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Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Seattle's Bike Share Purchase Can Tell Us About Portland's Situation

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 5:17 PM

Pronto_.jpg
  • Puget Sound Bike Share


UPDATE, Friday, 8:37 am: Holly Houser, of Puget Sound Bike Share, writes to correct my calculations. She clarifies that the $2.7 million figure for bike share she gave me includes $265,500 in sales tax, which she points out changes this whole scenario.

Houser says: "That said, if you do the math, the total cost for Portland’s equipment would actually come in at $3,665,250 – a mere $20,667 more than what was quoted in their contract with Alta and actually $24,323 less if you factor in the 7-speed upgrade."

In light of that information, I've changed the headline on this post.

Original post:

News emerged Monday that Seattle's got a shiny new bike share system on its way in September. Who cares, right? Seattle can have its ocean vistas and bike share and plentiful mountains, and we'll be happy with all the things Portland's got going for it.

But Seattle's experience can also offer some insight into what's been a super-secretive process lately. Since the supplier Portland was counting on went bankrupt early this year, no one's even saying how much the 750-bike system we hope to buy might cost. Alta Bicycle Share, tapped to launch the program in Portland, is touting its own system—a partnership with Canadian parking meter company 8D Technologies—but the Portland Bureau of Transportation says we're considering all options.

Say for a second we did go with the Alta/8D equipment, like Seattle did. How much might that cost? PBOT won't offer up estimates, and even invited the Mercury to pay for a records request that was a single sheet of paper with all useful information blacked out.

And Puget Sound Bike Share, the organization that will manage the Seattle's Pronto! system, is being cagey, too. Executive Director Holly Houser said she couldn't give the cost of the docking stations, or of the bikes Seattle purchased to fit into them. Houser was able to offer the total cost of equipment for the system, though. Fifty docking stations and 500 bikes cost $2.7 million.

Portland hopes to buy 75 stations and 750 bikes. If we got the same basic deal Seattle did, our equipment for the system would cost a little over $4 million—roughly $400,000 more than the cost of basic equipment assumed in Portland's contract with Alta (and about $200,000 more expensive if we wanted the deluxe bikes).

Screen_Shot_2014-05-08_at_4.49.17_PM.png

Much of the system, when we get it, will be paid for in sponsorships and user fees. There's not currently any plan to use city funds on bike share, though officials are toying with idea of fronting the system money while sponsorship cash trickles in.

PBOT has yet to announce any sponsorship deals, and is still considering its options for equipment to buy, spokesman Dylan Rivera said this morning.

"We've known that Seattle might launch this fall and that’s great," Rivera said. "We’re looking forward to continuing to learn from them."

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