Happy birthday to Pronto! Boy does time fly. Seattle’s bike share turns one today and there’s a lot to celebrate. In Pronto’s first year, the bike share heralded the newly opened Downtown protected bike lanes, launched with 50 stations and 500 bikes across the city, collaborated with four organizations to deliver four new bike stations, came up with local squiggle routes to help riders out, introduced a low-income program with Bellwether Housing and Capitol Hill Housing, held dozena of membership and community events, and devised a unique solution for free bike helmets for riders.

With data from Pronto, I put together a map of (mostly) Pronto annual members in Seattle as well as graphs depicting age cohorts and gender.

Back in March, Pronto released data from the first six months of the infant bike share program. At the time, 36% of annual members identified as female. Today, that number remains unchanged with 1,212 women members, or 36% of the 3,299 annual members. Interestingly, about 1% (33 individuals) of annual members are categorized as “other” suggesting that there is a contingent of individuals who identify neither as female nor male. Men continue to dominate Pronto’s membership at an almost 2-to-1 rate (62%).

On first blush, Pronto annual members are not necessarily as youthful as you might suspect. The 31-to-40 age bracket makes up 44% of annual members while their next closest cohort are in the 21-to-30 age bracket with 31%. Middle aged members (41 to 60 years of age) roughly equate to their youthful counterparts at 28%. Those in their golden years constitute a very small sliver of the annual member total with 145 individuals (5%), but that’s still 3.5 times the number of minors registered to the program.

Strictly looking at zipcodes for annual members, a strong pattern emerges from the data. 56% of annual members are registered to a zipcode that is located within the Pronto service area. That hardly seems like a coincidence. Individuals who live within the Pronto service area generally have the greatest access to bike share on a regular basis. Here are the top five zipcodes with registered annual members:

  1. 98102 (North Capitol Hill and Eastlake) with 412 members;
  2. 98122 (South Capitol Hill and Central District) with 369 members;
  3. 98109 (South Lake Union, Uptown, and Westlake) with 326 members;
  4. 98121 (Belltown) with 221 members; and
  5. 98104 (University District and Laurelhurst) with 204 members.

At least 344 annual members are not registered to an address in Seattle. This suggests that most of those likely live outside of the city, which represents as much as 10% of annual members. My guess is that these individuals either really believe in bike share and bought membership to largely support the program or hold a regular job in the Pronto service area. A few extra data points accidentally ended up in the map above, some of which is not abundantly evident at first glance — call them Easter eggs. As an example, six annual members appear in zipcodes out by Carnation and Duvall. Talk about dedicated members. The remainder of members outside of Seattle tend to be in adjacent cities like Shoreline, Burien, and Mercer Island.

If the numbers above aren’t enough for you, let’s run through some more for the first year:

  • The average bike trip was 19.05 minutes;
  • Pronto bikes collectively traveled 335,694 miles;
  • 27,670 short-term passes were sold;
  • The average bike made 288 trips; and
  • The current ratio of bikes-to-bike station is just over 9:1.

Breaking those numbers down further, we find a mix of good and less-than-good numbers. For instance, the average bike station saw 512 customers purchase short-term passes and the network generated 935 miles of bike riding daily. Meanwhile, 144,000 trips were made on Pronto bikes throughout the year, but if you parcel that out on a per bike per month basis, that comes down to 24 trips. In context though, that’s within a range closely mimicking peer systems in Denver and San Francisco.

Additionally, that first data point in the list above suggests that the bike share system is meeting a key target — the 30-minute target. With average trip time at 19.05 minutes, most users are not exceeding the 30-minute threshold at which additional charges kick in for each half-hourly block. Bike share is predicated upon the concept of rotating bikes throughout the system as quickly and as balanced as possible. This helps realize a primary goal of ensuring that bikes remain accessible to users at most locations in the system and on demand.

