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City

BIXI gets $1 million injection from condo developers

Posted by Derek Flack / September 11, 2013

BIXI TorontoToronto's struggling bike share network just got a big boost. Thanks to the work of BIXI proponent and Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, three major developers — DiamondCorp, Lanterra, and Canderel — have agreed to contribute $1 million towards the expansion of the network in exchange for reducing the number of parking spaces they're required to provide at new condo projects. This represents a delivery on a plan that Wong-Tam pitched to council back in May, shortly after it was discovered that BIXI was in financial difficulty.

Should more developers be convinced to do the same, our bike sharing program might yet be saved. At present, BIXI is roughly $4 million in debt, a burden that would ultimately fall on Toronto taxpayers should the program remain financially unviable. Of course, for this plan to work, developers outside of Ward 27 would also have to get on board, which means that other councillors would have to leverage parking requirements in a similar manner.

To some degree, it's a win-win situation. The developers ultimately save money (the $1 million investment is far less than the cost of building the extra parking spots), BIXI gets much-needed cash, and, theoretically at least, congestion is curbed. BIXI representatives have argued that the network must expand for the program to be successful. Here's a concrete way to do that without leaning on the city for funds.

Photo by Martin Reis

Discussion

63 Comments

John / September 11, 2013 at 01:01 pm
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People now can look forward to buying a condo unit that has no parking, and being able to rent a bike if they want. How is this any good?
Jacob replying to a comment from John / September 11, 2013 at 01:03 pm
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Welcome to actual big city life.

Go to New York, Paris, London, Tokyo... in any of those places, parking is a luxury.
v79 / September 11, 2013 at 01:09 pm
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So we'll now have severely under-served and inconvenienced condo owners simply to partially ease the debts of a failing private company that provides a fringe service of extremely little value to the city as a whole? Ridiculous. Bixi can only be saved by charging more for an annual membership and making one time rentals available for no less than 2 hrs so that they're actually purposeful. I'm sure the members won't mind paying a dollar a day as opposed to the current 25 cents, which is completely unsustainable any way you look at it.
Sanchez / September 11, 2013 at 01:14 pm
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Was this for equity? Convertible preferred equity? Senior debt? Anyone have an idea on the nature of the cash injection? Would love to see their financial statements.
Glory_Holy / September 11, 2013 at 01:15 pm
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That's so nice of the condo developers. Now all the poor Bixi drivers need worry about is dodging falling glass from these caskets in the sky.
Danny replying to a comment from v79 / September 11, 2013 at 01:19 pm
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A few less parking spots for millionaires living in condos hardly qualifies as "severely underserved", but keep whining if it makes you feel better.
John replying to a comment from Danny / September 11, 2013 at 01:31 pm
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$1 Million dollars may get them through 2014. Where's the handout for 2015 going to come from? Are all you Bixi fans gonna crowd fund this ontop of your Bixi Membership fee?
lin ye replying to a comment from John / September 11, 2013 at 01:31 pm
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You can always stay in the suburbs, Johnny boy…
iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 01:38 pm
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Let me tell you a little secret from inside the developer's conference room -- they hate building those condo parking spots. You might think that it would hurt sales to have fewer, or that the spots are all used 100%, but that is far from the truth. What happens is that those spots are typically built because of minimums in the building and zoning codes, which by the way were written mostly for suburban situations and certainly not for the densest part of downtown Toronto in 2013. But the developers have no choice currently but to build them.

And they cost a fortune, because you either have to excavate ($$$$$$) or stick them into an above ground "podium" that uglifies the whole building. Either way we're talking big bucks. That means having to charge big bucks to recover your cost, and not everyone wants to pay $40k-60k for something they may have no reason to use if they are close to transit or use Zipcar.

There are also structural issues with parking, as the column layouts for condos don't mesh well with the column layouts for parking. Ramps eat up a ton of space, you often have to put sprinkler and ventilation systems in .... it's a giant headache.

