Dropping bike-share program ‘the right call,’ says Councilmember Herbold

(WSB photo from March 2016, outside Seattle City Hall downtown)

West Seattle/South Park City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says the mayor made “the right call” in announcing late today that the city will scrap its bicycle-sharing program for now, rather than replacing the failed Pronto system with something different.

Last March, she was one of two council votes against the bike-share buyout. So last month, we asked her about the bike-share situation during our wide-ranging interview looking back at her first year in office and ahead at her second year; she replied that she didn’t hold much hope the program would be scrapped, and restated concerns that a new version still wouldn’t serve our area.

Tonight, she published this statement after the mayor’s announcement:

This was absolutely the right call. With limited public dollars, these resources are better used to develop safe routes to schools for our students. Now is not the time for public investment in a bike share system.

I’m glad to see these funds are proposed toward implementing the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, and School Safety projects, in line with my proposal last year to re-direct $4 million in funding away from expansion of the Pronto system toward these existing needs. I regularly hear from constituents about school crossing safety, most recently regarding Genesee Hill Elementary.

During last year’s budget cycle, I sponsored a budget action the Council adopted to remove $900,000 in funding for operation of the Pronto system in 2017 and 2018, to preserve funding for these existing needs.

Here’s how the mayor announced the bike-share change, redirecting $3 million to other pedestrian/bicycle programs.

37 Replies to "Dropping bike-share program 'the right call,' says Councilmember Herbold"

  • Jeannie January 13, 2017 (9:08 pm)

    And how much money has already been wasted on this ill-advised project?

    • chemist January 13, 2017 (11:57 pm)

      Seattle pays Motivate something around $112k+ a month to operate the bikeshare and then we paid $1.4 million to buy Pronto’s assets and $0.3 million to keep them from going under while the council was debating buying Pronto’s assets.  There’s also the outstanding $1 million FTA loan that has to be repaid if those bikes aren’t being used in a bikeshare (mentioned in the buyout summary comparison here http://seattle.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&ID=4254560&GUID=F31DB7E9-74AE-4DAA-AD8B-7BEE8466ABE6 ) which the mayor didn’t really mention if there’s a plan on that.

  • CMT January 13, 2017 (9:17 pm)

    Maybe they could redirect the $3 million to affordable housing and leave the single family neighborhoods alone . . .

    • AMD January 14, 2017 (2:05 am)

      The cost of housing is skyrocketing because the demand is far outpacing the supply.  Insisting that a neighborhood stay wall-to-wall single-family homes is a cause for the affordable housing crisis, not a solution.  

      • West Seattle since 1979 January 14, 2017 (7:10 am)

        Thank you. Also, no one is forcing people to give up their single-family homes.

      • WS Guy January 14, 2017 (9:00 am)

        Replacing SF homes with studio apartments reduces the supply of homes for families. By 2017 will have added more apartments in the past 10 years than in the prior 50. The crisis is greater for families.

        And you are not required to sell. But once you get your new tax bill, and once a developer puts a 4-story building next door, and once your neighbors stop maintaining their houses because the structures are worthless relative to the land, you are practically forced to.

        • CMT January 14, 2017 (12:48 pm)

           Thanks WS Guy for addressing the literal but simplistic view that “nobody is forcing you to sell.”  

          And AMD, my comment was really tongue in cheek with respect to this post and more responsive to the City’s current upzone proposals.  There is plenty of information available as to why the City’s current proposal to rezone single-family neighborhoods in West Seattle is inappropriate.

  • Gene January 13, 2017 (9:45 pm)

    What a ridiculous waste of money.

  • Steve January 13, 2017 (9:51 pm)

    Too bad that money will not be redirected to the elderly who are paying outrages property tax rates for what?  First qualified applicant?  Hala  Upzoning?  Urban villages!  Etc…

  • Free eech January 13, 2017 (9:57 pm)

    Such a waste of resources, this mayor needs to be kicked to the curb next fall. 

