Friday, March 23, 2012

Transit is best bang for buck

In Metro Vancouver, taxes and transportation are two topics that get people talking. Over the last few days, I’ve been reading all sorts of comments around transportation and transit and I’ve realized that there is a bunch of misinformation out there. For some reason people think that transit spending is a waste of money.

For some background in 2010, user-fees covered 34% of transit related operating and capital spending for TransLink. Provincially we have a dedicated gas tax, which you could consider a user-fee, that will pay for 36% of the operating and capital spending on roads by the Province in the current budget cycle. Federally and municipally there is no dedicated gas tax which goes directly to roads, just general revenue. Both transit and roads rely on taxes to pay for the majority of their budget.

When you want to improve any service beyond just keeping up with population growth, it will require more money: it’s that simple. That’s why user-fees and taxation has increased over the years to pay for increasing transit service in the South of Fraser and why the Port Mann Bridge is getting a toll. But here is the real question which is a better value, roads or transit?

Between 1998 and 2010 population in Metro Vancouver has increased by a factor of 1.2. Transit ridership has grown by a factor of 1.5.
TransLink Ridership (Note there was a labour dispute in 2001). Source: Metro Vancouver and APTA

Transit ridership is increasing faster than the population of the region. In the same time period, traffic over the Port Mann Bridge has flatlined in absolute terms.

Port Mann Bridge AADT. Source: BC Ministry of Transportation

It’s not just the Port Mann Bridge though, traffic volumes are stabilizing all over the region.

Highway 1 AADT west of 200th Street. Source: BC Ministry of Transportation

Here’s another interesting fact, since the opening of the Canada Line Richmond has seen three-years of decline in registered vehicles. We know that highways can negativity effect health, our social wellbeing, and the environment while transit has a positive effect on our health, social wellbeing, and the environment. From a value standpoint, doesn’t it make more sense to invest in something that people actually want to use and that has a ton of positive benefits?


Anonymous said...

According to pg 18 of the source you linked the transit fare recovery in 2010 was 46.5%, not 34%.

Nathan Pachal said...

That is true if you don't include interest, administration, police, and amortization.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, of course police is a cost that would would be born by other local forces if not by the transit police and I would assume a significant component of interest, administration and amortization are in relation to non-transit projects.