With the growing popularity of YouBike, Taipei’s public bicycle rental system, the Taipei City Government has requested an anti-pollution subsidy of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to continue the free service that has registered more than 400,000 members since it was launched in 2009.
The city government initially listed a seven-year budget of NT$268 million for the bike rental system and commissioned Giant Bicycles to manage the project’s infrastructure upkeep and operation.
The administration has given the city a total of NT$18 million from its anti-pollution fund since November, but the subsidy has already been spent because of the rapid expansion of the number of YouBike rental stops around the city.
Taipei City’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Wang Sheng-wei (王聲威) confirmed yesterday that the department issued a request to the administration on June 26 for a NT$100 million subsidy to finance the operation of the system until the end of this year.
The EPA replied to the department’s request earlier this month by asking for more details of YouBike’s operation, including the cost of the system’s infrastructure and its financial condition, he said, brushing aside allegations that the administration is reluctant to provide such a large amount of financial support.
“I think the EPA appreciates our effort to promote green transportation and we will continue to communicate with the administration about the subsidy,” he said.
The administration is said to be concerned about the large amount of money requested and may ask the city and Giant Bicycles to share the mounting costs of running the YouBike system.
According to Liu Chia-you (劉嘉祐), a division chief at the department of transportation, 80 YouBike stops have been erected around the city and 2,580 bikes are available for rental. The goal is to have 173 stops and 5,850 bikes operational by the end of this year.
YouBike members can use the bikes for free for the first 30 minutes, while non-members pay NT$10 for every 30 minutes.
Wang said the department plans to continue offering the 30-minute free service, as the program has been highly successful in encouraging the use of green public transportation.
Taipei launched the bike rental program in 2009 with 11 rental sites in Xinyi District offering 500 bicycles for public use. The number of daily rentals has recently reached 25,000 on weekdays and 27,000 on weekends.