  • Chuck January 13, 2017 (10:02 pm)

    Golf clap… Way past time, and while it’s better late than never, I’m still incredulous that this was ever green lighted to begin with. How about we spend the money toward getting the unfortunate out of their eye-sore, dangerous camps and into actual, beneficial programs? Programs like the Bicycle Master Plan (and even education) seem like so much of a luxury while our city is being forever turned into an open air homeless encampment. Glad to see a bit of common sense finally at play all the same.

  • Mark January 13, 2017 (10:18 pm)

    Why not a rebate to the taxpayers?  The bike share was a waste, heck for the money spent the City could have purchased 50,000 bikes and left them throughout the City for people to use.  Maybe this would have reduced bike theft to boot

  • Dave January 13, 2017 (10:37 pm)

    What’s Kubly gonna do now? Probably won’t be able to get that high(er) paying job with the billing company he was associated with before related to bike share programs. Mr Ethics violation but keeps his job. Love Seattle politics.

    • Jon January 14, 2017 (12:09 am)

      Don’t forget to use your DEMOCRACY VOUCHERS to support better city government officials next election cycle! Oh boy!

      • JanS January 14, 2017 (12:34 am)

        agreed, Jon, agreed !

      • old timer January 14, 2017 (7:46 am)

        Yes Jon, but you have to have a decent slate/pool/group of candidates to choose from.

        The ones we’ve got now were elected.

  • West Seattleite January 14, 2017 (2:26 am)

    Seattle’s example of crony capitalism. Wasn’t this a failed business adventure by a friend of the mayor? The city knew they were over-paying to buy this and that it would never break even; but hey, it’s “Monopoly” (taxpayers)  money, not real money.  Let the city council make it their IRA investment and see how much they believe in it.   

  • TheKing January 14, 2017 (4:01 am)

    The mayor made the right call? I have to believe it was made for him. The last time I saw those bikes not one was out of the rack, they were rusty and tires were low on air. 

  • WestCake January 14, 2017 (6:59 am)

    A bike sharing program can’t ease congestion? And reduce carbon emissions? I think Lisa meant the mayor made the right call fiscally because the city is broke. These politicians need to implement a state wide income tax, everything stems from lack of basic funds, street repair, bikes for commuters, police patrols in the parks and neighborhoods against prowlers; these are basic things a major city/state should not struggle to pay for. 

    • Joe Szilagyi January 14, 2017 (9:09 am)

      Seattle isn’t broke.

  • Jon Wright January 14, 2017 (8:01 am)

    I don’t fault them for giving the bike share program a try. If any mistake brings out angry calls for torches and pitchforks, the only thing that will accomplish is a government afraid to innovate or try anything new. That’s not what this area is about. So learn what we can from Pronto, be discouraged it didn’t work, but let it go and let’s move forward.

    • TheKing January 15, 2017 (6:22 am)

      Giving things a “try”??? Plan better, ask the people if they would use it, start small scale. Maybe next time the mayor should invest his own money, then I can say….oh well, too bad too sad. 

  • Double Dub Resident January 14, 2017 (8:37 am)

    We don’t need a state wide income tax.  This city needs to quit wasting money.  They council members don’t need $1,500 plaques on their doors (yes that’s correct).  

    This city is criminal with its artificial bloating of budgets.  For example buying police cars,  then issuing them to FAS  who then turns around and leases them to the police department for approx.  $2,000-$2,500 per SUV and having to rent their parking spots to park them. Basic supplies like pens and paper, etc.  must be bought at a certain place which costs 3x as  much as  a regular store.   And that is just a tiny  sliver of a microcosm of what this city does.   

  • skeeter January 14, 2017 (8:41 am)


    I don’t know if this was the right call or not.  I have no idea.  But saying bikeshare is bad because it
    requires a government subsidy is pretty silly. 
    Virtually every transportation method requires government subsidy.  The biggest subsidy by far is for operation
    of cars.  Gas taxes and licensing fees
    only pay a tiny portion of the cost of maintaining and regulating roads.  The majority of the cost is paid by sales tax
    and property tax.  Bus fares pay less
    than half of the operating costs of the busses. 
    The rest paid by sales taxes and property taxes.  Same for light rail.

