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Will Seattle's Bike Share Program Get A Second Chance?

Elaine Thompson
A group of cyclists prepares for a ride on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Seattle.

Seattle isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel on the financially shaky bike share program. Several council members want to bail out the program and let the city take over. But others are ready to call it quits.

The Pronto bike-share program needs a cash infusion in order to stay afloat. Initially, it’s a $1.4 million dollar price tag, and at least some on the City Council say that Seattle should take it on. But Council member Lisa Herbold says the bike share hasn’t caught on, and if the city was to buy Pronto, it would be like throwing good money after bad.

“We’re doing it backwards. I think we have to do an analysis of what the customer base is first, and design a system around the need. And, from what I can tell, that hasn’t occurred,” said Herbold.

Herbold says a private system might be a better fit for Seattle. But in a hearing at City Hall, Nicole Freedman with Seattle’s Transportation Department says you don’t have as much control that way. She cited Miami Beach as an example.

“I was doing a little research on theirs — their number one spokesperson is a Playboy Playmate. That’s what you get with a private system,” she said.

Freedman says public investment would lead to more stations with more bikes, including in low-income areas. The full council will vote on the bike share plan in couple of weeks.