Bixi to continue despite financial problems
City transportation boss says he is optimistic Bixi bikesharing cash flow will resume
A member of Montreal's city executive committee says he cannot guarantee the municipal administration will put more money into Bixi if it requires financial assistance.
The bike-sharing program has struggled to make ends meet since it first hit Montreal streets in 2008.
Yesterday, a letter from Montreal's auditor general to the city was released. In it, auditor Jacques Bergeron said he had serious doubts as to whether Bixi could continue its Montreal and Toronto operations.
In the letter, dated Sept. 11, Bergeron said the evidence he saw while compiling his annual report on Bixi's operations led him to believe the programs in those two cities were in serious trouble.
Réal Ménard, the executive committee member responsible for the transportation dossier, told Daybreak Tuesday that he didn't know whether Montreal could continue to fund Bixi.
"If you say, 'Can you make a commitment that City Hall will put money into Bixi?' I think it’s not going to happen. But it doesn’t mean that Bixi will not be in operation," he said.
Ménard said that he is concerned about Bixi's current cash flow problems, but that the program is not facing bankruptcy, and added that 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."
Jean-François Lisée, the provincial minister responsible for Montreal, said Bixi was a valuable service and deserved to be helped out. He said the Quebec government is working on a $5-million bridge loan for the program.
"It's a success in Montreal. It's an international success but we seem not to have been able in the last few years to come up with a business plan that makes this a sound and permanent success in Quebec," Lisée said.
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.
That loan is on top of Bixi's current $6-million deficit.
2012 financial statement still not public
Bergeron's report on Bixi's financial year ending on Dec. 31, 2012 was slated to be submitted to Montreal city council yesterday; however, 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, and the board of Bixi has to collaborate closely with M. Bergeron," he said.