    In my thinking, the relevant metric would be comparing the
    taxpayer subsidy of the bike program per passenger mile to the taxpayer subsidy
    of busses per passenger mile to see if the program is a decent deal for
    taxpayers or not. 


    • Neighbor January 14, 2017 (10:11 am)

      Good point Skeeter! Roads for cars are heavily subsidized. There must be a war on bicycles.  😉

    • flimflam January 14, 2017 (12:40 pm)

      bike share programs in this city in particular are a bad idea – what may work one place does not mean it will work somewhere else. the bikes are heavy, clunky and nobody (especially tourists) was going to be riding up our hills on them.

      it was a bad idea that didn’t work. 

      • Kathy January 14, 2017 (3:07 pm)

        Did you try the low gear? They really weren’t that bad on hills.

  • skeeter January 14, 2017 (8:50 am)

    Every time we board a metro bus, 31% of the costs are paid by the rider.  69% of the costs are paid by the taxpayers.  Source:  http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/annual-measures/financial.html

     Are we thinking busses in Seattle are a bad idea too? 

  • candrewb January 14, 2017 (8:57 am)

    The mayor made the right call? It was his gd fault in the first place.

  • Bea January 14, 2017 (9:11 am)

    First time I agree with most of the comments posted. When an idea stinks, and it’s obvious to everyone, it shouldn’t have been implemented in the first place.  Tax money is so entirely ill-spent in Seattle; yes, throw the bums out!  Consider the many basic problems at hand:  public transit, schools, road maintenance, etc.  They could be solved were it not for horrific waste.

  • Ex-Rose St. Resident January 14, 2017 (9:55 am)

    I remember when the city council bailed out Pronto last spring by purchasing the program it seemed like a bad deal.  The purchase price was $1.4 million and the program was losing over $100k per month.  I scratched my head at why the city council thought this would be a good investment, paying 7 figures for the opportunity to lose an additional 6 figures a month seemed like the most irresponsible use of our tax dollars I could imagine.  Many on this blog commented at the time that $1.4 million was just a drop in the bucket in the city budget and it was not a big deal but I strongly disagree. I think that’s a poor excuse for bad logic. This is not about the dollar amount in question but the judgement to make wise and sound decisions with our tax dollars.  I don’t trust that the leadership has that good judgement based on this case and has probably made other numerous bad calls that will cost all of us much more.  I do applaud Councilwoman Herbold’s NO vote on the purchase and was quite pleased of her very informed response on why she voted no on the purchase. I applaud Tim Burgess for his NO vote as well, I appreciated his pragmatic and detailed financial reasoning for doing so. I don’t want to use this example to slam the rest of the city council but I would like to know what their thinking was on this and if we as voters and tax payers need to seriously question who is steering the ship right now.  My family moved out of West Seattle 3 month ago to Gig Harbor and we still deeply care about our West Seattle community we left behind.  West Seattle will always have a huge place in our hearts and I hope the leadership of the City of Seattle will improve or the citizens will replace them.  BTW, we just got our democracy vouchers in the mail here in Gig Harbor this week, since we no longer live in WS please let us know where we should spend our money!!!!!!            

    • old timer January 14, 2017 (12:00 pm)

      I don’t know why you think any “thought” went into their decision,

      It was a pure, virtue signaling political move.

    • WD fundie January 15, 2017 (3:06 pm)

      Do you have any idea how much King county metro ‘loses’ every month per your definition?  Millions.  But that’s different because one gets to sit on their keister?

  • JTB January 14, 2017 (10:29 am)

    I think it was gracious for Lisa Herbold to say Murray “made the right call” instead of “finally saw the light of day.”

  • Justin January 14, 2017 (12:19 pm)

    Mayor Murray and Corrupt Kubly prove to mis-handle taxpayer funds yet again. What’s it going to take before these goons are taken out of office?

  • michael oxman January 15, 2017 (9:48 am)

    Don’t feel bad, Portland’s bike share bikes aren’t constantly in use either.

  • WD fundie January 15, 2017 (3:02 pm)

    Politicians gonna politic.

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