At city council meeting last night, Nov 1, Mayor Trent announced that the city had heard from Bixi and that the cost to the city would be $609,000 for 150 bikes. Council feels that this amount is very high. Dan Lambert, president of the Westmount Walking and Cycling Association has written a response to the mayor outlining why he thinks that the price might not be so unreasonable.
Dear Mayor Trent,
Thank you for reporting on the $609k Bixi proposal last evening. At first, the amount seems big ($4k/bike), but if the proposal covers the cost of 150 bikes for say 20 years, it would cost only $30k/year or $200/bike/year (before calculating the discounted cash flow to reflect the time-value of money), which actually sounds reasonable considering the services Bixi offers:
- Ensure that all bikes are always well maintained (not damaged, tires pumped, etc.)
- Fill or empty stations daily by truck, as required, to ensure that there are bikes available and empty spots to receive returns at most stations most of the time.
- Manage an annual subscription system.
- Manage an hourly rental system.
- Provide on-line information system that allows potential users to check on their cell phones the closest available station with bikes or empty slots at all times.
- Provide system upgrades as they are developed.
There may be additional services which Bixi assumes Westmount understands, but may be undervalued by people who do not use Bixi regularly and therefore do not appreciate all the benefits. Has Bixi fully outlined all the services it will offer?
One cannot compare the cost of Bixi to the cost of an individual buying a bike, because of all the additional services Bixi offers. Bixi removes the cost and hassle of maintaining a bike, the worry and cost of bike theft, the flexibility of taking a bike to work and not returning home with it if it is raining or one has other plans. All these services explain why most current Bixi subscribers already own bikes, but are still ready to pay $80/year for the Bixi service.
In the ideal world, if users paid more, their fees would cover the full cost of the service, but, like all public transit systems, user fees do not cover all the costs, and must therefore be subsidised. To put the required Bixi subsidy into perspective, it should be compared to the subsidy provided to public transit, included the capital cost of building subways and trains/buses.
Finally, the City needs to consider the benefits cycling rather than driving (less damage to the environment, avoided health care costs from pollution and accidents, better quality of life, etc.) as demonstrate in cycling cities.
I am sure that you are considering how best to respond to the Bixi proposal. One response could be that since Westmount is not sure Bixi would work in our borough, could Bixi offer a 3-year trial agreement at $30k/year, after which Westmount would decide on a permanent system? At the end of that period, if Westmount were to decide to not purchase the permanent system, Bixi could re-allocate the bikes and stations to expansions in other boroughs.
Regards, Dan Lambert – President – Westmount Walking and Cycling Association