Near the top of the “Tier 1” transit projects funded by the state’s new Transportation budget is a curious item:
|Project Title||Agency||Leg District||Funding (Dollars in thousands)|
|Bike Share Expansion – Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah||King County Metro||48||$5,500|
That’s a $5.5 million allocation to expand bike sharing to 4 Eastside cities. You may be wondering (as I was), what would Bike Sharing look like if it expanded to those cities? And how did this make its way into the budget?
To find out, you need to go back a few years and read the King County Bike Share Business Plan. It maps out the plan for what a region-wide bike sharing system would look like. It is a few years old now, funding might levy new requirements, and lessons from operations means that the real life system might look a bit different.
The original plan was to launch with 50 stations in Downtown Seattle and near the UW, and then add a total of 110 more stations in those areas and adjacent ones. Finally, Pronto would add 50 stations in a few relatively dense Eastside cities. The program got off the ground with 50 stations last year, and Seattle has a grant pending to expand bike sharing to most of the rest of the city with an additional 250 stations.
Does the state funding mean that Pronto would be heading to the Eastside too, or would it be separate? The answer is likely that Pronto will expand. Pronto is actually an independent non-profit, not an arm of the City of Seattle. Its board is a cross section of transportation staff from various agencies (including King County Metro, the recipient of the state funding) and some community members. It gets grants from the cities and county (who in turn get grants from the state and federal government) and hires a vendor to administer the system. The vendor is Motivate, formerly known as Alta Cycle Share. They run similar programs in other cities like DC and Boston.
What would a small bike share deployment look like on the Eastside? I took the original business plan’s goal of spacing stations out by 1300 feet and placing 10 in Bellevue, and plotted them out in downtown. These are not the actual locations, just some ideas on where they could go. You could cover all of the downtown core easily, and add a few stations at Overlake, Bellevue High School and at the Hotels on 112th. You could easily apply the same logic to Kirkland and Redmond, especially if Microsoft wants to get involved.
The only oddball is Issaquah. Bike shares generally work best in areas where there are lots of people working and living in a dense area that is relatively flat. The Issaquah of today is not particularly dense (except maybe for the Issaquah Highlands, which has too much elevation change). There’s a Central Issaquah Plan to add density (residential and commercial) and a recent designation as a Regional Growth Center, but it seems a bike share won’t make much sense there until after that plan becomes reality. The original business plan calls for Renton in place of Issaquah, but Renton isn’t a much better candidate than Issaquah.
So what are the next steps? According to Ref Lindmark, a Metro planner who heads up Bike Sharing and is President of the Pronto Cycle Share board, Metro will wait for the ink to dry on the budget. Then, they will check in with the state to see what sort of parameters and restrictions the money comes with, and will likely start reaching out to the cities to see what kind of bike sharing systems they want and what funding the cities can add to the state funding (through city money, sponsorship and grants). He said they basically have two years to implement something as the money was allocated in this biennium, so you’ll likely be seeing more about this in the very near future.