The Four Horsemen of the Bike Share Apocalypse

What kept Seattle’s Pronto! bike share program from thriving? Turns out it was several things.

Earlier this month, Seattle quietly put the brakes on its bike-share program, Pronto! (with appropriately Jeb! Bush-ian punctuation). The city also canned the idea of an e-bike replacement program.

The program’s failure might seem like something of a surprise: One of the bike-friendliest cities in the U.S. (ranked fifth by Cycling in 2016), Seattle seems a lot like the kind of affluent, outdoorsy place that should embrace bike sharing. Instead, Pronto! will come to an end in March. If bike sharing could successfully spread to 119 U.S. cities since 2008, why couldn’t it work in the Emerald City?

The answer has to do with a series of structural, political, regulatory, and geographical challenges that the city was unable to overcome. George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “The trouble with the media is that it seems unable to distinguish between the end of the world and a bicycle accident.” With that note of editorial caution, we bring to you: the Four Horsemen of the Bike Share Apocalypse.


(SounderBruce/flickr)

1) Low ridership

Sure, this seems obvious: Not enough people signed up. But the causes of low ridership remain bitterly contentious. Was it the weather? The hills? Or the company that ran the program?

Pronto! was initially operated by Motivate, which also currently runs ten other bike-share programs in cities across North America, among them New York, Boston, Portland, Chattanooga, Toronto, Columbus, and Jersey City. Spokesperson Dani Simons told me that the company didn’t wish to speak specifically to the Seattle program, but she did confirm that accessibility and station density are key features to encouraging bike share ridership.

It’s not hard to find people in Seattle who are willing to suggest specific reasons behind Pronto’s demise, and some finger the combination of climate and geography. But Tom Fucoloro, who runs Seattle Bike Blog, says none of those issues are insurmountable. “When you have a hilly city,” Fucoloro says, “you need to recognize that and plan the system around that. Everyone complains about the weather where they live, but at least we’re not covered in snow.”

Indeed, bike share programs had thrived in places with similar topography (like Vancouver, Portland and San Francisco) and in places with more inclement winter weather (Chicago, Montreal, and Boston).

Others point out an issue more specific to Seattle: the city’s helmet law, which added to program costs and may have discouraged casual riders.

Comparing Pronto’s year-one data to other city bike share systems reveals just how serious the ridership problem quickly became. The example of Washington, D.C. and Seattle are a close (but imperfect) match in terms of population and density. (D.C.’s relaunch of its system from its pilot program of SmartBike in 2008 to Capital Bikeshare in 2010 is pointed to as a key turnaround to a successful bike share program in the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s bike share planning guide.)

In Pronto!’s 2014-2015 launch year, the system of 50 stations and 500 bicycles saw 142,846 trips. In Capital Bikeshare’s 2010-2011 launch year, their system of 116 stations and 1,100 bicycles saw over 1 million rides. Membership numbers were similarly disproportionate. In its first year, Pronto! had 3,299 year-long members, while in Capital Bikeshare’s first year there were over 18,000 members.

Another instructive comparison is with the initial launch of a now similar size system, Austin’s B-cycle. That program launched in 2014 on a smaller scale and expanded slowly to the same size as Pronto!; it ended its first year with 150,000 rides. And it’s now touted as a success—albeit with federal funding.

So did Pronto! just need more time to expand?


A screen shot of the system map for Pronto!, where stations mostly covered the downtown and University of Washington areas. (Pronto!)

2) Delayed expansion

Expansion was always in the works: Pronto!’s second phase of the launch would have added another 60 stations and 600 bikes to the system six months into the program in 2015. But in early 2015, the Seattle Department of Transportation approached Pronto!, offering to take over the program, and the build-out was delayed. After the city bought the system in February 2016, expansion was reconsidered.

That left Pronto! with a somewhat compromised coverage area. Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog laid out a key principle for system design: “Linearity is the enemy of useful bike share and contiguity is its best friend.” His map below shows us the ideal service area for maximizing station density and what actually happened in the system.


