BIXI: If They Crash – Torontonians Will Come Up With the Cash

Update: see previous posts – April 24, 2013 BIXI: Toronto Bixi to Undergo a City Review On July 3, 2013, April 17, 2013 BIXI Toronto: A Failing Business, August 19, 2012 BIXI Toronto – Fails Green Test and Violates Muncipal By-laws Governed by the Highway Traffic Act, August 9, 2012 Art of Bicycle Maintenance Puts Young Workers on a New Path, January 23, 2012 Bixi – Coldest Day of the Year Bike Ride On Monday, Jan. 30/12 from Toronto City Hall to Royal York Hotel on Front St, August 28, 2011 BIXI Toronto – Wants to Expand in Toronto, While Charging Torontonians $17 More and Provides 15 Minutes Less, June 26, 2011 Bixie – When Will BIXI Give Torontonians the Same Deal They Give to Montrealers?, May 11, 2011 Bixi – Car Crashes Into Bike Rack at Bay & Queen Street Bixi Station , May 6, 2011 BIXI Quebec Already Lays Off Employees, May 4, 2011 Bixi Charges $17 More in Toronto and Gives 15 Minutes Less Free Time than Montreal, May 2, 2011 Bixi, April 30, 2011 Bixi – Toronto (Arriving Soon)

Bixi bikes at City Hall - Nathan Philips Square - 100 Queen Street West at the northwest corner of Queen & Bay streets in Toronto
Bixi bikes at City Hall – Nathan Phillips Square – 100 Queen Street West at the northwest corner of Queen & Bay streets in Toronto. Despite accumulating 4,630 paid subscribers and more than 1.3-million trips in the first year-and-a-half, BIXI Toronto is floundering financially. The company cannot make some debt payments, is struggling to cover its operating costs and at the end of March owed suppliers $1-million. It launched in 2011 after hammering out an agreement with the City of Toronto that saw the municipal government guarantee a $4.8-million capital loan to get the 1,000 bike and 80 station system going.

 

TTC chair Karen Stintz thinks the ailing Bixi bike system could be integrated with the TTC and perhaps even the Presto fare card.

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Should the TTC take over Toronto’s struggling Bixi bike sharing program?

“There’s an opportunity to expand Bixi to complement the TTC and give people more options around public transit. Before the (Bixi) program is closed I’d like an opportunity to explore how it could be a complement to the TTC,” Toronto Transit Commission chair Karen Stintz said Monday.

She plans to put the matter before the TTC board this month. Stintz would like TTC staff to gather its input before a city staff report goes before Toronto’s executive committee on July 3.

If the idea has merit but needs city funding, a discussion would need to take place, she said.

“It can’t siphon funds away from the TTC,” said Stintz.

Toronto is trying to figure out whether its two-year-old bike sharing program is viable and worth saving. It was established with a $4.8-million capital loan from the city. But the Montreal company that operates Bixi still owes $3.9 million.

Bixi officials have suggested the Toronto operation is too small, that it needs about 3,000 bikes to be viable but has only 1,000 at 80 stations and about 4,600 members.

TTC chair Karen Stintz says a proposal for the transit operator to take over the struggling Bixi bike program is worth looking at.
Stintz would like TTC staff to gather its input before a city staff report goes before Toronto’s executive committee on July 3.

If it fails, the bikes and docking stations aren’t expected to sell for more than $1.2 million.

Montreal’s Bixi program has 5,000 bikes and last summer had 50,000 members. But it too has struggled financially. That city’s transit system is expected to take over the bike sharing operations later this year.

“If we were to rethink how Bixi integrates with the TTC and perhaps also integrate it with (the Presto fare card), we might find ourselves with a better service to the public,” said Stintz.

If there’s a subway delay, TTC riders travelling a short distance would have the option of grabbing a bike to complete their trip.

But Mayor Rob Ford said he wouldn’t support integrating Bixi with the TTC.

“Bixi’s a failure,” he said Monday. “It should be dissolved. It’s not working.”

Bixi needs a source of capital that isn’t tied to operating revenue, said Daniel Egan, the city’s manager of cycling infrastructure.

“It’s not so much who operates the program because lots of people could operate it. The question really is the capital funding. That’s the challenge Bixi Toronto is having. The capital loan has to be paid off by operating revenues and we know after two years of operation that’s not working,” he said.

Many U.S. bike sharing programs rely on government grants. Bigger programs such as those in New York and London have corporate sponsorships.

Toronto’s Bixi has sponsors in place until 2014. It would be premature to look at different sponsorship programs until the city figures out a new financial model, said Egan.

Karen Stintz
TTC chair Karen Stintz says a proposal for the transit operator to take over the struggling Bixi bike program is worth looking at. She added “There’s an opportunity to expand Bixi to complement the TTC and give people more options around public transit. Before the (Bixi) program is closed I’d like an opportunity to explore how it could be a complement to the TTC,”

Bikes and transit are a natural fit, said Jared Kolb of Cycle Toronto.

“When you look at trips within our city, what public bike systems like Bixi do is they fill in the gaps for trips that are too short to take transit or too far to walk — that two-kilometre sweet spot,” he said.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said she plans to take her idea of giving developers a break on parking requirements to the city’s planning committee. She said she already has a developer willing to install four Bixi stations for $200,000 in exchange for 24 car parking spaces.

“I think everything should be studied,” said Wong-Tam. “We’re not in a position to close the door on any ideas.”

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