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Stintz says TTC should take over troubled bike-share program

TTC chair Karen Stintz walks back into her office after announcing that she hopes the federal budget infrastructure funding will support the downtown subway relief line as she spoke to the media at Toronto City Hall on the day the federal budget is released on March 21, 2013.

michelle siu The Globe and Mail

TTC chair Karen Stintz is proposing that the transit system take over the ailing Bixi bike sharing network as a "made in Toronto solution."

Ms. Stintz says she has floated the idea with head of the Toronto Transit Commission Andy Byford, who she says is receptive to exploring the idea, and will ask for a staff report at the next TTC meeting. Her idea comes at the same time Mayor Rob Ford says the city should cut its ties with the cycling network and shut it down.

"Bixi's a failure. It's failing," Mr. Ford told reporters Monday. "It should be dissolved. It's not working."

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The Bixi program, introduced to the downtown core in 2011 with the help of a city-guaranteed loan, is struggling to meet its loan payments. The mayor's executive committee last month received a confidential staff report that recommended the city negotiate an orderly transfer of ownership for the financially troubled network or exercise its right to assume ownership. The report was sent back to staff for further review with a report expected in July.

Ms. Stintz, widely regarded as a likely contender for the mayor's job in the next election, said Monday the Bixi network, like all public transportation systems, is unlikely to ever turn a profit. But, she said, it has the potential to offer another option to commuters if it is expanded and integrated into the TTC network.

"It's not a question of whether we subsidize it, it's whether we can have it work within our existing system." she said. "Before we decide to kill it, I would like to explore if we can't expand it and make it more effective."

Ms. Stintz said she is not aware of any other city where bike sharing is part of a traditional transit system. "It potentially could be a new model, a made in Toronto solution," she said.

Councillor John Parker, also a transit commissioner, said exploring the idea of the TTC running the bike-sharing program makes "perfect sense."

"There's a natural synergy there between the service Bixi provides and the work the TTC does and if we can find a way of integrating the two that seems to me to be the right way to go forward," he said.

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