This is an issue for cities everywhere, not just Toronto. A new building just went up in Miami with no parking whatsoever (and Miami is hardly a city with good transit):

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/14/3500524/no-parking-no-problem-for-planned.html

So the developers don't want to build the parking spots and want out, what would be a fair trade for getting out of the code obligations? Money, obviously, but for what? For art? For parks? For schools? A public plaza? Sure, some of those make sense, but there is certainly some logic in putting that trade-off money into a transportation program that may sync with lessening the need for parking in the first place.

It's a smart move.
John replying to a comment from lin ye / September 11, 2013 at 01:45 pm
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Lin ye you didn't answer the question but instead chose to guess on where I live?

I live downtown and ride my own bike that I bought off craigslist for $75. Bixi is a seasonal program but were letting condo developers off the hook for full time parking spots.

Remember winter when there's cars parked on the streets and street cars can't get passed to get you to work, and snow removal is difficult and if you do choose to ride a bike your squeezing between parked cars, snow banks and transit. LOVE IT lets put up another 1000 unit condo with no parking and the same frequency of street cars on the roads. Now is it the city's problem????
Ali / September 11, 2013 at 01:58 pm
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I do not understand BIXI. Bikes are not expensive. If you want people to bike, create safer, more widespread bikelane network and do something about bike being stolen and people will buy bikes.

So lets see, you put millions into BIXI and then you remove the bike lanes and then you wonder why BIXI has financial problems. And, to solve it you let condo builders (millionaires) build condos with less money therefore making more profit.

Seriously, how do stupid people get to position of making this kind of decisions for the city?
Catalina / September 11, 2013 at 02:08 pm
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Bixi is very flawed. Keep a bike out 24 hours and you will be floored at the exorbitant cost. I bought a membership first year and not after that. Why do we continue to pour money into BIXI when the City of Toronto should have created its own publicly owned service? Money seems to go more to Montreal's network than ours.
Al / September 11, 2013 at 02:28 pm
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This is a good example of how a public/private partnership can work. I assume that Rob Ford is overjoyed to see this happen.
iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 02:28 pm
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Most of the anti-Bixi comments here are being made by people who do not understand what it is or how it works.

Obviously cities around the continent would not be hurrying to add bikeshare if the concept pioneered by Paris and then Montreal did not make sense. Chicago, New York and San Francisco just started their own large Bixi systems in 2013 - if you can't understand why that is, you should perhaps not comment on Bixi in Toronto.

Bikeshare is a valuable public service that, like public transit, deserves and requires some subsidy. The solution of trading off unnecessary and unwanted condo parking spots doesn't work in most cities since they lack much condo development but in Toronto it is a very logical and senseible idea.
McRib / September 11, 2013 at 02:43 pm
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i find it hard to fathom how people still do not understand how Bixi works and what it should be used for.

Anyone who takes a Bixi bike out for 24 hours is not using it for its intended purpose.

Anyone who says shit like "Bikes are cheap! Just buy a bike!" doesn't understand the intended purpose of Bixi.

The lack of understanding and comprehension by the general public, towards pretty much anything, is scary.
Yardl / September 11, 2013 at 02:52 pm
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stupidest idea ever.
All this will lead to is more street parking - even in neighborhoods blocks away, more 'standing' at the side while people load and unload (hopefully obstructing bike lanes so these 'people' realize what hassle it all is). Condo underground parking is the answer to all questions and problems. People buy cars, store them, drive them when needed, ideally sharing with other types of transit. Transit is for boring one-stop trips - commuting - not for getting the other 75% of life done. We should insist that condos not only provide parking for residents and visitors but also paid public parking for nearby events (expensive or whatever, who cares). We need to get cars off the side of the road without losing the great wealth and productivity that comes from buying, owning, maintaining, and being able to effectively do real shopping and multi-trip activities that only a car can provide - and there is no way that some retarded zip car sharing program is going to be able to handle people's needs. Removing cars remove a huge percentage of all direct and indirect wealth-generating activity in this city - which directly impacts the city's ability to pay for stuff because property taxes come from wealthy people who are productive. How many top 50% of TOs' income don't have cars -or even cycle more than once a week??? few. they are the people that this city's decisions should be based upon. productive useful people. people with cars.
Aaron replying to a comment from Catalina / September 11, 2013 at 02:53 pm
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Why would you ever take a Bixi out for 24 hours? It's designed for short trips from point A to point B. Take a bike near your starting point, return it near your destination. I've been a member from the beginning and I've never once had to pay extra in hundreds of trips.
Alex replying to a comment from Yardl / September 11, 2013 at 03:05 pm
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I plan on buying a condo in the next few years, and I won't be buying a parking spot because I don't own a car. I choose to live in a city where housing is expensive, but everything is within walking or transit distance. If I need to buy furniture I'll have it delivered. Appliances, take a cab or have them delivered based on size. Moving? Hire a moving company. Going to the cottage? I'll rent a car for the weekend. You don't have to own a car in the city. People who think you have to drive everywhere are why traffic exists. I'd also argue that commuting is over 75% of most of people's driving during the day, not the other way around. If you don't need a car for commuting then it is a huge expense to have just lying around.
iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 03:13 pm
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I posit two theories:

