Monday, May 23, 2011

The BIXI Bike Rental System

BIXI is a public bicycle sharing system launched in May 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The name BIXI is a combination of the words bicycle and taxi. In addition to Montreal, the BIXI system is present in the Canadian cities of Ottawa/Gatineau and Toronto as well as Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., London England and Melbourne, Australia

In Montreal, the system provides more than 5,000 bicycles and 400 stations located around Montreal's central core. BIXI marked its one-millionth ride on October 26, 2009. In Montreal, it took a loan guarantee from the City to put the BIXI bike-rental system back on solid ground after the company that operates the service ran into financial problems. But Roger Plamondon, the head of Public Bike System Co., insists the company is not threatened despite liquidity problems.

"All we are asking is give us a chance, we have a business plan, we beat our first year business plan last year, we are on track to doing the same thing this year," he said.

The City of Montreal approved a $108-million bailout package for the Bixi bike-sharing program. The package includes $37-million to cover Bixi's deficit, and another $71-million in loan guarantees to export and develop the system abroad.

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said the loan guarantee was necessary to allow BIXI to grow on the international scene.

"If we continue to sell for example to New York, Vancouver, San Francisco and other cities, then we'll generate revenues and we'll offset the shortfall that we have at the local level," Trembay said.

Tremblay said he's not worried that the reputation of BIXI will be harmed, noting that Time magazine recognized it as one of the best inventions of 2008."We're going from a small business to a medium business and we're putting in place all the guarantees and the mechanisms to make sure we'll have access to all information." Toronto and London, England, guaranteed similar loans to set up the BIXI system in their respective cities.

Public Bike System Company president Alain Ayotte said "We are in line with the financial plan, and we are very confident that we will continue to be highly profitable," said Ayotte.

The bike rentals cost $5 for 24 hours, $12 for 72 hours, $28 for 30 days or $78 for a year, plus additional fees for trips longer than 30 minutes from one bike station to another.

Employers are encouraged to join the program and add more stations. Public Works and Government Services Canada has announced it will add a station in Gatineau and the NCC is talking to Environment Canada about adding a 12th station in Canada's capitol region. The cost to a business of putting a bike rental station in a parking lot is about $20,000 over a three-year contract.

The system is accessible to everyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To subscribe, or to obtain more information about BIXI please visit bixi.com.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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