Bike share is now on tap for Seattle in Spring 2014

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Puget Sound Bike Share has chosen Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share to operate a system that will be on the ground here by the spring of 2014 with 500 bicycles at 50 stations.

Puget Sound Bike Share logo

The announcement, made in the Seattle Times this morning, is expected later Tuesday afternoon.

Alta Bicycle Share is related to Alta Planning + Design, which prepared the business plan for the Puget Sound partnership. Puget Sound executive director Holly Houser told the Times that five companies made pitches to operate the system.

Alta Bicycle Share already runs Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, the Hubway in Boston, and the Chattanooga Bicycle Share System in the US and Melbourne Bike Share in Australia.

The company is currently working on launches in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and Vancouver, BC.

The roll out of the New York system, dubbed Citi Bike, has suffered some famous delays. A pilot system was originally scheduled to start in the summer of 2012, but was put off until March 2013. That launch of 5,500 bicycles at about 300 stations is still on hold, however.

The delay has been attributed to software problems because of a dispute between Alta’s subcontractors. Alta also had roll-out delays in Chicago and Chattanooga.


The Puget Sound Bike Share system will have aspects that make it different than most other bike share systems.

First, the bikes will have seven gears, instead of the usual three, to help users tackle the challenging terrain in the Seattle area.

Second, helmets will be dispensed (like candy from a vending machine) so users can adhere to King County’s mandatory bicycle helmet law. Melbourne is another city with a mandatory helmet law, and ridership there has been lower than expected.


The business plan mapped out by Alta Planning + Design called for a phased roll-out, starting with 500 bicycles stored at 50 stations in the downtown core, south Lake Union, the University District, Sandpoint and part of Capitol Hill, followed by Lower Queen Anne, Fremont, and South of Downtown.

Later, bike share stations would spread to communities on the east side of Lake Washington, as well as Ballard and Northgate for a total system using 2,200 bikes.

The Puget Sound system would operate on daily, monthly or annual fees. Members get free use of a bicycle for short trips of 30 minutes to an hour; after that an extra fee is charged.

Estimated start-up costs are $3.7 million and operating costs for the first year are expected to be $1.4 million. The promise of $750,000 from the Washington Department of Transportation falls far short of the needed cash, but the bike share endeavor has a year to find supporters and sponsors.

Puget Sound Bike Share is a partnership of King County Metro, cities of Seattle, Kirkland and Redmond, Sound Transit, Puget Sound Regional Council, Washington Department of Transportation and advisers at University of Washington, Seattle Children’s, Cascade Bicycle Club, Microsoft and REI.

More info from Puget Sound Bike Share here.


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