From the Open FIle, here are seven things Torontonians need to know about BIXI and how it works in Montreal:
- It's about frequent short trips, hence the pricing. Toronto fees are expected to be the same or similar to Montreal's, where subscriptions cost $78 for one year, $28 for one month and $5 for one day. After that, there are usage fees to consider. The first 30 minutes of every ride is free. After that, the next 30 minutes cost $1.50. The following half hour costs $3. And every subsequent half hour sets you back $6. But very few users ever reach that point. Bixi is not for sightseeing. It's for getting from Point A to Point B. A survey shows half of Montreal users jump on Bixis to get to and from work or school. Some are taking lunchtime jaunts or using Bixi to meet friends across town or as an alternative to the bus when they get off the subway.
- You might not be able to return your bike at the first self-serve docking station you visit. It might be full. Don't panic. You'll be given 15 minutes of free time to reach another one. And stations are on average only 300 metres apart. A smart phone will help; you can check bike-dock availability online. In Montreal, this summer, some stations are filling up so quickly on weekday mornings that three "depot stations" were opened where commuters can hand bikes over to Bixi employees without the need to bother with a docking station.
- Bike-sharing services typically focus on densely populated areas that feature offices, shopping and cultural venues. In Montreal, stations are concentrated downtown and adjacent neighbourhoods to the east such as Plateau Mont Royal. Almost three-quarters of Montreal Bixi users live in the area covered by the service.
- The specially designed Bixi bikes are sleek and distinctive. They have sturdy tires, internal brakes, a covered chain to protect your clothes, an integrated basket with an elasticized cord and always-on front and back lights. But the bikes are heavy and hills have been a problem, as the original Bixi only had three gears. A new version with seven speeds is being tested.
- It can be addictive. In Bixi's first year in Montreal, one rider — the system's most active user — took 853 trips. That's an average of more than four trips per day. (Bixi was up and running for 200 days in 2009.)
- Motorists will grumble about bike-sharing, calling it a folly and a waste of tax dollars and complaining that bikes are taking up too much space on roads. (Not to mention all those on-street parking spots the docking stations eat up.) But after so many years as king of the city, cars are just going to have to make some room.
- If Montreal is any indication, within weeks, the bikes and docking stations will become an appealing part of Toronto's urban landscape. And people who never considered cycling downtown will find themselves lured by the prospect of experiencing their city in a new way.
The annual membership is $95 in Toronto, because the bikes will be available all 4 seasons, whereas in Montreal they pull them off the road in winter.
The first half hour will be $1.50 free, the next half hour $4 and $8 after that. [Correction: The first half hour will be free, the next half hour $1.50, the next half hour $4 and $8 after that.]
The initial BIXI Toronto service area will be from Spadina Ave to Jarvis Street and from Bloor to Front. See the map here (yes, it's not as big as it could be, but given that coverage must be every 300 metres the only way to expand the service area would be to push council to put even more bikes on the road!).
Note: There are now over 200 BIXI Toronto members as of Monday (August 2). If you want to check out the demo station, the BIXI squad will be down at the corner of Dundas and Berverly, Wednesday, August 4th, from 4:30pm to 8pm.