Going forward, there is a lot that could change with Pronto. Mayor Ed Murray is committed to expanding the bike share program. One key expansion is set for the Central District, which is partially motivated out of social equity, but also is also a logical area for expansion. Wider plans call for the addition of electric bikes to the fleet, the deployment of 2,500 bikes and 250 bike stations, expansion to most corners of the city, and possible absorption of Pronto into city government.

If you want to celebrate Pronto’s first birthday, join the bike share crew in Downtown and Capitol Hill today for some free gifts from Chipotle at the times and bike stations listed below. Don’t forget to bring your membership key with you!

  • 8am to 10am: Pine St & 16th Ave and Westlake Ave & 6th Ave
  • 4pm to 6pm: 2nd Ave & Pine St and Bellevue Ave & Pine St

*Most numbers are derived from data provided from Pronto during the time period of October 13, 2014 to October 6, 2015.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for promoting sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He advocates for smart policies, regulations, and implementation programs that enhance urban environments by committing to quality design, accommodating growth, providing a diversity of housing choices, and adequately providing public services. Stephen primarily writes about land use and transportation issues.

16 COMMENTS

  1. The age and zip code data are interesting, but I’d still like to see the economic and ethnic data on Pronto subscribers. My guess is that users are disproportionately white and economically comfortable, but I could be way wrong on that.

  2. I’m fairly well off (two professional household), work fairly close to a Pronto bike rack, and generally don’t have a car with me (walk to work, but don’t live near a bike rack). So I’d think I’d be a pretty good target market for Pronto. But I’ve never rented one. Why? Because of price. My employer subsidizes my bus pass, and I enjoy walking. So the few times I’ve considered renting a bike would be the times when a bus isn’t coming soon. But the price is $8 a ride, plus a $2 helmet fee. That’s about the same price as the lunch I’d be riding the bike to purchase. So no thank you.

    I fully support a bike share program. But maybe reconsider the price? It sure sounds like there isn’t a shortage of bikes on racks. Where’s the equivalent of Seattle’s goal of pricing parking such that there’s always a spot or two available per block. I want dynamic pricing to keep a bike or two in each rack.

    • Some further number crunching. The average Pronto bike is used for 11 trips every two weeks, or an average of 15 minutes a day. The rest of the time it sits in a rack doing nothing. This strikes me as an incredibly low utilization rate. Matt is onto something; prices should be lowered and maybe the trip length increased to one hour. This is too much inventory, too much investment to sit unused 99% of the time.

      • This is not an illustrative way to understand the system for a lot of reasons but I’ll just point out two below:

        1) Do you know what would be a good utilization rate in time? If the utilization rate is too high people will often not be able to get bikes when they go to a station. These trips would reduce the reliability of Pronto and shift trips to another mode. This has happened too frequently when I’ve tried to use the bikes and this indicates that we actually need more bikes.

        2) Pronto, is virtually free compared to all other transportation systems once the capitol purchase is complete. The ongoing operations cost are super minimal compared to any other transit mode in the city. Additionally, this transportation option is available 24/7 without additional cost. If we used your metric to judge success we would remove the bikes from the system at night in order to increase the utilization rate.

        • To Owen’s first point, NYC could be pointed to as an example of how a bike share system is a victim of its own success. The utilisation rate there at many stations is way too high to meet demand. This doesn’t induce people to use the system, it does the opposite. There’s a happy medium, and I would agree that the utilisation in Seattle is low at the moment, but it’s also comparable to peer systems for the first year.

          • I’d argue that this requires the same solution as the was Seattle deals with street parking. Remove subscriptions, and charge based on time of day and location. Renting from a high-demand rack costs an extra buck or two compared to the rack down the block. Set the price such that there’s always a bike or two in the rack.

            (and like everything, this assumes they’ve already installed as many racks and bikes as they can – more bikes is always the best solution to a demand problem)

          • I would continue to support a subscription option in addition to non-subscription options. This is exactly the same kind of service as transit that you want to induce permanent behaviour, not discourage it like on-street parking or overly manage demand.

