Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vancouver’s fantastic transit network

This time last week, Global BC posted a video of Premier Christy Clark and her views on transit and the Massey tunnel. Anyone who has taken the 99 B-Line along the Broadway Corridor, the 502 along Fraser Highway, or even the SkyTrain during rush hour can attest to being passed up or seeing people being passed due to transit congestion. If you are the single occupant of a vehicle driving the opposite direction of peak travel through the Massey Tunnel, you will also experience congestion.

Back in the fall of 2012, TransLink stated it would begin “optimizing” transit service. With no funding to expand existing transit service, TransLink has been redistributed transit service hours around the region. This means that some parts of the region are getting less service to help manage transit congestion in other parts of the region. It really is a zero-sum game as transit success is dependent on frequency, and while TransLink might be able to keep up with demand on some transit routes, the overall quality of the system is suffering. This is reflected in the latest ridership stats from TransLink.

As I pointed out in 2012 for road users, delay and maximized road usage is considered a bad thing; delay+utiliziation=cost. For transit users, delay and maximized transit usage is considered a good thing; delay+utilization=efficiency. Not being able to go at least 10km/h over the posted speed limit is seen as congestion on highway, yet the same people will complain if every square meter of a bus isn’t packed.

It seem this view is also the view of our Premier:

“Vancouver has a fantastic transit network, it has room to grow, it’s not perfect, I understand that. But boy, for anyone that sits in that Massey Tunnel, it feels a lot less perfect than Vancouver’s system.”

I have to wonder if the Premier has even taken transit during rush hour. I would invite her to take transit from UBC to Downtown Langley at 4:30pm any weekday, I wonder if her views on our “fantastic” transit network would change?

We certainly do have a great transit system, but it is becoming increasingly congested. There are also major service gaps in the South of Fraser. While highways certainly play an important role in our transportation system, they only go so far. In order to enable the continued economic growth of Metro Vancouver, accommodate population growth, and give people a way out of congestion, transit combined with investing in walking and cycling infrastructure is the only solution. When places like car-loving Los Angles are embracing transit, it means investing in transit is important.

Major urban regions are the economic engines of the 21st Century and transit opens up economic development. Since the provincial government has effectively dropped the ball on transit in Metro Vancouver, I fear for the continued livability and economic productivity of our region. I just hope the province stops playing games with transit in our region.

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