With its newfound expertise in business operations, the city of Seattle should reassess its Pronto bike-rental venture.
THE city of Seattle is increasing its oversight of business, from retailers to rental operators.
Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council say they are trying to ensure companies make the right decisions and protect the most vulnerable.
So let’s see some of that newfound business expertise applied to the Pronto bike-rental business. Careful decisions about priorities are especially important since the city can’t afford to address its homeless crisis.
Seattle is preparing to spend millions upgrading Pronto with new, electric bikes and dumping the current, lightly used fleet it bought in March for $1.4 million.
At the same time, Murray is intimating that Seattle can’t afford to implement a new regional homeless-response plan. The approach aims to provide decent accommodation to every one of the unsheltered people living rough in the area.
Would it be wise and humane for the city to invest in more bikes or saving lives? How can the city ask taxpayers and regional governments to step up and fund more of the homeless response while it fritters away millions on Pronto?
Homelessness appears to be growing at a much faster rate than Pronto usage.
Since the city made a dubious decision to take over the venture, ridership during its peak season fell 20 percent. Memberships plunged 36 percent.
One of Pronto’s worst performing bike stations, incidentally, is directly in front of City Hall.”
Murray’s administration gave an optimistic forecast of Pronto’s outlook last winter, while trying to convince the council to buy and expand the system. Since then, it slashed the 2016 revenue forecast by 26 percent.
One of Pronto’s worst performing bike stations, incidentally, is directly in front of City Hall.
The $1.4 million spent to buy the existing Pronto system was just the start. The proposal presented in March was to spend around $5 million in 2016 and 2017 on an expansion. That’s now being negotiated with a vendor.
That $5 million would cover half of what’s needed for the new regional homeless plan. The funds are mostly coming from street-use fees, which would be fitting to help those living on the street.
Since Seattle officials know how to run a business with compassion, they should hold off spending more on Pronto until they’ve resolved their organization’s most pressing challenge: the homeless crisis.