(Zach Shaner/Seattle Transit Blog)

According to a Seattle Department of Transportation analysis in February 2016, doubling the number of bikes and stations would have seen more than triple the number of trips and double the user revenue from users.

I asked Fucoloro to describe a place that you might want to go on a Pronto! bike in Seattle that didn’t have a dock. His first answer: Gas Works Park, a reclaimed industrial site that is about a 12-minute bike ride from the University of Washington—where a pocket of eleven bike share stations separate from the main system went underused.


Gas Works Park, a twelve-minute ride from the University of Washington, lacked a bike-share station of its own. (Wildcat Dunny/flickr)

Fucoloro describes how the second half of that bike ride would lead riders to Fremont, a district full of breweries, coffee shops, and places to people-watch—but no bike share stations. Instead, Pronto! riders would roll up expecting docks; it became common to see unattended bikes propped up outside of breweries.

The bottom line, Fucoloro says: “No one’s going to pay for an all-day bike pass if your bikes don’t go everywhere they’re trying to go.”


Bike share operators use trucks to ‘rebalance’ the distribution of bikes in a city when natural riding patterns do not. (SounderBruce/flickr)

3) Lack of funding

Even with a maximal level of ridership, cities typically need to find some way to subsidize a bike share system through corporate sponsorship, federal dollars, or both.

Sponsorship certainly can give a great boost to that initial capital investment. They’ve become a model for the bike share operators like Motivate, which also runs Portland’s Nike-sponsored Biketown, and San Francisco’s Bay Area Bike Share, which is expanding under a sponsorship from Ford. (One notable exception: Capital Bikeshare, which meets about 97 percent of its funding needs with its farebox recovery—covering operating costs with user fees. )

Pronto!’s original revenue projections were built around a future sponsorship: They only called for 446,000 trips and 4,000 members to pay for expenses after sponsorships. The search for that funder originally fell to a nonprofit, Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS). Here’s how they originally envisioned costs in a 2014 proposal:


Budget estimates for the yet-unnamed bike share program in Seattle. (PSBS)

As Bike Portland notes, Alaska Airlines put up a lead sponsorship of $1,000 per bike per year from 2014 through 2019 for Pronto!’s 500 bikes—$2.5 million over five years, or roughly $500,000 a year. PSBS had a few other additional initial sponsors, but once ridership and membership numbers fell short of expectations, the system began operating at a loss with substantial overhead and the program borrowed against future sponsorships to continue.

The most contentious question about Pronto!’s finances comes from when PSBS shut down at the end of 2015. City council had approved SDOT to take over the program from the nonprofit in March 2015; PSBS ceased pursuing sponsors in anticipation of a handover to SDOT by August 2015, which the program needed with ridership falling below expectations.

Meanwhile, SDOT had been pursuing a $10 million TIGER grant from the federal government to expand the program. That never came to be, and the program ran out of funds by the end of the year. In 2016, Seattle’s city council then faced a decision to buy out the program for $1.4 million, which they voted to do in March 2016 with the intent to expand the bike share system.

The city considered bids to expand or replace Pronto! at the end of the year, but replacing the system with electric-assist bikes supplied by Motivate’s rival Bewegen would have required renegotiating Alaska Airlines’ sponsorship, or finding additional sponsorships.


(Tony Webster/flickr)

4) Politics

Ridership, expansion, and funding problems all congealed into the fourth and final death-blow for Pronto!: lack of political will. Once the idea of bike share in Seattle appeared to be troubled, the program found itself without a constituency.

“Honestly, the reason Pronto! died was mismanagement and politics,” Fucoloro says. “There’s nothing wrong with the equipment; there’s nothing wrong with the original plans that they had and where they were going to put the stations. It seems like it was too many cooks in the kitchen.”

