Bixi’s back with a vengeance this season.
Last fall, the city of Montreal took over management of the financially-burdened company and announced that it had adopted a plan to fund and keep the beloved bikeshare service going for at least 5 years. This season’s launch was accompanied by celebrity bike designs, launch parties, and even rides by the mayor.
All this fanfare — and security — has renewed interest in Bixi, spurring the sale of a record number of memberships:
As with last year, 5,200 Bixi bikes will be available at 460 sites in the city, as well as in Westmount and Longueuil. The service is off to a good start, with a record 37,386 members already signed up. That’s 4,000 more than it had at the end of last year, when skittish patrons weren’t sure if the bike-sharing system that filed for bankruptcy protection would survive.
Good news for those of us who like the service, right?
The problem is, Bixi still only has the same number of bikes and docks as in previous seasons. And there are increasing signs that the added demand is causing some problems.
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Luc Ferrandez, the borough mayor of Plateau Mont-Royal, is short on action and long on excuses when it comes to snow removal this winter. Here’s a summary of some of the best ones he’s come up with so far:
January 12: We’re not trying to save money; it’s just that too many blue-collar workers called in sick. Says the guy who had a whopping 48% absenteeism rate from his job last year.
January 22: I lied. We are trying to save money. We can’t afford to clear the streets because of Denis Coderre’s $800k in cutbacks. You have $11.5 million budgeted for snow removal. You mean to tell me you’ve spent it all already? It’s only January.
January 23: Actually, it’s Helen Fotopoulos’s fault; we’re still paying down her administration’s debt. Helen Fotopoulos hasn’t been in power since 2009. This one’s on you.
January 26: Okay, we made a mistake. We’ll remove the snow after all. But only from major arteries.
Because people who live on side streets don’t ever need to get anywhere.
January 27: We decided to prioritize the sidewalks instead of the streets. So then why does the Plateau have the worst-cleared, iciest sidewalks in the city?
To be updated as more excuses appear. Which they no doubt will.
Update: March 4: A long list of excuses for why the Plateau had the least efficient and most expensive snow removal operations in 2014, including:
- There wasn’t enough snow in three out of the five major storms to warrant clearing it. Even though every other borough did.
- Progress is reported via social media, not via city databases. That excuses not sending important statistics to a city agency how, exactly?
- The streets are narrower than in other boroughs. So there ought to be less snow to clear.
- The snow removal equipment is older than in other boroughs. Much of it was replaced last summer, and they’re not any more efficient at snow removal this year.
- The Plateau is the centre of Montreal’s nightlife, and has more cars and “difficult people” to deal with. The centre of Montreal’s nightlife hasn’t been the Plateau in years, thanks in no small part to Ferrandez and co. And there are fewer cars in the Plateau compared to most boroughs — most residents don’t own one. The only “difficult people” I’m encountering here are M. Ferrandez and company.