In 2012, Holly Houser joined Pronto Cycle Share (then called Puget Sound Bike Share) with a hefty goal: Launch a brand new, citywide alternative transportation concept from scratch. With a background in real estate development and arts project management, Houser was uniquely positioned to act as both the public face of the program and a key negotiator behind the scenes. “We had to get people to trust us,” she says. “And that involved wearing a lot of hats.”
Over the next two years, leading her board of city officials and bike advocates, Houser would officially establish the nonprofit, drum up $2.5 million in public and private funds, land Alaska Airlines as a sponsor, navigate the permitting and regulatory hoops for the unprecedented system, find a safety solution through a helmet provider, and rebound from not one but two vendor bankruptcies, all leading to Pronto’s launch in October 2014—the only bike share program in the nation to begin service that year.
“Holly is both creative and detail oriented, sort of a rare combination,” says Demi Allen of Motivate, the equipment operator of Pronto. “She’s been an excellent representative for the system.”
And the system was a success, with nearly 25,000 riders logged and 300,000 miles covered. Pronto is also the first bike share program in North America to provide helmets. One year later, Houser is in the process of handing over bike share to the City of Seattle, now firmly established as a viable transportation option for this rapidly growing city.