Mayor confident Bixi's financial woes just temporary

Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay says that he has full confidence in the Bixi shared bicycle system and that the company's financial problems are just temporary.

An investigation by CBC's French-language service on Friday revealed that the company behind Bixi is facing a cash shortfall, a steep drop in revenues and red ink.

Instead of an expected $11-million profit for 2012, the city-controlled Public Bike System Company is looking at a $2.8-million hit, Radio-Canada reported.

The litany of financial woes includes the loss of a $60 million credit facility from National Bank and an eight-month delay in deploying the shared bicycle system in New York City.

Tremblay said some of Bixi's troubles stem from the former Liberal provincial government's opposition to having the city underwrite the company's international expansion to cities like London, New York, Melbourne and Boston.

His solution would be to find a corporate partner for Bixi so it doesn't have to rely on the city. And he hopes that would ensure it can repay the $37-million loan that Montreal council approved last year.

"I am more than proud of this, more than proud," the mayor said of Montreal's pioneering bike-share system.

Municipal opposition leaders say Public Bike System Company should be split up into two entities: one controlled by Montreal's transit agency that runs the city's bike-share network, and one that handles its international business.

Both Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel and Projet Montréal Leader Richard Bergeron say the expertise and jobs could stay in Quebec, but with a different corporate structure.

"There's problems getting it to work, it's pretty clear. And behind that, there's a culture of secrecy," Harel said. Her solution, like Bergeron's, involves handing Bixi's Montreal operations to the municipal agency that runs subways and buses.

"I've always seen the Montreal Transit Corporation, the STM, as responsible not just for buses and the metro, but also for shared taxis and also for Bixi, in a complementary way."

Harel said a body like Investissements Québec, the provincial economic-development corporation, would be a better choice to finance Bixi's international ventures than the City of Montreal.

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