Dear Toronto City Council: Support Bixi

Dear Councillors,

Like many fellow residents who you will have heard from recently, I am writing in regards to Toronto’s Bixi bike share system. I wish to request that you explore options to relieve Bixi’s current unsustainable financial situation, and work towards maintaining this important part of our public transportation network.

In less than two summers since launch, over a million trips have been made on Toronto’s Bixi system. These million trips would have been made by car on Toronto’s most congested streets, by transit on our most overcrowded routes, or not made at all without the Bixi option. Nearly 5,000 annual subscribers support the system’s operations, and businesses across the city are calling for stations to be located in their neighbourhoods because they know that Bixi brings customers to their doorsteps. In terms of usage and popularity, Bixi has been an overwhelming success.

However, establishing Bixi comes with a high capital cost, and we have heard recently that these costs are financed nearly 100% by loans guaranteed by Toronto. Supposedly, the not-for-profit operation struggles to make payments on these loans after understandably slow winter months. Rather than extending or guaranteeing more loans that will make the operation less viable, Toronto should invest in this valuable public service by purchasing it outright. The purchase of Bixi’s outstanding debt would be no more than a footnote in the city’s budget, a tiny fraction of the cost of new transit vehicles and other transportation infrastructure. Recent studies have estimated that each kilometre travelled by bicycle represents about 31 cents in benefits to the local economy.

Toronto should then include expansion of Bixi as part of Councillor Minnan-Wong’s recent motion to develop Complete Streets Guidelines for the city. Cities all over the world have been implementing bike sharing in their complete streets initiatives, and Bixi is widely known as one of the highest quality and most reliable systems.

We should be proud to have this system on our streets, and we should be proud to own it.

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About Greg Burrell

Greg is an accountant, cyclist and political observer living in Toronto, Canada with too many cats.
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