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.


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!

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.

Narrow Streets, More Housing

July 31, 2012

Vancouver City’s ReTHINK Housing competition has thrown up at least one winner that I can fully support — the idea of reducing roadways from 66′ wide to 33′ and using the new found land to build affordable housing.   The housing would be affordable because the city already owns the roadway and so the cost of land in this proposal is essentially zero.

The proponents suggest three different types of housing usage for the recovered strips. They estimate that the City could gain 10,000 ground level housing units and a $2 billion fund from just 50% of the possible space using the least dense type “without demolishing a single unit of existing housing, or undertaking a single rezoning.”

I would suggest that along some of these recovered areas we could also place new transit services of various types, while leaving the remaining roadway for walking, cycling and, I suppose, cars.

Here in Grandview we are used to 33′ lots (even many that are just 25′) and there seems to be no difficulty in creating a very livable community under such conditions.  This is a creative idea that conjoins the idea of affordable housing with a less-cars-is-better sensibility, and I am glad to hear via Twitter that it is an idea that is being considered seriously at City Hall.

The Grandview Transportation Forum

July 18, 2012

The weather last night was beautiful, and it was a sheer pleasure to get out of the house and walk down Victoria to the Maritime Labour Auditorium where I joined forty to fifty others at the Grandview Workshop for the City’s Transportation 2040 Plan.

Given that this was supposed to be primarily a chance for residents to discuss and put forward idea, it was a shame that the first 70 minutes of the two hour session were taken up with presentations by Paul Kruger of the Transportation team and Andrew Pask who is spearheading the Grandview Community Plan, followed by unstructured Q & A. Both of these gentleman are proficient and articulate presenters; but most of us there would have already seen these slides on more than one occasion.  Andrew’s presentation did at least have the value of giving us the results of the online survey they’ve been running for the last month or two. It appears that generally speaking residents of Grandview are pretty happy with things as they are (or at least that is how the numbers were spun).  That being said, we could have done with a 15 minute overview and then be left to get on with it, in my opinion.

One important piece of news that did come out of the Q&A was that the plan to present the viaducts decision to City Council next week has now been delayed, presumably to allow more public input. A cynic might suggest that the delay is to allow Meggs and his planners to spin the opposition that has already arisen.  However, the delay is generally good news and I hope that Strathcona and Grandview can use the time to continue the pressure to ensure that this major decision takes all our opinions into account.

Another interesting fact that emerged is that the Powell Street overpass — a $50 million project — is designed to allow CPR to assemble and move trains that will be 10,000 feet — two miles! — long.  Bruce MacDonald wondered aloud how much of the $50 million is being financed by the railway as they seem to be the ultimate beneficiaries.  No answer was forthcoming.  He also mentioned that the massive rail network on the False Creek Flats has been essentially unused for a long time.  The Planners were unhappy with any suggestion that the space could be better employed:  “Once we lose those railyards, we’ll never get them back,” they cried as if that were a fate worse than death.

Eventually we were organized into small groups to work through ideas on subjects such as “Transit”, “Street Calming”, “Cycling” etc. I was at one of the Transit tables and I enjoyed the ideas and discussions that half-a-dozen of us kicked around for twenty minutes or so.  The meeting concluded with each group being asked to present their one big idea.  In most cases this became a list of everything that had been discussed.  At our table, went with my One Big Idea:  that transit should be a free service, funded by Lottery and Gaming revenues.

It was grand to get out of the house and to spend time with active residents, many of whom I already knew.  Having enjoyed the stroll down the hill to Triumph Street, I was very grateful for a ride back up the hill!



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