Last August, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council announced that a public bike-sharing system would be coming to Boston, possibly as soon as this summer. The bikes were to come from Public Bike Systems, the creators of Montreal’s Bixi Bike program.
Details of the agreement are still being ironed out, and funding options for the project are up in the air, but one thing is for sure — it’s coming. Director of Boston Bikes Nicole Freedman says progress is being made on the project, and the MAPC tells the Phoenix that it is still hopeful to launch by the summer. As the city closes libraries and lays off firemen, however, finding the resources to fund the project has been challenging.
“Bixi’s model is that you outright buy it” says Eric Bourassa of the MAPC, “and that was very expensive.” Instead of purchasing the entire system, the city wants Bixi to lease it to them. “Operating costs basically pay for themselves because it’s paid through the advertising and subscriptions,” says Bourassa. The main cost is getting the bikes to Boston, and the city is “literally in negotiations with Bixi over the details.”
HOW WILL IT WORK?
Bicycles are rented from Bixi Bike kiosks, which look like ATMs with bike racks attached. Renters then swipe a credit/debit card and are given an unlock code, which is used to release a specific bike from the rack. If the bike you are given is too beat-up or defective, you can request to replace it and take out another via the touch screen.
Once you’ve got your bike, you ride to your destination and drop it back off at the nearest kiosk, again punching in your code.
According to the city’s Request for Proposal forms, dated last year, the network will consist of more than 150 station and 1500 bikes. That’s more than enough bikes for Boston. However, if the system in Montreal is any indication, traveling downtown may be frustrating, as the sheer number of bikers can result in too many full kiosks, leaving you wandering around looking for an open spot. Luckily, the kiosks know when they are full, and punching in your code at a full kiosk earns you a bit more time to find an open spot.
Montreal’s Bixi Bike program has seen little theft, as the bikes are constructed with parts that cannot be used on normal bicycles, making stripping them useless. Also, Bixi bikes are strange looking, and even if you spray paint it gold, it will still look like a Bixi. The biggest deterrent to theft, though, is probably the fact that the company had your credit-card information.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
The MAPC says prices are under negotiation, but the basic pay structure goes like this:
Renters must first “subscribe” to the service, which allows them an unlimited amount of rentals for the time specified. In Montreal this ranges from $5 per day, $28 per month, or $78 per year (CAD). This also buys 30 minutes of ride time.
Rides lasting more than a half-hour will cost you, as renters are charged $1.50 for an additional 30 minutes, $3 for the following 30 minutes, and then $6 for each half-hour thereafter. The longer you use the bike, the more the rate climbs, which Bixi says helps increase the availability of bikes, discouraging people from taking long rides.
WHERE WILL IT BE?
The MAPC says it is focused on launching Bixi Bike in the urban center of Boston, eventually expanding the program to Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville.