Taipei yesterday celebrated the growing popularity of its public bicycle rental system, which has clocked up an average of 40,000 daily rides, by launching the 100th to 103rd YouBike rental stations.
The four YouBike stations opened to the public yesterday at the MRT Yuanshan Station, the Taipei City Museum of Fine Arts, the Taipei Confucius Temple and the Lin An Tai Historical House and Museum, bringing the number of rental stops throughout the city to 103, with a total of 3,456 bicycles available for rent.
The YouBike program was introduced by the city government in 2009 and has been designed as an inner-city commuting tool which can be used free of charge by members for 30 minutes, after which a fee is payable. Non-members pay NT$10 for every 30 minutes.
Only 11 rental stops and 500 bicycles were available in the city’s Xinyi District when the system was launched. The popularity of the YouBike program has skyrocketed after the city expanded the scope of the program and began installing more rental stations at MRT stations, schools and top attractions.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday defended the city’s efforts to expand the program in the face of opposition and promised that the 30-minute free service would continue, despite concerns about the program’s finances.
“The YouBike program has survived its most difficult time and has become a popular transportation tool in the city. We will build more rental stations and have no plans to cancel the 30-minute free service,” he said at the launch ceremony of the rental station at MRT Yuanshan Station.
Concerns were raised about the state of the program’s finances last month after the city requested an anti-pollution subsidy of NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) to continue the free 30-minute offer.
The EPA 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 stations.
The EPA has not yet agreed to give the city additional funds.
The city government initially drew up 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.
Giant Bicycles president King Liu (劉金標) joined city officials in celebrating yesterday’s launch of more YouBike rental stops.
He said the program was a successful cooperation between the public and private sector, and promised to continue improving the system’s infrastructure and service.
The city aims to have 173 stations and 5,850 bikes available by the end of this year.