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Is Bixi worth $60 million?

Montreal, April 12, 2017 – When Bixi celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2019, the bike-sharing system will have cost Montrealers over $60 million. A Viewpoint published today by the MEI details this bill for taxpayers and asks if this was the best way to promote the use of bicycles.

“It’s true that Bixi is popular, but do taxpayers really want to continue paying so much to maintain a public service basically limited to central neighbourhoods?” asks Jasmin Guénette, Vice President of the MEI.

Bixi, which launches its ninth season this spring, has survived until now thanks to public funds. The only reason Bixi Montreal records surpluses is that taxpayers subsidize the organization to the tune of nearly $3 million a year, an amount the City has guaranteed through to 2019. Moreover, Montreal will spend more than $9 million over the next three years for equipment and new stations.

After the bankruptcy of the Public Bike System Company in May 2014, Bixi Montreal took over. But it remains a money-losing service, and it is Montreal taxpayers who are stuck with the bill, which is only increasing.

“Today, we may well wonder if spending so much money for this service was the best way to promote cycling and active transportation, and why we keep spending this money,” adds Mr. Guénette. “Could the cycling network have been further developed, or dedicated parking added? There’s no telling what solutions would have emerged, as has happened in the case of car sharing, if not for public intervention pushing a one-size-fits-all model.”

Despite the presence of Bixi, the number of “regular” cyclists, meaning those who ride at least once a week, fell by around 8% between 2010 and 2015. What’s more, the service’s impact on the environment is probably negligible, since it seems to essentially replace walking, other cycling, or public transit use.

“The intentions behind this policy were surely good ones, but all indications are that what was presented as a service that would pay for itself, and even be profitable, has become in the end an additional and recurring burden on taxpayers,” concludes Bradley Doucet, Editor and Public Policy Analyst at the MEI.

The Viewpoint entitled “How Much Has Bixi Cost Montrealers?” was prepared by Jasmin Guénette, Vice President of the MEI, and Bradley Doucet, Editor and Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Pascale Déry, Senior Advisor, Communications, Current Affairs, MEI / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2233 / Cell.: 514-502-6757 / Email: pdery@iedm.org

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