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Divvy program will roll on, in spite of supplier bankruptcy, mayor says

A full Divvy rack outside Merchandise Mart. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

A full Divvy rack outside the Merchandise Mart. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

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Updated: March 3, 2014 2:38PM



Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program will keep on rolling along with a bankrupt supplier, Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Tuesday.

Emanuel said he’s not concerned about the future of one of his signature transportation initiatives, even after his decision to withhold $2.1 million in payments from the Public Bike System Company helped drive the supplier into bankruptcy.

“United Airlines went through bankruptcy. They continue to fly. American Airlines just finished through bankruptcy. They continue to fly,” the mayor said.

“Divvy will continue to be there as a bike-sharing program, one of the best in the country, as they work through their financial hardships and challenges.”

Emanuel was asked when the city would release the $2.1 million payment withheld from the now-bankrupt Divvy supplier after bikes, station parts and software updates did not arrive by promised delivery dates.

“When they meet the conditions that we’ve set. I’m going to be tough with every contractor. Even though I’m proud of the Divvy bike-share program, there are specifics in the contract and benchmarks they have to meet,” he said.

The mayor has a lot riding on Divvy’s success. He’s already invested $18 million in federal funds and $4.5 million in local matching funds on 300 stations and 3,000 bikes.

And he’s still hoping to use $7 million in additional federal funds and $1.75 million from Chicago taxpayers to expand the program to 475 stations and 4,750 bikes later this year.

The agreement with Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., the company hired to manage and operate the system, calls for the city to receive 90 percent of bike-sharing profits through Dec. 31 and anywhere from 30-to-60 percent after that, depending on whether Alta meets designated performance standards by selling annual and daily memberships.

In his first meeting with reporters in two weeks, Emanuel also commented on several other pressing issues.

— WRIGLEY FIELD: The Cubs have applied for a permit to put up a right-field sign. Rooftop club owners are preparing a lawsuit to try and block it. But the mayor urged both sides to stay at the bargaining table and cut a deal that would resolve the dispute standing in the way of the renovation of 100-year-old Wrigley Field. Another meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

“They’re going to continue to talk even while they go to court. My strong recommendation to the parties is to continue the discussion and take the common sense approach,” he said.

“There’s a win-win agreement there to finally get this moving… I would hope that they would both have the courage to seize it.”

— CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION: Emanuel denied that his handpicked school board is robbing resources from neighborhood schools that have already taken a huge budget hit by opening seven new charter schools. The mayor also denied that it’s inconsistent to open charters so soon after closing nearly 50 public schools.

“This is all about making sure parents have choice… It’s to make sure there’s high-quality educational choices for our children,” the mayor said.

“This is in areas primarily, but not exclusively, where there’s over-crowding….We had some under-enrollment. We also have, in other areas of the city, an over-crowding problem.”

— MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Emanuel defended his plan to force seriously ill patients qualifed to purchase medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription to travel to Chicago’s manufacturing districts to buy it.

“The state passed a law. We’re going to do our job here in the city and pass an ordinance that not only complies with that, but does it in a way that we think is an appropriate way to do it,” he said.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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