Thank you for taking time to write in about Pronto Bike Share. Over the past several weeks, I have received hundreds of calls and e-mails both expressing support for and opposition against saving the existing bike share system.
I will be frank: I struggled with this decision. That struggle was wedged between my belief that it is important for Seattle to provide maximum transit options to relieve traffic congestion and my fiduciary duty to use your taxpayer dollars in the most fiscally responsible way. Ultimately, I voted in favor of lifting the $1.4 million proviso that the prior City Council allocated and I appreciate the opportunity to explain why.
First, voting in favor of lifting this proviso has been characterized by some of my councilmembers as the only fiscally responsive decision. I disagree. Had Councilmembers Burgess and Herbold’s proposal passed, the City would have been obligated to repay a $1 million grant to the federal government in addition to liquidating the City-owned bike share assets (likely at a loss). Under the proposal that I voted in favor of, the immediate net cost to the City will be $400,000 to acquire the assets of Pronto.
Second, as Seattle becomes a dense and urban city, all residents must have ready access to a variety of transit options that will ultimately reduce traffic congestion. This is a critical feature of our city and worthy of continued investment. In cities that have successfully implemented bike share programs, it has been proven to bridge the last one mile between other transit options and a person’s final destination. Indeed, the voters recognized the need to continue investing in our transit infrastructure this past fall when they overwhelmingly approved a $930 million levy to allow the City to continue investing in our system. That levy included a $250 million investment in building out our City’s bicycle infrastructure. I believe that a publicly-run bike share system, like our public bus and light rail system, is the best way to ensure that bike share will ultimately fulfill its promise to be a useful one-mile connector and accessible within neighborhoods.
I am deeply disappointed that this City Council was put in this position and plan to closely monitor the enhancements made to the bike share program to ensure that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) meets its duty to be fiscally transparent and responsible.
To that end, I offered an amendment that will be the first step in ensuring that bike share resources are fairly and equitably distributed citywide. As a result, the SDOT will work with the Office for Civil Rights to develop an inclusive outreach plan that will help the program meet the needs of low-income residents and communities of color and ask them about the need for and the expansion of the bike share system. This amendment, along with city oversight and accountability, will allow all Seattleites to benefit from a bike share system.
Lastly, some of you have expressed deep concern about funding the Pronto acquisition rather than our city’s homelessness crisis and other human service needs. I agree that we must continue to prioritize homelessness issues and I am committed to finding workable solutions. Regrettably, the $1.4 million that the prior City Council allocated to expand this bike share program can only be used for “street use” purposes, which does not include critical human and safety net services.
Expanding access to critical city elements, such as transportation, is one piece of a larger solution to our traffic congestion woes. I will continue to work hard to address inequities in our community and to ensuring that these dollars are subjected to the highest standards of performance, accountability and transparency.
Yours in service,
Councilmember Lorena González