Bixi bike-sharing program in financial trouble
Montreal auditor general doubts service in Quebec, Toronto can continue
Montreal's auditor general says he seriously doubts Bixi's Montreal and Toronto bike-sharing services can continue to operate.
The news came in a letter addressed to the president of Public Bike System Company, known in French as the Sociétéde vélos en libre-service, or SVLS.
In the letter, dated Sept. 11, Auditor General Jacques Bergeron said the evidence he saw while compiling his annual report on Bixi's operations led him to believe SVLS and Bixi Toronto were in serious trouble.
The Quebec-founded bike-sharing service has lost millions of dollars since hitting Montreal streets in 2008.
In 2011, Montreal's city council approved a $108-million bailout package for the program to cover a budget shortfall. That included a $37-million loan to cover Bixi's deficit and another $71 million in loan guarantees to export and develop the system abroad.
Réal Ménard, the Montreal city hall executive committee member in charge of the transportation dossier, told CBC's Daybreak Montreal he cannot guarantee the administration will put more money into Bixi if it requires assistance.
"If you say... 'can you make a commitment that City Hall will put... money to Bixi?' I think it’s not going to happen. But it doesn’t mean that Bixi will not be in operation," said Ménard.
Cash problems may be from U.S. money due
Ménard said he is concerned about Bixi's cash flow problems, but that the program is not facing bankruptcy, and bikes will be back on the streets next season.
Ménard said these financial difficulties are due to outstanding payments from U.S. cities that use the bike-sharing program.
"We're expecting to have money. When the money will be there, Bixi will be in a better situation," said Ménard.
"We are optimistic that the crisis we are talking about will be solved."
Bergeron's report on Bixi's financial year that ended Dec. 31 was expected to be submitted to Montreal city council on Monday, but Ménard says he has not yet seen the document.
"The taxpayer has the right to know the financial situation," said Ménard.
"We need to have this information because we are talking about a public fund."
The service spread to a number of cities in Canada and around the world.
New York City just this year introduced its version of Bixi, called Citi Bike, to its city grid.