PBOT Director Leah Treat
  • PBOT Director Leah Treat

You saw this coming, but now it's official: Portland's not getting a bike share system this year.


Those tidings come straight from Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat, who sat down with the Mercury earlier this afternoon. After two years of delay—Portlanders were initially told they'd be zooming around on public bikes by spring 2013—Treat says we've got a third coming to us.

But she also made a forceful promise, even pounding her hand on the table with each syllable as she did so.

"We will launch in 2016," Treat said. She stopped the table-pounding to add "I don't know what it's going to look like, but we will launch."

How? we asked. She wouldn't say. Has there been some new promise of funding? Treat was silent, except to note that Portland is still sitting on around $1.8 million left over from a 2012 Metro grant. "Even if that’s all we launch with, we’re launching. We have made a commitment and those funds are available for bike share."

Treat's got some experience in such things. She was a deputy director at Chicago's Department of Transportation when the city was getting its Divvy Bike system off the ground. But Divvy's business model isn't the same as what Portland's been attempting: finding lucrative corporate sponsorships that, along with user fees, could sustain a 750-bike system here.

Treat's promise could mean Portland is content to launch a far-smaller system with what funds we have. Or she might pursue a plan where additional public funds subsidize our system. (She didn't indicate or hint that to me. It's merely a possibility, but we've noted before Treat's shown signs she's sympathetic to that model.) Or maybe there's a bunch more federal money up for grabs. It's all unclear, except for the fist pounding and the guaranteeing.

Portland initially promised citizens a bike share launch in 2013, but has had to repeatedly push things back because no one wants to sponsor our system, and the people we planned to buy equipment from went bankrupt. There's been no sign of life in the program for a while now, but change continues. Former Portland outfit Alta Bicycle Share recently moved to New York City after being acquired by real estate honchos out there. It is now known as Motivate, but still has a contract with Portland to bring the city bike share.

Treat wouldn't say whether Motivate will be involved in whatever plans she has for next year. We've already paid the company tens of thousands of dollars, including a cool $40,000 for a report that was only supposed to be turned in once Motivate (then Alta) had "secured" us millions in sponsorships.