Bixi is coming to Toronto!
It's exciting... but wait. There's still more work to be done before we'll get Bixi. City Council required that Bixi get 1000 membership pledges by November 30th of this year. That's 1000 people putting down money for a membership that will be good for next year if and when Bixi launches in Toronto. The City and community partners will be hosting a Bixi Toronto pledge drive kick-off in July (date TBA). To get started we (city staff and volunteers) are looking for 50 keen "community leaders" who are willing to pledge and work towards finding others.
City Hall put us in a tough spot but I think we can get these 1000 members if we all let people know just how great Bixi is. And Bixi is a great. Just look at how enthusiastically London is pushing Bixi there in the video!
Bixi is setting up a Toronto website (forwarding to the main site still), which will have all the details, plus the ability to purchase memberships. For now people can visit the Montreal-version to see how Bixi works. You can also read below on how Bixi Toronto will operate. We'll keep you notified on the location of the Bixi Toronto demo bikes so you can try them out yourself this summer.
Are you one of the people who likes bikesharing and will sign up now to a Bixi membership? Are you willing to be a community leader for the July Bixi Pledge Drive Kick-off event? If so, drop us a line, or contact the bike union. (Since the payment system is not yet online, the city will take you at your word and collect payment later).
Bixi (and bikesharing) is expanding rapidly: Melbourne and Minneapolis just launched their Bixi stations; Washington DC's Bixi is opening soon; London and Boston are starting theirs. Even more cities are considering it and similar services. Montreal just experienced its 1 millionth trip by Bixi.
Meanwhile in Toronto, skeptical politicians can't understand its success elsewhere. This means we have to work extra hard and find 1000 people to join even before it launches.
How Bixi Toronto will work
According to city staff, there will be 1000 bikes and around 80 stations in the first year, scattered around Central Toronto. The rough limits will be between Jarvis and Bathurst, Bloor to the Lakeshore. It doesn't mean there might not be stations outside of the area; nor does it mean that a company can't just buy their own station (though it will cost tens of thousands of dollars).
A yearly membership is $95. A monthly membership will be around $35. A daily membership around $5. This entitles someone to unlimited use for 30 minutes at a time. Any trip over 30 minutes will be charged $1.50 for the next half hour and $3 for the following half hour. This is to encourage high turnover, and it this approach has been successful since most trips can easily fit within a half hour.
For this year's membership pledge, Bixi is required to get 1000 yearly memberships at $95 a person. So if you wish to pledge you'll be required to pay up $95 before November 30, 2010.
You will be required to register with a credit card. This is so a $250 security deposit can be placed on your card. This is no different than renting other bikes, cars, or sporting equipment.
[Note: the question has been raised if Bixi is eligible for the federal transit tax credit. Bikesharing is, after all, a new form of public transit. There's no clear answer at this time, but it can't hurt if you just submit your Bixi receipts in your tax return. You could be the one that sets the precedent!]
The bikes and stations
The bikes are built tough. Torontonians had the chance to ride some demo bikes a couple years ago when Bixi brought a station after TCAT's Public Bikes Forum. The bikes have three speeds, a sturdy basket, easily adjustable seat, strong tires, integrated lights, and was designed by industrial designer, Michel Dallaire.
The stations can fit at least 6 bikes securely and can be moved around or expanded to meet changing demands because they are solar-powered. The solar power eliminates the need to mount them to the ground and tie them into the power grid. This saves a significant cost. Still, this doesn't mean the stations are light. Bixi still requires a large truck with crane to move them around - this means they are still quite secure.
A lot of companies subsidize car parking for their employees. With Bixi, companies can now provide shared memberships or gift certificates to employees and save a significant amount of money that would otherwise go to car parking.
For a price of about $300, Bixi Toronto will offer a multi-user key that can be shared by any number of employees. And the price per multi-user key drops, the more keys a company purchases (Information based on the Montreal site and adjusted to Toronto's membership price).
Bixi and the City of Toronto are in talks with a number of companies who want to be either main sponsors or sponsor individual stations. From details on the Montreal Bixi site, companies or organizations will be able to sponsor an individual station and get their name on the station, get their name on the map, and also get 10 free annual memberships. If you are interested, I can pass your information on to Sean Wheldrake from the City of Toronto. I don't know what kind of money it takes to sponsor a station, but it's likely in the tens of thousands of dollars.