Amidst the circus that is Toronto city hall, city councillors voted Thursday to lend more money to keep the Bixi bike-share program afloat.
Mayor Rob Ford commented on the Bixi program calling it a “failure” and expressed his doubts over bailing out the program or buying any of the bikes. The company has been unable to pay its debts and was hoping for a new, larger loan from the city or for the city to buy each of the company’s 1,000 bikes at $1,200 each.
Council came to a vote and the decision was made to use $5 million of available funds to prop up the struggling bike-share program. Operation and organization will likely change hands from the Toronto Transit Commission to the Toronto Parking Authority, but the document that outlines the transfer has not yet been made public.
Bixi was introduced to Toronto in 2011 with the help of a $4.3 million city-guaranteed loan and has been in rough financial territory almost the entire time.
The program made its debut in Montreal in 2009, where is has also been struggling. It’s owned by Montreal’s Public Bike Share Company, which not only provides the software and hardware for Montreal and Toronto’s systems, but to 13 other cities around the world, including New York, Chicago, London and Melbourne. The company has been running in the red for awhile.
Last year, Montreal loaned the company $37 million to continue operating. Major cities in Canada, such as Vancouver, have been looking elsewhere to set up bike-share programs.
Ford now speaking re: Bixi. About a dozen councillors turn their backs.
— Ben Spurr (@BenSpurr) November 14, 2013
"How many of these are we dealing with at $31,000 a crack?" Mayor Rob Ford asks RE: bike stations. Council chamber laughs at word "crack"
— Don Peat (@reporterdonpeat) November 14, 2013
Councillor @kristynwongtam: "If Toronto really wants the BIXI program to expand, then we need to stop removing bike lanes."
— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) November 14, 2013
— ARC (@RespectTO) November 14, 2013
— BikeTO (@biketo) November 14, 2013
— Robert Zaichkowski (@RZaichkowski) November 14, 2013
— BikingToronto (@BikingToronto) November 14, 2013