1) That Yardl does not live downtown.

2) That Yardl has never been to New York, especially Manhattan, where the vast majority of the population does not have a car but does have productive, useful people, many with tremendous wealth. Turns out the two variables are more independent in certain settings than in, say, Etobicoke or Mississauga (see theory #1).
Mark Dowling / September 11, 2013 at 03:46 pm
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I have been advocating for a while now that downtown councillors use S37 bux to extend Bixi's reach. Councillor Wong-Tam has shown the way, albeit that her ward is quite well served... as far as Bloor. Getting stations into Rosedale and Castle Frank stations would expand the reach of Bixi while encouraging use of currently lightly used subway stations. The councillor who should be most pressured to follow her lead is Mike Layton, who could direct some Liberty Village development dollars to extend the network to GO Exhibition and give people there options other than the overcrowded 504.
Mctaxpayer replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 03:54 pm
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I think what Yardl was trying to say is that if the company cannot be profitable on its own, the taxpayer should not fund it.
Mctaxpayer replying to a comment from Ali / September 11, 2013 at 03:56 pm
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This is another part of the Miller legacy.
ccwestcliff replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 04:00 pm
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Completely agree!
I think this discussion shows a clash of cultures: people who were born with a car seat growing out of their backside (apologies for this picture) and people who weren't!
I use BIXI on a daily basis and think I know what I am talking about when I say that for Downtown Toronto it is the best way of getting from a to b without clogging up the streets, fast, environmentally friendly and cheap!
As mentioned in another post, there are people out there who move Downtown because the a) don't own a car and b) don't want to own one, so parking spots are not important to them, but to get around easily without one.
Bike sharing is working extremely well in other cities and if the network in Toronto is expanded I have hope that it will be a success over here as well.
Imagine the lobby of the bikers would be as strong and influential as the lobby of the drivers ...
Benedict replying to a comment from John / September 11, 2013 at 04:11 pm
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How is it bad??
Mr Kanyo replying to a comment from Yardl / September 11, 2013 at 04:13 pm
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While I'm pretty sure you're just trollin' anyway, this:

"the great wealth and productivity that comes from buying, owning, maintaining, and being able to effectively do real shopping and multi-trip activities that only a car can provide"

still made me throw up a little.
Squint replying to a comment from Catalina / September 11, 2013 at 04:13 pm
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Guess you didn't read how the fees work. You're not suppose to keep a bike for the 24 hours. The bikes are commuter bikes, not take them for a joy ride around the city and return when I feel like it. You use the bike to get from point A to B, drop the bike off within the half an hour and you don't get charged anything extra. Easy.

I see so many people with Bixi bikes out in the Beach area, I wonder if they payed attention to the sign at all or just thought like you. Don't blame the service for your not paying attention to how it works.
BM / September 11, 2013 at 04:13 pm
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What a waste of 1 mil. Get your own damn bike. Can't afford one? WALK!
Squint replying to a comment from Ali / September 11, 2013 at 04:17 pm
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I used to live downtown and owned my own bike, but got a Bixi membership because it saved me lugging my bike down from may apt, in a building that elevators barely worked at full capacity so I'd barely be lucky to get myself into one let alone an addition of a bike.

So it was great to just go outside grab a bixi and drop it off by my work, not needing to find an empty bike ring to lock up to, and potentially worry about the bike not being there when I get back.

