Transit Unfareness

August 1, 2013

The Vancouver Observer has an excellent piece today on transit and the homeless.  It seems that Vancouver’s transit operators are remarkably compassionate compared to those in other cities.  I travel on the bus almost every day and I see them let indigent folks travel without paying all the time.  Good thing.

In an urban culture like ours, public transportation is an essential service.  I’m pretty sure I’ve written here before that I believe strongly in a no-fare transit system for that very reason; if I haven’t I should have.  It’s a regional service and the current fare revenue could be easily paid for with a miniscule regional sales tax. I bet that a quarter of 1% would be more than enough.

Of course, with the new Compass card we are going in the opposite direction, making public transportation ever more difficult for those who need it the most.  As the Observer article says about faregates on SkyTrain, someone with no money “cannot negotiate or argue with a robot.”

This is just wrong and we need to figure it out fast.


Translink Follows Ferries To Disaster

July 30, 2013

It seems that Translink is following the BC Ferries model of lowering service while increasing fares. It sure hasn’t worked on the ferry system, and I don’t see it working for buses and trains, either.

By the way, did you know that when Compass kicks in, a cash-paid bus fare will NOT allow you transfer to SkyTrain? What’s with that?

Time to make Translink responsive to people’s needs. Time to get Translink under political control once again.


Transit In Reverse

July 25, 2013

Vancouver was founded because of its harbour and its timber — some of the finest tall and straight trees anywhere in the world — that fit the needs of maritime expansionism in the 19th century.  But once that initial spurt had faded, by the 1890s, say, it was transit that drove the geographic growth of the City.  Streetcar and interurban lines were laid down, and housing soon followed.

That sequence was as true in Grandview as anywhere else in Vancouver. The opening of the interurban line to New Westminster in 1891, with its line along what would become Commercial Drive, created some interest in the neighbourhood.  But it is no coincidence that the building boom in the east end followed the opening of city streetcar service in the middle of the 1900 decade.  By 1915, much of Grandview was covered with a variety of streets and houses and a thriving population.

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That is the historical pattern across most of North America: Transit precedes population. It has proven to be a spectacularly successful business model for the building of cities. Oddly enough, now Translink wants to reverse that successful course, at least at the Commercial & Broadway hub; and they are being aided and abetted by the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan.

Page 33 of the Emerging Directions document published by the GW Community Plan planners states:

Create opportunities for transit-oriented development in the vicintiy of the station — with transit-supportive density that is consistent with existing and proposed transit infrastructure.

Given that we are told time after time that the Broadway transit service is already the busiest in North America, and given that we are all aware that thousands of people are passed by already-full buses at every rush hour, it is clear that we already have “transit-supportiive density”.  What we need are more transit options NOT more population in the area.

As Translink already fails to meet the current demands, it is senseless to add additional pressures by building what were originally conceived of as 26-36 storey towers, without a significant increase in services first.

This post was inspired in part by Elizabeth Murphy’s well-argued piece in the Sun on Tuesday.


Pedestrian Only Zone!

November 27, 2012

HUSH online magazine has published a piece that argues for sidewalk cycling and segregated bike lanes in Vancouver. It has been picked up on Twitter by the usual pro-bike suspects.  It handles the arguments for segregated bike lanes very well and makes a fine case.  A case I absolutely support.  We should definitely move to build segregated bike lanes across much of the city.

My problem with the article is the encouragement and demand that, in the meanwhile, cyclists should have the right to ride on sidewalks.  Yes, riding on the sidewalk is safer for the cyclist than on an ordinary road.  And, yes, having cyclists riding on the sidewalk is significantly more dangerous for pedestrians, especially seniors.

What would the cyclists say if a group of walkers strolled slowly down a segregated bike lane?  There would be hell to pay.  But it is OK for you to trample us down in our own segregated pedestrian lane?  Why do you think it is more important to protect the lives of cyclists than to protect the lives of pedestrians?

You cannot buy your safety with our bodies!


To Victoria Without A Car

October 24, 2012

We took a day trip to Victoria yesterday to collect some material from the BC Provincial Archives.  It was great fun and we enjoyed the entire journey which we did by bus.

It is hard to believe that we would ever want to take a car from the Lower Mainland to the Island.  The coach is comfortable, there are no driving anxieties (you can even take a nap), and the coach gets off the ferry first every time.  We walked around Victoria when we arrived, but we could just as well have used local transit or taxis or even rented a local car for our time there.

Definitely no need for us to bring a car from Vancouver — ever.


Bring Back The Streetcars?

October 9, 2012

Mike Klassen has re-opened the debate about streetcar use with a detailed and provactive post at VanCity Buzz.

He opens by describing the chaos that is the present Broadway transit corridor and extrapolating how much worse it will be once the Millenium Line connects to Broadway and Commercial.  The Broadway corridor is already the busiest bus communter route in North America and an estimated additional 70,000 riders a day simply won’t work with the present B-line plus system.

A Broadway Commercial-to-UBC rapid transit line seems the obvious infrastructure improvement.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I agree with Gordon Price that we will never see this in his or my lifetime, no matter how important it is.  The cost and the NIMBY obstacles in its way are simply too great.   But, obviously, we cannot just let the transit traffic on the Broadway corridor grind inexorably to a halt.  This is where Klassen re-introduces the idea of a streetcar.

“Integrated with the existing bus and rapid transit systems, a streetcar line could link the VCC-Clark Skytrain station (Millennium Line terminus) with a new rapid bus connection located at Arbutus and Broadway. A railway right-of-way exists for much that entire route. The section by southeast False Creek is currently under redevelopment and promises to bring thousands of new commuters. While it cannot match the ridership nor the speed of Skytrain, it could take many UBC-bound commuters off the overburdened 99 B-line west of Commercial.”

Bob Ransford adds the following:

“The Olympic Line streetcar project can be built for one quarter the cost of any SkyTrain extension. The city owns most of the right-of-way that would allow a streetcar to run between the Clark Drive SkyTrain station, the Canada Line Olympic Village station and Granville Island. It wouldn’t be that difficult to secure a right-of-way all the way to Arbutus Street. This routing would tie together all the SkyTrain lines and service the densest part of the Broadway corridor. A rapid bus line from Arbutus could adequately continue to service UBC.”

Yes, I’m none too happy about supporting an NPA position from the last election.  But it is dumb to drop a good idea just because one doesn’t care for the politics of the proponents.  And, yes, I do think this is a good idea.  The strteetcars are a vital part of Vancouver’s urban history, and the economics and the need seem to work for their return today.


Cyclists Doing Themselves No Favours

August 29, 2012

I fully support the development of bike paths in Vancouver, and I am keen to encourage the increase of cycling over car riding.  But cyclists do themselves no favours when they put pedestrians like me in danger by cycling on the sidewalk.  I must have had to avoid half a dozen cyclists today, riding in places that are supposed to be safe for me and other walkers.

Why the hell should I, elderly folks with their groceries, and mothers with young children have to take avoiding action just to protect ourselves from these two-wheeled maniacs?

Cyclists should start minding their own kind, bringing social pressure on those that won’t follow reasonable community standards.  If they don’t, sooner or later, supporters like me will become ever more reluctant to help.


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