Thursday, November 28, 2013

Does bike-sharing work?

National Post columnist Jesse Kline penned an intriguing article a couple weeks ago questioning the wisdom of municipalities investing in Bixi or Bixi-like bike-sharing systems. Although they've long been seen as a potentially valuable component of urban transit, it's hard to deny Kline's points throughout the article:
The best that can be said about the bureaucrats behind Bixi is that they’ve done a good job of selling the bike-sharing service to other cities. Indeed, the only profitable part of the company, which was later sold off in order to comply with Quebec law, was tasked with marketing the program abroad. Unfortunately, Montreal also has managed to export many of the problems that go along with the Bixi model.
Examples from other countries also provide cautionary tales. The Washington, D.C., bike-share system received $16-million in federal, state and local subsidies. This money was supposed to give disadvantaged people access to a low-cost mode of transportation, but one user survey found that it was almost exclusively used by affluent, well-educated people — hardly the demographic that needs taxpayer subsidies to get around town.
Although the City of Ottawa's prudent fiscal managers have so far resisted to give money to the system, the NCC has put forward a good deal of money (according to Kline, about $600k). It might be sensible to them, as it provides tourists with a low-cost way of travelling between local attractions, but little is known about adoption or usage rates.

On the surface, a large-scale Bixi system in partnership with OC Transpo could offer a good solution to the "last mile" conundrum of getting commuters to and from transit stations, but at what cost? It would certainly be more expensive than the current solution of having riders walk (or get a drive) to and fro.

1 comment:

Betsy said...

I like the idea but I can't say I actually see that many people on the bikes. I have no idea how it works. I'm assuming you need a credit card to rent a bike. I could see that being a barrier.