Pronto!’s financial sustainability was not the only political problem. An ethics investigation engulfed then-Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly. He had been the president of Alta Bicycle Share (which became Motivate in January 2015) before Mayor Ed Murray tapped him as transportation chief in July 2014. An ethics investigation fined Kubly in June 2016 for working on Pronto! without obtaining a waiver disclosing his previous connection to the company.

“It’s a snowball effect,” Fucoloro says. “Once it becomes toxic or labeled a failure. All this uncertainty happened at the six- to nine-month mark. They needed to be focused on the health of the system, not selling it to the city.”

As the city considered expansion, Pronto! continued to fall short of expectations. By August 2016, the projected $608,000 in user revenue only turned out to be $449,000, as trips and memberships fell below the system’s 2015 numbers.

With operating losses mounting and the city council objecting to the buyout, the proposal to expand the program became politically untenable. Mayor Ed Murray announced the cancellation of the program and instead put the expansion funds towards pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements.

The lesson, Fucoloro observes, is that bike share can become perceived as a “neat amenity” that is both very visible and easily expendable to city government, especially when its is in doubt. “That’s the problem here,” he says. “Through this whole frustrating story of the slow death of Pronto!, we’ve lost the whole story of why we want bike share. What purpose does it serve?”

Pronto! isn’t the first bike share system to cease operations, but it might be the most prominent non-pilot program to shut down. What happens next in Seattle could be that hard-learned, classic cycling lesson: When you fall down, pick yourself up and try again.

The Art of Selling Science: Presenting an engaging scientific talk

Frank_Schulenburg_giving_a_presentation_at_Wikimania_2011-690x3200000-0002-8715-2896Source: The Art of Selling Science: Presenting an engaging scientific talk The late great Shakespeare famously wrote in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage,” and if that’s true, then oral presentations are

Frank_Schulenburg_giving_a_presentation_at_Wikimania_2011-690x3200000-0002-8715-2896Source: The Art of Selling Science: Presenting an engaging scientific talk The late great Shakespeare famously wrote in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage,” and if that’s true, then oral presentations are

Synapsida – Gotta catch ‘em all!

0000-0002-8715-2896Source: Synapsida – Gotta catch ‘em all!   Let’s go back to the Permian period, around 260 million years. Life was quite blissful, with no dinosaurs tearing up the turf as of yet. Animals from

0000-0002-8715-2896Source: Synapsida – Gotta catch ‘em all!   Let’s go back to the Permian period, around 260 million years. Life was quite blissful, with no dinosaurs tearing up the turf as of yet. Animals from

After record-breaking donations and members, ACLU signs up for the Y Combinator startup accelerator

The ACLU raised $24M over the weekend of the #muslimban, six times its usual annual average, and now it is joining the Winter 2017 class at Y Combinator, a startup accelerator that has emerged a mixed bag of great and terrible companies, which has had to contend with controversy over its ties to Peter Thiel. (more…)

The ACLU raised $24M over the weekend of the #muslimban, six times its usual annual average, and now it is joining the Winter 2017 class at Y Combinator, a startup accelerator that has emerged a mixed bag of great and terrible companies, which has had to contend with controversy over its ties to Peter Thiel. (more…)

Where’s the ball going?

Enjoy this supercut of legendary snooker player and commentator John Virgo saying “Where’s the cue ball going?,” usually at a volume that pushes the envelope of the Snooker Commentator’s Hush. (more…)

Enjoy this supercut of legendary snooker player and commentator John Virgo saying “Where’s the cue ball going?,” usually at a volume that pushes the envelope of the Snooker Commentator’s Hush. (more…)

Doane Paper: Grids + Lines for note taking with a fountain pen

Doane Paper makes wonderful pocket-sized notebooks with paper that is fantastically compatible with fountain pens.

I absolutely love my Maruman Mnemosyne notebooks, but they aren’t big and rigid. These 5″x7″ Doane Paper pads have similarly awesome paper, and fit in casual clothes pockets, if you need small they also make 3″x5″.

