Leah Treat
  • PBOT
  • Leah Treat

The former boss of Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat is now acting as an adviser to Alta Bicycle Share, which is laboring to satisfy a contract with PBOT.

Gabe Klein, who oversaw Treat's work at transportation departments in Washington, DC, and Chicago, recently stepped down as transportation commissioner in the Windy City. While he works to start his own firm, he's been dispensing "free advice" to Portland-based Alta, Klein told Crain's Chicago Business for a story published today.

And he's not the only Chicago transportation insider in Alta's corner. From the story:

I give free advice to a whole lot of different companies, to be honest,” said Mr. Klein, who stepped down in November. “I am not getting paid by Alta or any of the other startups that I'm advising.”

In March 2012, the Emanuel administration gave Alta Bicycle a 15-year bike-rental contract.

Mr. Klein's role as unpaid adviser underscores the close relationship between the Portland, Ore.-based company and two former high-ranking Chicago transportation officials. Scott Kubly, who until last month was the department's managing deputy commissioner, has a contract with Alta to help develop new business.

The affiliations mean Alta has connections with people who've worked closely with Treat—one of whom's spoken highly of her abilities in the past—even as Treat's bureau has a formal contractual relationship with Alta.

Again, from Crain's:

In an email, Mia Birk, a vice president and principal in Alta Bicycle, said Mr. Klein “is not currently employed by or under any paid consulting relationship with Alta.”

“Mr. Kubly is under contract to Alta Bicycle Share, advising on new business development,” she added, declining to answer further questions

It's an interesting development, but probably won't make Treat any more a fan of the company's work than she already is. While in Chicago, she awarded Alta a contract for the city's 4,000-bike Divvy Bikes system. And Treat recently reached out to the Mercury regarding bike share, making a case the system will be a huge boon for Portland.

Alta, co-helmed by former Portland Bike Program Manager Mia Birk, has been laboring since early last year to find roughly $5.5 million in sponsorship money. Officials have been tight-lipped about progress, but swear they're close to closing a deal. Even so, Treat says PBOT is assuming the city will need to front money to purchase a bike share system while sponsorship dollars arrive in yearly installments.

The system's future seemed to grow murkier this week, when Montreal-based Public Bike System Company (PBSC, also known as Bixi) announced it was filing for bankruptcy—a restructuring similar to a Chapter 11 filing in the US. The notice stays lawsuits pending against the company, as well as more than $46 million in debts (a scant $4,874 of it to Alta).

PBSC has been an integral Alta business partner, supplying bikes and docking stations for many of the country's bike share systems. Birk, fielding questions from journalists throughout the globe, has repeatedly said the restructuring won't affect Alta's plans.