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Monday, February 3, 2014

How Can Alta Operate Without Bixi? By Partnering With the Bankrupt Company's Arch Enemy

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 11:37 AM

In this week's paper, we questioned how Alta Bicycle Share could be so sanguine about rolling out programs in Portland, Seattle and elsewhere after its main supplier, Montreal-based Public Bike System Company (also called Bixi), filed for bankruptcy. The company just offered up its answer in a press release.

Alta has announced it's teaming up with 8D Technologies, a company that originally provided software for PBSC bike share docking stations, but has since sued the company. Alta and 8D "will be working together to launch and operate the next generation of bike share in 2014," the release says.

The companies say they'll roll out an improved bike share system, which they're calling BSSv4.

The new system has a sleek design, merges the electronics boards and screens, and has an improved docking mechanism linking the bikes to the stations. Other BSSv$ system enhancements include:

•Key distribution from the kiosk
•Account management and bike reservations through a new mobile application
•Color screens
•Enhanced power management solutions
•Improved docking/undocking mechanism

Based on Alta's previous statements, it seems likely the new system will use the same tank-like bikes Alta's deployed in other markets. Vice President Mia Birk has said the company has kept in contact with the manufacturer of those machines, DeVinci. But it's unclear just how long the partnership between Alta and 8D has been in the works.

Birk hasn't returned a call for comment yet.

Update, 1 pm: According to Alta spokeswoman Leslie Carlson, the agreement is very new—hammered out in the days since Bixi delared bankruptcy January 20. That means a lot is still up in the air, including where Alta will get the bikes for new systems.

"They are talking to a number of suppliers, including DeVinci," Carlson said.

Original post:

Exactly what the new arrangement means for Portland is unclear. Birk in recent days has voiced optimism that we'll have a system up and running this year, as planned. But officials haven't yet reached a deal with a sponsor to fund the endeavor, though they're reportedly close.

"Ultimately, we are confident that this will be a positive result for Portland," Birk said after the Bixi bankruptcy was announced. "Our 2014 system will launch as planned."

Update, 2:49 pm: Any lingering hopes that the system would be launched this spring—as formerly announced—seem out of the question. According to 8D President and CEO Isabelle Bettez, the company is working on finalizing the system, which it's been developing since 2012.

'We're ready for this summer," Bettez tells the Mercury.

While final arrangements are being hammered out, Battez says the cost of 8D's new system should be comparable to Bixi's—if not less expensive.

"It will be competitive," she says. "It has to be."

Original post:

The messy split with 8D contributed a great deal to Bixi's present difficulties. That's because the proprietary software Bixi developed was notoriously buggy, causing delays and difficulties in systems in New York and Chicago and costing the company millions. Systems run on the 8D software in Washington and Boston operated with far less difficulty.

"They probably went live too quickly" with the new software, according to Raymond Massi, a partner at the Canadian financial services firm Richter, which is handling the bankruptcy for Bixi. "There's tons of reasons why we got to where we got to."

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