
The city submitted the application in June in partnership with WSDOT, Sound Transit, the Puget Sound Regional Council and North Seattle College. The grant application also includes the $15 million needed to fill a funding gap for the Northgate bike/walk bridge.
Meanwhile, Pronto ridership continues to grow and the service is gearing up for more even more rides over the summer months.
In a statement in May, Pronto officials said the service has grown to nearly 3,000 members and served almost 13,000 riders:
Weekly ridership and membership continue to climb as we enter summer. As of May 24, 2,755 Annual Members and 12,720 Short Term Pass Holders have logged just under 70,700 trips and over 151,000 miles. Pier 69 has recently become our busiest station which suggests that riders are using Pronto to enjoy the waterfront.
Earlier this year, CHS took a look at the most used Pronto stations on Capitol Hill and how ridership trends fluctuated with weather patterns (more sun = more riding).