BIXI Toronto

Is BIXI on the brink?

The question of whether or not the BIXI bike-sharing program will come to Toronto looks like it's going to come down to the wire. With the city council-imposed November 30 deadline to reach 1000 subscriptions just over two months away, the program has around 600 subscribers.

Given that the BIXI launch party took place on July 28, that number should indicate a subscription pace that'll meet the required number. But, unfortunately, that's by no means a sure bet. On the one hand, it'll be difficult to reproduce the surge of subscribers that signed up when the the program was launched, though some fence-sitters may take the plunge as the deadline becomes imminent. And on the other, I fear the coming cold weather may numb public interest levels.

Perhaps most problematic of all is that one gets the sense that many think BIXI is a done deal. As the event description for tonight's meeting to help promote the program at the Centre for Social Innovation reads, "right now almost 3 times as many people are Facebook fans of BIXI Toronto than are subscribed."

There are a plethora of possible reasons for this differential between subscribers and "fans." Some, for instance, love the idea of BIXI, but are already hardcore commuters who don't feel they'd benefit from the program. While they want to support BIXI, they don't feel it makes sense to do so financially given their riding habits. But, it's a distinct possibility that a key factor in imbalance between vocal or written "support" and actual subscriptions comes down to a misunderstanding that Toronto has already secured the program.

Although anecdotal, I've heard numerous people make statements to this effect over the last two months. And though BIXI has had a number of pop-up demonstrations to drum up support - which have admittedly been modestly successful - I get the sense that a more dramatic campaign might be necessary to ensure that those even vaguely interested in the program understand that without the requisite number of subscribers, BIXI Toronto just won't materialize.

So, please forgive the alarmist headline - but I think BIXI would be great for Toronto, and I'd rather suggest that the program is in danger than applaud the organizers' efforts to this point, as admirable as they may have been securing sponsorship funds and the 600 or so current subscribers. With two months of cooler temperatures to come, some urgency seems to be in order.

Update (4:00 p.m.)

Biking Toronto has stats on BIXI subscriptions rates, which would put the total at 924 on November 30, 2010. Check their post out here.

Photo by Annia V.


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