Bixi switches into high gear with new sponsor Manulife

Click to play video: 'Bixi finds a new sponsor' Bixi finds a new sponsor
WATCH ABOVE: Montreal's once beleaguered bike sharing program, Bixi, is trying to roll itself back into fiscal health. As Global's Tim Sargeant reports, that could happen thanks to its new sponsor, Manulife – Mar 14, 2016

MONTREAL – The city’s bike-sharing program Bixi is showing signs that it’s becoming more and more self sufficient.

“Great news from Bixi. We have a new partner,” announced Mayor Denis Coderre.

Bixi has signed a three-year deal with Manulife, making the financial multinational the new marquee sponsor.

READ MORE: Bixi celebrates record year

The details aren’t being released but private sponsors, revenues from advertising and other private events account for almost one quarter of Bixi’s overall operating budget of $7 million.

“It always gives us that ability to look beyond and continually improve on a service,” said Sylvia Morin, a Bixi board member.

The bike-sharing program turned a profit of $800,000 in 2015 with 181,000 rides registered last year – an increase of 9.4 per cent compared to 2014.

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READ MORE: Bixi puts forth five-year-plan, but what will city hall say?

Bixi still receives $2.9 million, more than 40 per cent of its budget, in annual subsidies from the City of Montreal.

The mayor makes no apologies.

“We are willing to invest in it and they have to put up their business plan. They’re doing it,” said Coderre.

Bixi’s financial picture hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

READ MORE: Bixi Montreal looking to drop prices

It was in trouble for years – dating back to its inception in 2009 by former Mayor Gérald Tremblay – and only pulled out of bankruptcy protection two years ago.

All the same, many believe the company’s financial health is no longer an uphill battle; landing Manulife as the key sponsor should bode well for the expanding program.

The Bixi bikes will roll out for the season beginning April 15.

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