It also gave me the freedom of not having to pull my bike around with me if I decided to go anywhere after work with work people.

Also it's great for out of town people to get around, I know I used the similar service in London UK to get around, their's is much better and wider spread.

Unfortunately I've moved away from the service area and can't use it any more. Hopefully it spreads and thrives, I can see it being much more profitable if it was serving a larger area.
Jason replying to a comment from Ali / September 11, 2013 at 04:24 pm
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BIXI is not seasonal. They are available year-round.
DT replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 04:25 pm
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Some very good point iSky,

Just came back from Chicago and the system they have is already great after only 6 months. Great way for the tourists to explore a city and even better commute option for locals.
Alex replying to a comment from iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 04:41 pm
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Great comment from iSkyscraper. Everyone should read that comment before devolving into the same old right wing/left wing circlejerk.
vs / September 11, 2013 at 04:42 pm
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Giving BIXI $1M will reduce debt, but will not fix any problem. They'll burn this money and go bankrupt, but parking spaces will not be built. Looks like Developers will win, they save money, councilors will satisfy their egos, taxpayers and bike user will loose. Nothing to be happy about, IMHO.
Ali replying to a comment from Squint / September 11, 2013 at 04:45 pm
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So, you paid $97/year to bike to work just so you don't have to take your bike in the elevator or lock it in the parking lot?

If so many people are using are using BIXI then why do they have financial problem?
Gabe replying to a comment from Al / September 11, 2013 at 04:58 pm
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I do not think this is a good example of how public and private can work together YET, if all parties are still around in 10 years lets look at the example.

Its just a deal that's in the best interest of the developer. If Bixi folds the condos still have it their way and they basically paid nothing for it.
Dave replying to a comment from Ali / September 11, 2013 at 05:30 pm
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The problem is that there was no proper business plan. They every only hope to exist with handouts. It is unfortunate, but I wonder if the city would finance other failing business if they were not so visable.
Jeff / September 11, 2013 at 05:48 pm
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New York is also an island which makes driving more difficult. They are not the best example for everything. Quit comparing we do have the opportunity to do something different
Karim / September 11, 2013 at 05:56 pm
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I wonder if Bixi should get $1million from Ryerson. That might clear Ryerson of their obligations of putting the Sam sign back up because of cost and structural issues all things they should be able pay their way out of as a developer.
Tom / September 11, 2013 at 06:06 pm
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I'LL comment on here as I want thank you very much iSkyscaper. Yes other cities have launched successful Bixi programs, zoo's, transit systems. Good for them that does not validate our need for or success of program.

You do have some good points but everybody else is doing it is not one of them.
TM / September 11, 2013 at 06:30 pm
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This sound like a good idea as long as the money goes towards the expansion of the network. The Bixi network is too small to be sustainable. Grow it out however and more people will be able to use it.
Dave replying to a comment from Tom / September 11, 2013 at 07:11 pm
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The one size fits all solution is what iskyscraper feels could happen in any situation.
What is does not realize is that New York is not Toronto. His views of our city do not mesh with reality. But I suppose that is why he lives there and comments about here as he does not grasp Toronto's reality.
I consider all of his points null and void.
Alan replying to a comment from Dave / September 11, 2013 at 07:30 pm
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You make it sound like NYC is the opposite of Toronto. They share many similarities, and I'd like to hear what city you think is so much better a representation of Toronto - one that we won't consider null and void.
Dave replying to a comment from Alan / September 11, 2013 at 07:41 pm
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Alan, for this type of service you are attempting to compare apples and oranges.
Do you not feel a for profit business should be able to stand up on its own?
And if you think that public funds should be proping up private enterprise, how do you pick and choose.
And yes I realize that this donation was not publically funded.
jb replying to a comment from Jason / September 11, 2013 at 07:55 pm
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Right Jason. Can't wait to see you ride one in January
Todd / September 11, 2013 at 07:56 pm
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How did we ever survive a few years back without Bixi in this city? I can't even imagine...
jb replying to a comment from Jason / September 11, 2013 at 07:56 pm
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Good old Kristyn Wong-Tam. No fool like an old fool.
iSkyscraper / September 11, 2013 at 07:59 pm
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I will be the first to admit that bikeshare programs are not profit-making machines. Just like all North American transportation systems, they require some subsidy that goes beyond pure user fees. Cars get it from investments in roads and highways. Transit gets it from dedicated taxes and general revenues. Bikeshare gets it differently in different places - it is hardly one size fits all. In Minneapolis they used a pilot federal transportation grant and donations from health insurance companies because that's what worked in that market. In New York it was $41 million in advertising from Citibank because advertising is what works in that market. In Chicago (a true peer city to Toronto, by the way), it was bonds issued on their tax increment financing program that were used for their Bixi because, as a real estate town, having bikeshare around raised the value of property in the area, which produced an expected increase in taxes. In Toronto, Land of Condos, it only makes sense that condos might be the way to push Bixi forward.

