Friday, March 2, 2012

Bubi Seeks Supplier

The sharp logo for Bubi
is a good start.

Work continues on Budapest's future bike-share system, christened "Bubi" according to a popular vote in the fall of 2010. Later this month, the search will begin for a system supplier -- a commercial enterprise that could provide bikes, docking stations, payment system and other technology and services that would make it go.

To this end, the city-owned company in charge of Bubi, the Budapest Transport Center (BKK -- Budapest Közlekedési Központ), has scheduled an "information day" on March 21 where would-be suppliers can present their goods. The event isn't public -- just interested contractors are invited.

The programme's agenda is here and those who have further questions are asked to contact Gergely Kovács and Péter Dalos of the engineering firm COWI Hungary Ltd., the subcontractor that did Bubi's feasibility study and other groundwork. Their email:

Luckily for Budapest, public bicycle systems have quite some history by now, and BKK should have a good choice of suppliers: firms such as JCDecaux, Clear Channel and Next Bike have implemented and operate hundreds of similar systems throughout Europe and beyond.

But due to a peculiarity of Budapest's situation, Bubi's financial set-up could be tricky. The vast majority of the implementation costs will be funded by an EU subsidy (HUF 900 million or EUR 3.1 million), and this will apparently put certain constraints on how BKK finances the operating costs. Many other systems around the world partner with a big commercial sponsor (e.g. Barclay's Bike Hire in London) or an ad company (e.g. JCDecaux and Clear Channel). These arrangements lessen the burden on the municipal budget -- or at least create the illusion of doing so. However, due to the Bubi's big EU subsidy, such models may not be legally possible in Budapest.

Hopefully some clever ideas come up at this month's meeting, and the long-term prospects for Bubi will be more clear.