In an age of inflation where the cost of everything appears to be on the rise, you will likely soon see the cost of renting a bike from Toronto’s bike share program, Bike Share Toronto, among the everyday items growing more expensive.
The Toronto Parking Authority, which oversees the program, hasn’t raised its rates since 2017, but at a Friday meeting it will recommend boosting the prices.
“This is not about profitability for TPA, it’s about cost recovery and it’s also about us being able to re-invest the money back into the system so we can continue to deliver the type of customer experience that people expect,” said Justin Hanna, director of Bike Share Toronto.
It currently costs $3.25 for a casual rider to rent a bike for half an hour, but under the new system, a person will be shelling out a $1 undocking fee and then 12 cents for every minute they ride. For anyone taking a spin for 18 minutes and under, they’ll actually pay less than the current fee. But the full half-hour will cost more than a full dollar.
The cost of daily and annual passes will also increase under the new rate structure.
“We heard from our casual customers, that they prefer a pay-as-you-go system,” said Hanna, who said the rates will remain the most affordable in North America.
For anyone concerned with the rising cost of living, he said Bike Share Toronto isn’t immune from inflationary pressures that everyone is seeing.
“Our costs have also gone up, our staffing costs, or operating costs for gas, trucks, and everything,” he said. In fact, despite seeing both ridership and revenues increasing over the past four years, the service continues to lose more money than it makes.
In 2019, Bike Share Toronto had a ridership rate of 2.5 million and revenues of $3.9 million, compared to its $7.1 million in expenses. Last year, ridership grew to 4.61 million bringing in $7.6 million, but the program still lost $10.8 million. The rate hike, TPA projects, would increase revenues by about $3 million this year.
Still, Coun. Diane Saxe, a cyclist and member of the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, which will ultimately have to approve the rate hike before it heads to council, said she’s in favour of a monetary boost.
“It’s a great deal,” she said. “We haven’t raised the price for Bike Share in about five years. In that time we have more than doubled the service, the number of users has gone up 450 per cent.”
Saxe called the program the “best bargain in the city,” and said the price increase is marginal compared to what the program delivers.
But some, like Coun. Alejandra Bravo, think the rate hike misses the mark and needs to be reconsidered. She said even with the TTC fares going up to $3.35 a ride, it’s way below the increase for a half-hour ride on a bike, and she’s concerned it will price lower-income users out of the program.
“We’re not lining up our objectives here, we want to be able to improve congestion, we want to improve the environment and do climate action, these kinds of moves don’t get us there,” Saxe said.
Saxe said if the city wants to achieve a greener, healthier city that’s more affordable, then the rate hike needs to be looked at again.
If the rate recommendations are approved by Toronto’s city council on March 29, the rates would come into effect on April 3.
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