Our Bike Sharing Future

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Pronto bikeLater today, I will vote “no” on legislation that would, if approved, have the city government purchase the insolvent Pronto bike sharing network and all of their bicycles, stations and equipment.

Instead, I will propose amended legislation that will position Seattle for a future bike sharing alternative that shifts most of the financial risk to a private partner. My legislation will:

  • Acknowledge that Pronto faces insolvency at the end of March.
  • Prohibit the City from investing in a failed enterprise which requires the City to carry ongoing financial risks by itself.
  • Allow a partial lifting of the proviso to repay, if necessary, the $1 million federal transportation grant the City must repay if bike sharing does not continue in some form.
  • Maintain the proviso on the balance of the funds, approximately $4 million, and reserves these funds “to support a future public-private partnership for bike share that does not rely on City of Seattle funding for operating revenue and jointly shares responsibility for capital expenses.”
  • Maintain the proviso until SDOT “provides a detailed MOA between the City and an outside partner . . . that demonstrates a substantial shift in financial risk to the City’s private partner . . .”
  • Shift the remaining funds to other “pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects” if a public-private partnership is not established by the end of 2016.

I believe this course is the most prudent, allows the City to quickly establish a better bike share system, and keeps some leverage for the City to influence and guide the public-private partnership into the future. Maintaining partial public ownership is preferable to an entirely privately-owned model because the City sometimes has policy goals – equity of access or distribution, for example – that may run counter to an enterprise focused more exclusively on profit.

The Council’s transportation committee meets at 2 p.m. today to vote on this issue.