Monday, November 2, 2009

An Integrated System is Better for Everyone

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a lecture by the New York Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. One of the thing that she loved about Metro Vancouver was our integrated transportation system; the fact that TransLink operates (in theory) all regional transportation systems. She called our tickets the "Willy Wonka Golden Ticket", and was impressed that one ticket could get you on SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, and buses in the whole region. In many parts of the US and Canada, this is not the case. In places like Toronto or Montreal you might need to have tickets from up to three transportation organizations to travel throughout the respective regions. In the US, it’s much worse. The Seattle area has 6 transit agencies which includes the regional agency, Sound Transit. To get a monthly you need to almost be a math genius, they have 16 types of adult monthly passes. The San Francisco Bay Area has more transit agencies than I have fingers, included two regional authorities, all with different fare structures. When I visited the Bay Area this year, I had to use tickets from 4 difference transit agencies to get around.

In Metro Vancouver, we take the unlimited ride monthly pass for granted. You can get anywhere in the region with a three zone pass or ticket. It wasn’t until 1998 that New York City introduced an unlimited ride pass. They saw a surge in ridership. While many regions as now rolling out Smart Card so that transit users only need to have one payment device, you still need to load passes and money for multiply transit agencies.

All this to say that while TransLink has funding issues, the concept of a regional transportation authority with one pass makes transportation more accessible and less intimidating to new users.

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