By: Isaac Thornley, Samantha Preddie

 Despite significant demand for the service, Bixi's time in Toronto might be coming to an end.

Despite significant demand for the service, Bixi’s time in Toronto might be coming to an end.

The BIXI Bike era may be coming to a premature end in Toronto. Unable to keep up with its operating costs, the company is looking to be bought out and expanded by the City of Toronto in order to stay afloat.

BIXI Toronto Inc. is in need of money, but the underlying problem is where to get the funding to pay off their debt to the city as well as sustain a future for the company. Opinions have been divided among Toronto politicians.

Although BIXI bikes have been ridden four million times in the city and the company has gained 4, 600 members, its future remains unclear. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong recently proposed that money currently allocated to public toilets be redirected to relieve part or all of BIXI’s $3.9-million in loan debt to the city. Minnan-Wong also expressed interest in seeing the Toronto Parking Authority, one of the city’s boards, take the reins for BIXI.

Exploring other options, in May TTC Chair Karen Stintz proposed that BIXI be taken over by the TTC. “Every form of transportation in the world is subsidized. Whether it’s air, rail, road, shipping, public transit, or BIXI,” the National Post reported Stintz as saying. “Before we decide to kill it, I’d like to explore if we can expand it and make it more effective.”

Recently, however, the proposal to integrate BIXI into the TTC has been looking more unlikely. A staff report advising against the move is set to be presented at a commission on Wednesday July 24. The problem remains where to find the funding. The TTC is already the least subsidized public transit system in North America; expecting it to take on BIXI as a new project might be ideal but unrealistic.

Mayor Rob Ford has not been shy about his position on BIXI. “I’m not going to subsidize it, absolutely not,” he said back in April. Responding to Stintz’s proposal in May, he added, “We’re losing money, why would we want to change hands?”

The bike company’s future doesn’t look too bright, but according to a report released this month by the C.D. Howe Institute, bikes may have a crucial impact on the city’s economy. Commonly calculated by determining wages lost while stuck in traffic, this report demonstrates other ways congestion comes at a cost. When people avoid the city due to traffic, opportunities such as, “accessing jobs that better match their skills, sharing knowledge face-to-face, and creating demand for more business, entertainment and cultural opportunities,” are lost. Taking these new factors into account, the report projects traffic congestion costs the greater Toronto and Hamilton area up to $11-billion per year, as opposed to the previously estimated $6-billion.

With the benefits of biking becoming more known, what led to what Ford calls BIXI’s “failure?” Many blamed too few docking stations, while others critique Toronto’s biking infrastructure as under-developed as a whole. Whatever the reason, the fate of BIXI will remain at a standstill until the city makes an official decision in the fall. Until then, Toronto residents can only ponder the long list of transit related woes that seem to taunt us at every turn.

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