Alta Chief: Bike-Share Expansions Unlikely in 2014

Bixi
There was no shortage of Bixi bikes at this 2012 conference, but there is now. Photo: Dylan Passmore/Flickr

Despite continually growing ridership, Alta Bicycle Share-operated bike-share systems across America will probably not be adding bikes or docks this year. The bankruptcy of Montreal-based Public Bike Share Company, known as Bixi, which developed and manufactured the equipment that Alta’s systems use, has disrupted the supply chain that numerous cities were pinning their expansion plans on.

“New bikes probably won’t arrive until 2015,” reports Dan Weissmann at American Public Media’s Marketplace. Alta Bicycle Share’s founder and vice president Mia Birk told Weissman that the last time Alta received new bikes from Bixi “must have been pre-bankruptcy.”

That puts expansion plans for cities including Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC on hold. Just those three cities had previously announced fully-funded plans to add 264 bike-share stations in 2014. New York and Boston are also looking to expand their Alta-run systems. Other bike-share systems that purchase equipment from Bixi, like Nice Ride Minnesota, have had no luck buying new kit this year.

The shortage of equipment also means that cities that had signed up with Alta to launch new bike-share systems — notably Baltimore, Portland, and Vancouver — won’t launch until 2015 at the earliest. Ironically, new launches that were planned later, like Seattle’s Pronto system, will proceed sooner, as they were designed with equipment not sourced through Bixi.

The good news is that the troubled supply chain for Alta’s bike-share systems looks like it will be rebooted thanks to an infusion of capital. REQX Ventures, a company from New York City that had bid on Bixi, has been in talks to purchase a majority stake in Alta Bicycle Share, according to a report in Capital New York. This should inject new resources, allowing the bike-share operator to upgrade buggy software and overcome the hurdles imposed by Bixi’s bankruptcy in time for 2015’s equipment orders.

  • Andres Dee

    Should also be interesting how many NY bike share users renew when their year is up.

  • Nobody could have forseen the consequences of having so many big cities put all their eggs into one basket, a basket held up by a small inexperienced company and eggs lain by a manufacturer that has been on shaky ground for years.

    Who, WHO could have see this obvious outcome?

    It’s not like there was another company that bid on all these contracts and is backed by one of the world largest bicycle manufacturing companies. Oh wait, there was. And the cities that opted to pick them over the company with political connections get to reap the benefits.

  • Fire Alta

    You meant to write: “This should inject new resources, allowing the bike-share operator to replace the incompetent management that failed to perform basic due diligence on a crucial supplier, and failed to get basic contractual guarantees with that supplier.”

  • Kevin Love

    I will now point out that a New York City based company, Social Bicycles, is launching a bike share system in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. I rather like their “no dock” technology.

  • Given what a success Divvy has been, I don’t find much fault in the choice of ALTA and the Bixi system. Expansion will be slowed, but not stopped.

  • C Monroe

    This is the problem when you have to rely on one supplier. Many transit companies/authorities do this. Yes they do this to keep repairs and other costs down but an example is that my local transit authority uses Gillig buses, but they do not have a line of articulated buses. A few of the routes are so busy that many times there are riders waiting for numerous buses before being able to get on. But because of the cost of retraining mechanics and the needs when they decided on one manufacturer 10-20 years ago has left them stuck with one manufacturer.

  • ol g

    Have fun explaining this to corporations who are interested in starting and/or continuing sponsorship of the system or even a new dock.

  • BlueFairlane

    Divvy is a success despite ALTA and Bixi, not because of it. And I think it’s more than a little optimistic to not be at least somewhat concerned about the long-term outlook of the program.

  • Joe Enoch

    One supplier is bad enough, but, when that one supplier (bixi) and the (mostly) one operator (alta) have had their heads up their asses for years, that makes it particularly difficult. Alta and Bixi are train wrecks of companies and bike share’s best hope is that they can be re-envisioned by people with basic business savvy — and soon.

  • Exactly. Its hard to screw up bikeshare. It could have been more successful with a more competent choice.

  • The downside to that is that the docks act as advertisement

  • Kevin Love

    Only if the choice is made to allow advertising. Citi Bank certainly got their money back in advertising with the present system!

    Social Bicycles puts all the bike-share technology on a keypad on the bike’s rear rack. It can be locked up anywhere, and the on-board GPS tells the next user where to find it.

    This is a big technological advancement over BIXI, since there is no need for a high-tech bike dock with all the dock problems we have been experiencing.

    See:

    http://socialbicycles.com/

  • Oregon Mamacita

    Dear Ms. Birk:

    Please return the $40,000.00 Alta accepted from the City of Portland last January. That was a progress payment payable when Alta secured a sponsor for Portland’s bike share. Alta never produced the sponsor for Portland. Thus, the payment was illegal, and also unfair to taxpayers.

    Alta’s integrity is under scrutiny in your home town of Portland, Oregon, Please do the right thing.

    Name Portland as one city that will not be getting bike share anytime soon.

  • Truth hurts

    I think it is hilarious that Alison Cohen who is the person who ran Alta Bike Share so poorly as President keeps posting on every thread anonymously because she can’t get her new company off the ground. Alison you are the one who is responsible for the NY mess which is the genesis of all of these problems and then got canned. So you and your friend Josh Squire should stop clogging the message boards with your crap under 12 different fake names and just admit your epic fails.

  • Truth hurts

    Josh, can’t you stop yourself from posting incessantly on every bike share conversation? You are embarrassing yourself at this point no matter how many names you use. Only people who work in the industry post in these comments anyway. Pretty sad. Maybe you never win contracts because you are such an incredibly hard person to work for or with. I should know since I worked for you. No one wants to deal with this crap which is why Trek dispensed with you. You are a liability.

  • PapaCita

    Ah MamaCita aka Alison Cohen. Damaged Alta irreparably in NY, got let loose and now can’t bash her own work enough as if she was never there which is just wild. If you hire her new company you will have what happened in NY happen to you. Ethics anyone?

  • Oregon Mamacita

    I flagged both comments because they are an attempt to reveal the identity of a fellow blogger. I do not know who “Alison Cohen” is. It is intersting, folks, how the only response to my charges of unethical behavior, all the pro-Alta folks can do is make an ad hominem attack on someone named “Alsion.” You have no facts on your side- the facts are clear in Portland. Alta accepted an unearned progress payment. Read the news.

  • Sebastian

    Isn`t that dealyed either? Check nextbike`s Glasgow system launched in June. Also uses smart bike technology liek SoBi.
    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport/city-cycle-scheme-overtakes-boris-bikes-in-first-fortnight.24711146

  • RunningWriting

    Well, Capital Bikeshare has been adding a few stations recently, including a couple in Arlington VA just this month. Expansion in Arlington, DC and Alexandria VA is going much slower than planned, but there has been some progress.

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