        • I’m surprised by this comment. I’ve never seen an empty rack, and usually they’re more or less full. If we’re already to the point where there are frequently empty racks, then I agree that the price is right, or low.

          • I’ve had at least 5 rides I didn’t take because I couldn’t get a bike at my nearest station. You’re right, it was definitely a local effect.

            There’s some balance between empty racks, more bikes and paying people to move bikes. It’s pretty hard for us to know what that balance is and how it could improve with the information we have. With that said, more bikes is actually a low cost solution. One bike can’t cost mor than a week of work from a single employee.

          • It’s definitely a local effect right now and what I would guess often time specific. I have a bike station a block away with 13 spots for bikes. The balance rapidly changes throughout the day as it is an in-demand location (the same is true for others nearby). There are many instances that I’ve walked by at daylight hours where it’s empt. More often, it goes empty (that I see anyway) late at night when demand spikes and when I would guess Pronto is not rebalancing.

            More bikes and stations is obviously the solution in certain circumstances. As you suggest, rebalancing certain locations may also be warranted. The uphill issue, by the way, may be partially addressed when e-bikes are implemented.

    • I believe we covered this earlier but as part of the Pronto expansion they are discussing making it accessible to use with an Orca card. This would solve a lot of problems. I don’t see any reason why a single trip shouldn’t be comparable in price to a bus trip but I don’t completely know the whole background of the bike share financial model.

      With that said, the goal of Pronto was to get members, not rely on single trips. I signed up for a membership and I ended up using the system way more than I expected. This is because once I bought the membership an individual ride was cheap so I was only comparing the time difference and convenience between different modes. In many situations it made way more sense to use Pronto. And this was true even though I own a bicycle.

    • So you’re talking about the spur of the moment trip instead of going full in for a day or three days. That’s an interesting point. As far as I know, almost all bike share require at least a 24-hour pass. I’m not sure why more single trips aren’t offered as a choice. Perhaps it’s exactly as Owen notes. A way to induce people into full-time membership.

      That said, the annual membership is dirt cheap in my estimation with free helmets. But given the service area, I can see many individuals not so keen on buying in just yet for that reason.

      • The problem is that although if used well $100 can be dirt cheap, it’s tough to convince yourself you’ll use it enough to make that leap. Assume this is worth $5 to me per round trip. Knowing Seattle has maybe 4 full months of bike weather, and I maybe need it once every other week, that’s $40 in value. Even if I valued it the full $10 they charged that would be $80.

        Now, it’s certainly possible I find it so amazingly useful that I use it more than every other week. Maybe it converts me to a full biker and I start dressing in full rain gear to be able to run to meetings. But I’ll never know, because the $100 doesn’t seem like a good value to me right now.

        This is the same reason I never tried Zipcar. They have a high annual membership that’s dirt cheap compared to owning a car, but I’m not about to trade in my car on the hope that it works for me. Then Car2Go shows up with cheap or free memberships, and I end up using them frequently. In fact, I’m so comfortable that there will be a Car2Go nearby I still often walk to work on days I’d otherwise drive because I know I’ll need to run a driving distance errand.

        My point is that converting a market to your new service is far more important than making an immediate profit using high fees.

        • I imagine you were going with a nice round number, but it’s worth noting that annual membership starts at $85.

          While I don’t know about Pronto’s specific financial sustainability strategy, I agree that some sort of non-committal subscription option for on-the-fly users and trial users (in addition to the 24-hr/3-day options) could be promising for both increasing utilisation and capturing more long-term users. I’d certainly be curious to know if they evaluated lower-barrier options in addition to the traditional short-term and long-term subscription services.

  3. Hey Stephen, assuming it’s publically available, can you share the zip code data for annual members? I can’t get to the data from the tableau public file or from Pronto’s site anywhere. For context, building a BI dashboard for a course project. Can you help?!

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