I will forever disagree with anyone who says we should not be learning from the experiences of other cities. That is a very Rob Ford mentality and harmful to the Toronto's future. It's a competitive world out there, and what happens in other leading cities on this continent matters.

No one seemed to complain when our urban beaches were cribbed from Paris, or when the Yonge line was borrowed (literally, same dimensions as the IRT) from New York, or when parking meters first appeared (nee Oklahoma City). Many cities borrowed the concept of the Business Improvement District from Toronto, where it was invented. Quit being so myopic.
Sed / September 11, 2013 at 08:08 pm
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This is very short sighted just to keep BIXI afloat. These parking spots are very important for the cities future. As more and more lots are turned in condo's and more city blocks are devoured by condos there are less spots available whether for public or private parking lots. There is no more land to build lots so the condos should respect the standards and build parking spaces underground. You can not retro fit a parking lot under a condo after the fact. But You can turn a private lot into a public lot later.

As the density increases and you a want to have pedestrian only streets etc you need somewhere to put the cars. Yes we can go the route of Manhattan as some have suggested but as parking rates go up to so does the property values and the rich can move in a live comfortably and the rest will have to move out... the average citizen cannot afford to live in Manhattan.
Karim / September 11, 2013 at 08:09 pm
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Hello Ryerson, this is Bixi calling for $1 Million dollars I can make that Sam the Record Man sign issue go away....
stopitman replying to a comment from John / September 11, 2013 at 08:09 pm
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"People now can look forward to buying a condo unit that has no parking, and being able to rent a bike if they want."

I live in a condo in the downtown core and I can tell you that at least 1/3 of the spots rarely ever see a car. The lot the developer built goes 5 stories below ground so they could hit the lake bed, but each of those spots costs $20,000+ each to build (and buy).

It's called capitalism and it unforunately gets in the way of some peoples' fetish for 3 cars per household. People live downtown to be close to work, amenities, and transportation so they don't invest money in a car (which is extremely expensive over a household's life).
Matt replying to a comment from Todd / September 11, 2013 at 08:18 pm
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Same way we do now. Most of us don't give a shit.
Dave / September 11, 2013 at 08:31 pm
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Anyone that thinks that Rob Ford does not borrow any ideas from other communities is totally out of touch, but it is obvious to see that a New York resident may be that person.
Rob Ford has borrowed plans and infrastructure ideas from Chicago that work well in Toronto (a similar sized city).
Like I previous stated some points from foreigners should be considered redundant.
Whyte on Rice replying to a comment from Dave / September 11, 2013 at 09:33 pm
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Anyone ever pay attention to the people who ride Bixi?

They tend to fall into two groups: 1) tourists who are having a ball being on a bike in a foreign city/country (or locals who haven't been on a bike in years and are delighted), and 2) folks who use it regularly and are industriously making their way to the next checkpoint so they can drop their ride and get on with their day. (i.e. using it exactly as intended).

In either case, it's reason enough to keep it going. And for those who don't get it, stop wringing your hands over them. Some people don't get Twitter or Skype or Facebook, and that's fine. But for those people who do, they REALLY have a use for them. As Bixi adds to the city from a tourism/traffic congestion/environmental/money-saving standpoint, then it simply makes sense here as well. It just hasn't gotten it's legs fully under it yet, is all.

