A Hamilton Bike Share Hub. Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

McMaster University undergraduate students voted 3970 to 299 to add a fee to their tuition for every full-time student to be a member of Hamilton Bike Share.

The new fee will provide over $600,000 annually to Hamilton Bike Share Inc (HBSI), making McMaster students the largest single revenue stream for the program.

HBSI is a non-profit corporation that operates the Hamilton bike share program under contract with the City of Hamilton. The City owns the program’s capital assets.

The City provides HSBI with an annual operating grant of over $300,000. HSBI raises revenue from membership fees, sponsorships, advertising, and grants.

In 2020, when Uber notified the City of Hamilton that it would no longer operate SoBi Hamilton, HBSI told Hamilton City Council that a minimal bike share system costs approximately $45,000 monthly.

McMaster students can opt out of membership and receive a refund for the fee.

The McMaster Students Union states there were 25,714 students eligible to vote this year.

Past Financial Challenges

Hamilton’s bike share system has faced financial challenges since 2020 when Uber ended its contract with the City to operate the system.

On May 28, two weeks after Uber announced its departure, a Council motion to fund bike share to the end of 2020 failed on an 8-8 tie vote.

On May 31, just before the system was shut down on June 1, Hamiltonians began locking bike share bicycles in front of City Hall to express their displeasure.

Hamiltonians locked hundreds of bike share bicycles in front of City Hall on May 31, 2020, to protest the shutdown of the service following an 8-8 tied Council vote that defeated a motion to fund the service.

In the hours which followed, HBSI announced a $100,000 pledge from the Patrick J. McNally Charitable Foundation, which combined with other pledges and over $70,000 from a gofundme campaign, meant they could take over bike share to the end of 2020.

On June 30, 2020, the system relaunched.

Since this time, the City of Hamilton has found ways to provide operating funding to HBSI.

This includes charging e-scooter rental companies a fee that goes to HBSI, the annual operating grant, and working to assist HSBI in securing sponsorships.

The new McMaster student funding provides financial stability for HBSI.

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Published: March 9, 2024
Last edited: March 9, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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