Cost of Montreal’s BIXI bike sharing program still unknown

MONTREAL – The problems surrounding Montreal’s BIXI bike sharing program continue to grow.

Officials on the administrative board insist they still don’t  know the financial health of BIXI despite being put in charge since March.

“It’s a bit premature to talk about financial health,” Sylvia Martin, the Vice-President of the board, said during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Montreal’s beleaguered bike sharing program has been running in red since its creation in 2009.

There have been numerous multi million dollars bail-outs by the city of Montreal to keep the bikes on the roads.

City council is now planning to approve $360,000 toward an I.T. software application to help BIXI continue operating.

That is in addition to more than five million dollars the Coderre administration granted BIXI at the beginning of the season to survive.

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Previous operators of the company filed for bankruptcy protection last January. Its largest creditor is the city of Montreal.

“We are making the effort to regain the credibility and confidence of Montrealers,” Morin told reporters.

Despite the financial difficulties BIXI Montreal continues to expand its service.

The company announced it has increased the areas it serves by eight percent this year compared to 2013, but ridership is down.

There are 33,715 members subscribing to the rental service through the end of July. In 2013 there were 36,519 members for the same period.

And the number of rides from non members is also down.

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There were 60,302 rides by non-members through the end of July compared to 72,629 during the same period last year.

Despite the dwindling number of users and the unknown financial health, BIXI Montreal still gains a wide range of support from city councillors.

Craig Sauvé from the Sud Ouest borough defends subsidizing BIXI.

“If it requires some subsidies from the city I think that’s normal. Our STM is subsidized by the city and it’s one of the cheapest services,” he said.

And the person in charge of mass transit on Montreal’s executive committee commends the work of BIXI’s board.

“These people are doing a great job. An amazing job. they are the most transparent people that we can have,” Aref Salem said.

By contrast, Citi Bike, the bike sharing program in NYC, which bought its system from Montreal publishes monthly reports online indicating ridership numbers and the financial performance of  its program.

An idea BIXI officials admit they may soon follow, “next year we might be in a situation to do that. But right now we’re a very lean organization bent on being cost efficient and service oriented,” Morin said.

Click here to see the Citi Bike’s monthly report.

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