I guarantee if there was Bixi stand on every major street corner, people would suddenly get the usefulness of it. Like payphones a generation ago (or wifi access now), build it and they will come. Hell, even if they DON'T come, the tourism angle alone is enough reason to persevere. Can't tell you how much more fun Mexico is on the back of a scooter or in a VW Bug...same goes for Bixi here.

I know saying the City should be involved will get the naysayers going bonkers, touting that private industry should be bearing that out. But if they wanted to do so, they would have done so by now. Like buses, sometimes a municipality has to subsidize some things for the larger good.
Whyte on Rice replying to a comment from Dave / September 11, 2013 at 09:40 pm
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Oh, and one more thing, I love, love, LOVE how motorists (and cyclists) slow the fuck down around Bixi users and drive safely --myself included.

I mean, you have no clue if the rider is a novice cyclist or a tourist or easily spooked, so you automatically give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume your best driving/cycling behavior around them. And if that isn't an amazing side benefit of Bixi right there, I don't know what is.

The streets oughta be MUCH safer for all cyclists, and so I'm tickled pink every time I see a beaming novice learning the ropes atop a BIXI.


P.S. Hi Dave... (call meeee!!)
Whyte on Rice replying to a comment from Dave / September 11, 2013 at 09:47 pm
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Quick Primer for those of you following along at home, Dave hates iSkyscraper because she now hails from NYC, but used to live here. Dave thinks people need to live here and pay taxes here ("have skin in the game") in order to comment, ever. But really, he's just mad at her because she always gets the better of him with salient points, airtight logic and real-world examples. They're like an old married couple, where one is always right and the other is always wrong, but always squabbling. Sooooo cute!
white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm replying to a comment from Whyte on Rice / September 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm
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Dave doesn't live here either. He admitted as much just the other day.
Alex replying to a comment from John / September 12, 2013 at 02:56 pm
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Nobody will perish without a parking space or a car. People will perish from obesity due to lack of exercise.
Alex replying to a comment from v79 / September 12, 2013 at 03:01 pm
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Oh, you mean the condo owners that bascially become 3rd party investors and rent out a 1 bedroom to 4 students at a time? Take a glance at the information out there; condos in Toronto will become slums. It's hilarious that people think that glass is functional as a wall.
Alex replying to a comment from Yardl / September 12, 2013 at 03:08 pm
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Nobody incurs wealth on a car, unless they are advertising on it for a company. This is basic highschool information. The second the signature is on the lines and the car is off the lot, you lose like $5000 in value (I may be exaggerating; depends on the make/model). Apparently, you've been on another planet if you think that grid lock makes us money. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/07/11/howe-congestion-study.html
John / September 13, 2013 at 02:12 pm
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Come on ALEX, now your bringing an obesity issue into this? What are you saying are you for condos or against them?

Why arent the condos using the $1 million to give all its residents a free bike or lifetime worldwide BIXI memberships? Because theyre not in it for your health, well being or assisting in helping you loose a lard ass.
Me / September 13, 2013 at 03:40 pm
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Alex is against anything BlogTO tells him he should be against. Poor puppet.
Alex replying to a comment from Me / September 14, 2013 at 02:23 pm
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First of all, you should never assume a person's gender based on their name. Or at all, for that matter. I'm a female, thanks. I form my own opinions based on what I think is good and bad or what strikes me as wrong or right. Giant condo buildings aren't helping anyone. They are shoddily made, offer no chance of community building and their developpers are often greedy foreigners who have no respect for our laws. I don't care either way, but it smacks of taking the easy way out.

I was responding to someone who is clearly obsessed with vehicles and wanted to point out that no one is going to die without a parking space; that guy was a little bit ragey. You may want to check context before running your fingers across the keys.

Ideally, it's great if BIXI bikes are more available to these condo dwelling people. I think these developpers are very kind to help Bixi out but it isn't because of good will, it's definitely a clear ulterior motive - less work for them and they can still charge all that $$$ to poor unsupsecting idiots who want to live in glass houses. It won't solve everyone's problem, and certainly not Bixi's.
josh / September 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm
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ALEX BRINGS THE HEAT!! APPLAUSE! Bring da pain...
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