The paper is slightly off-white and is quadruled with a light blue. My Levenger, Pilot and Parker’s all glide over the paper very smoothly, tho the Pilot Vanishing point definetly shows its “travel-ness” when compared to the Duo-fold. Ink gets absorbed quickly and only slightly bleeds through unless I write with a heavy hand. I tried various Noodlers and Parker Quink black. Noodler’s Blue Nose Bear is almost the same color as the grid lines.

Doane Paper Large Utility Edition, 3-Pack Grid + Lines Memo Notebooks via Amazon

Doane Paper makes wonderful pocket-sized notebooks with paper that is fantastically compatible with fountain pens.

I absolutely love my Maruman Mnemosyne notebooks, but they aren’t big and rigid. These 5″x7″ Doane Paper pads have similarly awesome paper, and fit in casual clothes pockets, if you need small they also make 3″x5″.

The paper is slightly off-white and is quadruled with a light blue. My Levenger, Pilot and Parker’s all glide over the paper very smoothly, tho the Pilot Vanishing point definetly shows its “travel-ness” when compared to the Duo-fold. Ink gets absorbed quickly and only slightly bleeds through unless I write with a heavy hand. I tried various Noodlers and Parker Quink black. Noodler’s Blue Nose Bear is almost the same color as the grid lines.

Doane Paper Large Utility Edition, 3-Pack Grid + Lines Memo Notebooks via Amazon

Welcome to the Journal of Alternative Facts. They’re the greatest! And winning!

Ever since Kellyanne Conway, counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, used the term “alternative facts” on Meet The Press earlier this month, the term — an awful euphemism for falsehoods, as many have pointed out — has become a meme. And like every new field, alternative facts needs its own journal. Enter the Twitter feed for the […]

The post Welcome to the Journal of Alternative Facts. They’re the greatest! And winning! appeared first on Retraction Watch.

Ever since Kellyanne Conway, counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump, used the term “alternative facts” on Meet The Press earlier this month, the term — an awful euphemism for falsehoods, as many have pointed out — has become a meme. And like every new field, alternative facts needs its own journal. Enter the Twitter feed for the […]

The post Welcome to the Journal of Alternative Facts. They’re the greatest! And winning! appeared first on Retraction Watch.

Staying Motivated as an Entrepreneur – Top Tips from Some of the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Staying motivated is one of the most difficult things for entrepreneurs. It is the lack of motivation that causes many entrepreneurs to quit. Below are some tips on how some of the world’s successful entrepreneurs stayed motivated despite the ups and downs in the business. Joe Martin, President of Merchandize Liquidators, LLC Joe Martin, an […]

The post Staying Motivated as an Entrepreneur – Top Tips from Some of the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Staying motivated is one of the most difficult things for entrepreneurs. It is the lack of motivation that causes many entrepreneurs to quit.

Below are some tips on how some of the world’s successful entrepreneurs stayed motivated despite the ups and downs in the business.

Joe Martin, President of Merchandize Liquidators, LLC

Joe Martin, an Israeli-born, founded Merchandize Liquidators while pursuing a Business Administration degree at Florida International University. Hardworking and persistent to finish college, he opened Merchandise Liquidators to pay his way through college. Although faced with different challenges during the start of his business such as time and money for capital, it didn’t stop him from reaching his goal.

He was an international student during that period, which means he had to stay as a full-time student for legal reasons. The main issue he faced regarding his business was to convince major chain stores that he could get their closeouts on a consistent basis regardless of the lack of capital to buy goods and space to place it.

According to Joe Martin, socializing with the most successful people is the key to staying motivated. He says that when you socialize with people who are at a higher level of success than you, you get a mental push that will help you break the barriers that are stopping you from making millions.

