Monday, April 28, 2014

New report on transit imbalance in Metro Vancouver

Getting improved transit service in the South of Fraser is a chicken-or-the-egg type issue. You can’t building transit-oriented communities without frequent transit service. You only get increased demand for transit service when there is frequent transit service. TransLink won’t increase transit service unless there is demand, and has no money to help build transit service where there currently isn’t a demand.

As part of the upcoming referendum on transit, the provincial government has requested that the TransLink’s Mayors’ Council come up with a 10 year investment plan by mid-summer. The City of Vancouver has been pushing for the UBC subway as the next big investment while South of Fraser municipalities have been pushing for rapid transit along King George Boulevard, 104th Avenue, and Fraser Highway.

It should come as no surprise that there is less transit service in the South of Fraser than in the North of Fraser, but how big is that difference?

Surrey, White Rock, Delta, the Township of Langley, and the City of Langley have released a report called “South of Fraser LRT & Transit Investment Needs: Moving Towards the Regional Transit Average”. The report highlights the major imbalance of transit service in our region.

Commute to Work, 2011. Compares South of Fraser to North of Fraser. The availability of transit service contributes to people’s travel choices. Source: Census Canada 2011. Select graphic to enlarge.

To highlight the imbalance, the report shows that the North of Fraser holds 56% of the region’s population, yet receives 68% of bus revenue hours. The South of Fraser holds 31% of the region’s population, but only receives 19% of bus revenue hours.

Frequent transit means service every 15 minutes of better, 7 days a week for most of the day. The North of Fraser has a 276km frequent transit network while the South of Fraser only has a 77km network.

For more facts, check out the full 10 page report. It’s a quick read as it is basically 10 pages of infographics.

I should note that the South of Fraser isn’t being “screwed over by TransLink”. Research I’ve done shows that places like Langley are getting more money from TransLink when projects like the Golden Ears Bridge are factored in. The South of Fraser is geographically larger than the North of Fraser. A good chunk of the North of Fraser was built when streetcars were the primary mode of transportation. The South of Fraser was designed in the automobile era. These factors, combined with the fact that TransLink does not have the funding to put frequent transit in areas to build ridership, leads to this imbalance.

This report will be sent to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation Investment Plan Subcommittee to influence the development of the 10 year investment plan.

While it would be good to see all transit projects built at once, even if the transit referendum passes, it is not likely that all projects will be able to be built all at once. A decision will need to be made: support transforming the South of Fraser from an auto-oriented sub-region to a transit-oriented sub-region, or alleviate transit congestion along Broadway, one on of the busiest transit corridors in North America. This will not be an easy decision to make.

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