toronto bixi

BIXI Toronto is safe, for now at least

It might be wobbling a little, but Toronto's BIXI bike rental business looks like it could coast until the summer now that Rob Ford's executive committee has voted to alter the way it finances the project.

Under the terms of the existing agreement, the City of Toronto guarantees BIXI's $4.5 million start-up loan, meaning if the company ever became unable to pay back the principal taxpayers would be on the hook to cover the remaining balance. As of December, $3.9 million was still outstanding.

BIXI's predicament stems its diminutive size, according to Jared Kolb from Cycle Toronto. He says if the company was subsidized like the TTC and other transit systems then it could grow beyond its existing 80 stations and attract more users. Right now it has 4,630 paid subscribers.

The terms of the restructuring plan are private but it seems like there's some support on Rob Ford's executive committee - the closest thing the mayor has to a cabinet - for keeping the black and white rental bikes on Toronto's streets, even if the city's leader doesn't believe in spending the money himself.

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said the in camera discussions hope to find a way to "maintain" BIXI and limit the city's financial liability should the Montreal-owned business fail. He also acknowledged that the general public see value in keeping the system operational.

A staff report containing the result of the new agreement is due on July 3, so at least there'll be a few months of summer riding if things go south.

Do you think BIXI can survive at its present size? Should the city have backed the initial loan? Will you miss BIXI if it does eventually close?

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: ana_lee_smith/blogTO Flickr pool.


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