See Also: 7 Power Habits of Great Leaders, Business Icons and Inspirational Achievers

Chase Jarvis, CEO at CreativeLive

chase jarvis

Chase Jarvis, along with Craig Swanson, founded CreativeLive. Chase, a leader and a renowned creative himself, dedicated his company to providing an online space for visionary instructors to connect with creative professionals. He was not just the present CEO at CeativeLive, but also a director, an award winning photographer, and media maven. Furthermore, he created campaigns for Starbucks, RedBull, Nike, Apple, and other companies. He is also known for creating Best Camera, the world’s first photo application that lets the user share images to social networks.

Chase Jarvis first took the spotlight when he became the world’s best photographer at a young age. He went ahead to create CreativeLive which is the world’s biggest live-streaming education company.

Chase says that much of his success and motivation was from following his passions. He says that you should go after something that is dear to you and not random market opportunities. If you go for random opportunities, you will only be doing it for the dollars and thus you will not have the passion to stay with it.

Juanita Hines, Regional Consulting

juanita hines

Juanita Hines, passionate about helping people succeed, founded Regional Consulting. Because of her ability to help craft perfect resumes for her clients, she was known to be the “Resume Whisperer.” Her passion for helping has led her to start her company dedicated to professional empowerment by providing interview coaching and training in communities where no such opportunities were previously available.

Juanita also does a lot of speaking engagements at youth camps and schools. She also works with other non-profit organizations in encouraging students to start planning for their futures and assist professionals with insights on how to heighten their careers.

Juanita says that you should surround yourself with people who are striving to pursue their own success. This will encourage you to succeed in your own life as well.

See Also: 5 Women Entrepreneurs Who Failed Before Becoming Millionaires 

Tim Ferriss, best-selling author and CreativeLive instructor

tim ferris

Tim Ferriss, considered as one of “Most Innovative Business People, is also an author. He wrote “The 4-Hour Workweek, the 4-Hour Body, and the 4-Hour Chef”, considered as Wall Street Journal and #1 New York Times bestsellers. Furthermore, he is an investor and consultant in Twitter, Facebook, Shopify, Uber, Duolingo and much more. His podcast was also recognized as the “Best of 2015” by Apple and the #1 business podcast on iTunes.

Tim’s key to success and staying motivated is to choose your friends wisely. He says that the best advice he ever received and still keeps him going is that you become an average of the 5 people who you associate with most.

Will Curran, President of Endless Entertainment

will curran

Will Curran, who was only 17 during that time, started his interest in DJing. He found a need missing in the entertaining industry and went head-first into satisfying such need.

Due to his passion for putting on events, each mistake he made became building blocks to grow his company further. One of his discoveries during the journey towards his goal was how customers would start coming to him if he provided excellent customer service after which everything would fall into place.

Will says that you succeed by fighting the small battles. He says he finds joy in overcoming obstacles and celebrating even small wins. He rewards himself after all the jobs are well done. According to Will, you can get overwhelmed if you focus too much on the bigger picture.

Justin Palmer, Founder & CEO of MedSaverCard

Justin gets his motivation by thinking about his future freedom. He says that entrepreneurship requires a lot of hard work but if you concentrate on your business now, it will give you the freedom and resources for the years to come.

 

The post Staying Motivated as an Entrepreneur – Top Tips from Some of the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Elaine Chao is officially the new U.S. Secretary of Transportation

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Elaine Chao arrives for her confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of transportation before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. The wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chao, who has previously served as secretary of the Labor Department, was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao received the confirmation of the full Senate on Tuesday. That’s the last hurdle for Chao, who now becomes the head of the Department of Transportation, replacing the outgoing Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was nominated by Barack Obama in 2013 and served until Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Chao served as… Read More

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Elaine Chao arrives for her confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of transportation before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. The wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Chao, who has previously served as secretary of the Labor Department, was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao received the confirmation of the full Senate on Tuesday. That’s the last hurdle for Chao, who now becomes the head of the Department of Transportation, replacing the outgoing Secretary Anthony Foxx, who was nominated by Barack Obama in 2013 and served until Trump’s inauguration on January 20. Chao served as… Read More