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Toronto’s Bixi BikeSharing System Endangered

A little bit of breaking news for you…there were rumours about this floating around yesterday, but I wanted to make sure things were “concrete”, so to speak, before blogging about it for you.

Toronto’s plans to emulate the great success of bikesharing systems around the world, by using the Public Bike System company (the same people behind Montreal’s Bixi) is in danger of being scrapped (at least for 2010) due to the financing needed to start up the project.

First some background… from Torontoist:

Last year, the City began exploring the possibility of launching Toronto’s own version of Bixi this spring. A staff report from last May [PDF] recommends the 2010 launch, and says that the rollout could be accomplished “at no cost to the City and without additional advertising within the street right-of-way,” because users would subsidize the service directly by paying membership fees to use the bikes.

According to the National Post, the Public Bike System is now asking for start-up costs of $15 million:

“At this point in time we can’t seem to operate a public bike system at no cost to the city, which is contrary to what council proposed,” said Mr. Welsh.

Mr. Welsh said negotiations continue, but the bikes will at the very least be delayed assuming they can reach a deal at all.

“This doesn’t mean the program is being abandoned, we’re still looking at the viability of the program and how we can enable it in the future,” Mr. Welsh said.

Because of this, the necessary discussion of this at the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee and City Council have been postponed, as there are a lot of cost-cutting and budget hand-wringing in the media these days.  The item has been removed from the PWIC meeting of Mar. 2, which means the earliest it will be discussed will be April 20th, after which City Council will still need to discuss it.

Things are looking gloomy as it appears the City won’t spend any money seen as “discretionary” by the general electorate (even if they’re certain to get it back via Bixi user fees) during 2010 because 1) the City is supposed to be broke and 2) it’s an election year.

We can all help push the politicians and city staff to do the right thing though… like contacting them and letting them know that we want Public Bike Sharing in this city!

Send a note to the City Manager, the Mayor, and lots of councillors:

Addresses (copy and paste into your email “to” field:

jpennac@toronto.ca, mayor_miller@toronto.ca, councillor_heaps@toronto.ca, degan@toronto.ca, councillor_giambrone@toronto.ca, councillor_perks@toronto.ca, councillor_pantalone@toronto.ca, councillor_mihevc@toronto.ca, councillor_debaeremaeker@toronto.ca, councillor_mcconnell@toronto.ca

Subject: Please Support BikeSharing in Toronto

Body of Email (suggested, feel free to edit as you like):

Dear Councillors and Mayor Miller,

I’m very concerned that Toronto may be canceling or delaying plans to join the other great cities of the world in implementing a public BikeSharing system due to start up costs (that will eventually be re-couped through user fees).

I’d like to show my support for a BikeSharing System.  It’s essential to ease congestion and pollution in Toronto’s downtown, and helps the city meet our environmental goals.

During just the first 3 months of operation, Montreal’s Bike system accumulated over 8,400 members and over 77,000 users… all of whom paid to use their version of Bixi.  Over 3.6 million kms were travelled on Bixi bikes in just those 3 months, which eliminated 900,000 kg of greenhouse gases.

PLEASE support a Public Bike Sharing system for Toronto.

It will benefit our city, and users will pay for it.

Thank you.

[your name here]

Post photo from The Urban Country.

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