The fate of Toronto's struggling bike-share program, Bixi, remains uncertain after an executive committee deal to save the program from bankruptcy fell through at the last minute.
The mayor's cabinet-like executive committee met in camera Wednesday to discuss a deal to save the program, which was launched in 2011 and is now facing bankruptcy if the city does not take action. The deal was turned down by the Bixi corporation the day before the meeting, leaving the executive committee scrambling to come up with a new solution.
The program allows people to rent bicycles on a per-use basis – there are currently 1,000 Bixi bikes in Toronto at 80 stations – and 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.
"We're trying to save Bixi. We're not sure it's possible to save Bixi," said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is a member of the executive.
"We're concerned that they don't have a handle on their own affairs and we are concerned that they keep changing the terms of any possible deal."
City council will meet again on Nov. 13. In the meantime, the executive committee has asked staff to try to come up with a new solution to save the program.
The executive committee passed the file on to the Toronto Transit Commission earlier this year to see if they would be willing to take on the burden of the bike-share program. The TTC voted not to take on responsibility for Bixi, but said it would take a look at the matter again if the city could not find another option.
Mayor Rob Ford has called the bike-share a failure in the past and has said it's time for it to end. However, Mr. Minnan-Wong said city council still hopes to save the program. He explained if staff cannot come up with a viable solution by the next council meeting, Bixi will be bankrupt. But there still might be a chance for survival: the city could acquire the program after it goes bankrupt, he said.