Since Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KTRC) took over Greater Kaohsiung’s public bike rental program in August last year, the number of people renting bikes has reached record levels; however, up to 80 percent of people renting the bikes are paying nothing by returning the bikes within the first hour. The Greater Kaohsiung Government is paying NT$2.2 million to fund the program every month by using the Air Pollution Prevention Fund, but only taking in between NT$200,000 and NT$300,000 in revenue — a loss of NT$2 million every month.
Greater Kaohsiung Councilor Wu I-cheng says that she supports the sustainable operation of the public bike program, but suggests that large industrial corporations like China Steel Corp should be asked to cover a certain percentage of the “carbon credits” based on the number of people renting bikes to make up for losses.
The Kaohsiung Public Bike Rental System went online in February of 2009. The number of people renting bikes was quite limited until the middle of last year, with only a few thousand people renting bikes every month. The company that initially won the bid to operate the scheme, Tung Li Development Co, eventually had to abort due to exorbitant losses. After Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp took over and initiated an incentive program offering people with Kaohsiung MRT I Pass cards or credit cards free access to bikes for the first hour, it exponentially increased the number of people using the bikes. From September to November in particular, there were more than 100,000 people using the bikes each month.
But more people renting bikes does not necessarily mean they are making a profit. According to statistics from Kao hsiung’s Environmental Protection Bureau in October, people holding an MRT I Pass renting public bikes only used the bikes for 26 minutes on average. Since you can rent a bike at one station and return it at another, many students and office workers are now in the habit of using public bikes for short commutes, and by returning the bikes within an hour, 80 percent of people are able to rent public bikes without having to spend a dime.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)