Today, the Seattle Department of Transportation will ask permission from the Seattle City Council’s transportation committee to bailout Pronto Cycle Share, a failing bike share company. There is, however, one rather awkward glitch in the plan. According to lefty blog Publicola, SDOT already wrote “a couple of big checks directly to the beleaguered bike share nonprofit without the council’s explicit approval.” Publicola,
“The city has already spent $305,000 to keep Pronto afloat through February. SDOT went ahead and gave $65,000 to Pronto last December and $240,000 this year so Pronto could pay its vendor contract. A council staff report written this week in advance of Friday’s meeting specifically flags the expenditure.”
By every indication, SDOT officials did not inform the council of the expenditures. SDOT manager Barbara Gray told Publicola, “We had the budget authority.”
Gray went on to offer a weak explanation. She stated, “We didn’t want to interrupt service. We wanted to keep it up and functioning.”
Of course, the obvious follow-up question is: What service?
Either Gray hasn’t heard or she is conveniently covering up the fact that Pronto’s ridership has hovered around less than one trip per bike per day.
But, that’s not the only excuse SDOT offered for its actions. It appears that, in an effort to look better, SDOT asked Publicola to amend the article with another explanation. An addendum to the article reads,
“THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT THE FACT THAT WHILE COUNCIL WAS UNAWARE OF SDOT’S DIRECT PRONTO EXPENDITURE WHEN THE PAYMENTS WERE ACTUALLY MADE, SDOT DID LIST THE TWO PAYMENTS IN A SLIDE PRESENTATION AFTER THE FACT, TWO WEEKS AGO.”
Apparently, telling someone that you did something sketchy after you already did it makes it all better – at least, in Seattle city government.