The Toronto Transit Commission isn’t prepared to take on the financial burden of the city’s struggling bikeshare program, Bixi, but it does not want to see the program die, either.
On Wednesday, the TTC voted to accept a staff recommendation that it not incorporate Bixi into TTC operations, but included a stipulation that it would re-open the subject if the city cannot find another viable solution to save the two-year-old bikeshare.
“It’s a safeguard to make sure the program doesn’t die,” said TTC Chair Karen Stintz.
The program – which allows people to rent bicycles on a per-use basis – was launched in 2011, but earlier this year city council was told Bixi was not able to make debt payments on the $3.9-million loan guaranteed by the city. It is also struggling to generate enough revenue to cover its operating costs and could use an expansion in order to generate more money.
There are 1,000 Bixi bikes in Toronto at 80 stations.
Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee passed the issue on to the TTC and asked for a staff report on possible solutions to keep the popular program afloat.
TTC received a report from staff Wednesday that said it would be unwise for the commission to take on the responsibility of the program. The report called Bixi “not financially sustainable” and said its use did not fall under the TTC’s mandate.
“There is no business case to support the TTC taking on additional expenses to support a non-transit initiative,” the report read.
Mayor Ford has called the program a failure in the past and has said it’s time for it to end, but the TTC members were hopeful another solution could be found.
“What I think commissioners didn’t want was for Bixi ultimately to fail just because no one would look after it,” said TTC CEO Andy Byford.
“I’m very hopeful that the city can take up the challenge of managing Bixi.”
In the fall, the executive committee will receive a report with options on how to save the bikeshare program.