I first saw the notice taped to the side of the Bixi station on Hoskin Ave and Devonshire Pl, saying that it was going to be relocated to allow for snow clearance. Now Bixi has announced that a total of seventeen stations will be relocated and used to expand the service area of a bike share system that has been unfortunately constrained since its inception to a relatively small area of the city (from Bloor St to the lake on the north-south, and from Jarvis St to Spadina Ave on the east-west). There were a few stations stuck outside of that initial service area. Some, like the one located in Bellevue Square in Kensington Market were only a block or two outside, while others like the one located at the CNE were farther out.
A list of the new stations, and which are to be moved, can be found on the Bixi website, along with a schedule showing when this will happen (relocations started yesterday and continue until Friday). I’ve mapped 15 of the 17 new stations above, leaving off two stations that didn’t fit onto the map: one at Bathurst St and Queens Quay, and one at Wellington St and Portland St.
Locating Bixi stations close to each other and creating a dense service area is crucial for a bike share system that is structured for relatively quick, under 30-minute trips. However, the realization that there are opportunities for stations outside the initial service area, while less densely located, is a welcome one.
When I was in Minneapolis this summer, I used their Bixi-supplied bike share system, NiceRide, to get around. With 700 bikes at 73 stations, NiceRide is a smaller system than Toronto’s (Toronto has 1000 bikes at 80 stations), however the service area for NiceRide sees many stations at the outer edges scattered farther and less densely than those in the central city. This allowed me to venture much farther using the bike share program than I am able in Toronto. Granted, I had to pay careful attention to station location and how long it was going to take me to get there, but I was grateful for these outlier stations in allowing me to explore more of the city. The outlier stations in Minneapolis seemed to be located in such a way as to give access to residential areas farther out from the more dense downtown system.
Toronto has many opportunities for such outlier stations, as those at Sugar Beach, the Distillery District, and CNE show (although the CNE station is the one moving to the Distillery). These stations can provide a different service than the ones in the denser downtown, used by people to reach specific destinations. For example, summer time placement of outlier stations at parks around the city—Trinity Bellwoods is the obvious example—seems a great way to expand service to destinations that are sure to attract riders. They can also, as shown by Minneapolis, be used to connect residential areas that are located farther out.
It would also be interesting to see Bixi Toronto engage in the kind of crowdsourcing that New York did to figure out locations for its gargantuan 10,000 bike Bixi-supplied bike share system, announced in September. Bixi Toronto is up to almost 4,000 members since its launch last spring. I would love to see a map that aggregates data collected from all these new Bixi riders on where they would like to see stations.
I’ve heard some say that it’s not right to call this an expansion because the amount of bikes and stations is not increasing. I disagree. While I agree that the system needs more stations and bikes, the relocation of stations expands the original service area, allowing more of Toronto to share in Bixi. This expansion could attract more riders at the edge who were hesitant to join Bixi, bolstering the case for more bikes in the future. This is a bigger Bixi, and we should be happy for it.