More Transit Fares for More People

TransLink has done it again: they’ve raised fares for the fourth time in less than 8 years. This time across the board (passes and tickets, too). Oh joy.

That’s a 40% increase at the farebox; the ever-helpful Bank of Canada tells me that inflation over this period has been less than 16%, meaning fares have gone up 2 and half times faster than everything else. Since the last fare increase in 2005, inflation has been less than 4%, but this latest fare increase is 10% (2 and half times more again). Not quite what TransLink wrote back in May: “transit fare revenue increase of six per cent is proposed, representing general inflation over the 2005-2007 period.”

But of course, it’s worth it, right? No pain, no gain. Wrong.

To justify the fare increase in 2000, we were promised 500 new buses.

To justify the fare increase in 2002, we were promised 400 new buses.

The only new buses that have come since any of the fare increases in 2000, 2002, and 2005 are replacement buses that were needed 10 years ago.

This time, TransLink heralds the largest bus expansion in 31 years (better sit down for this one): 90 buses. That’s not even 10% of what we have already and a far cry from those earlier promises.

It fits the trend though; each time they promise less and deliver the same: nothing.

That would all be bad enough, but now TransLink is trying to brainwash us into thinking that Transit Service equals Fares. Want more Service? Pay more Fares. Want Peace? Go to War. Want freedom? Give up your Rights. TransLink is spinning with the best.

Let’s look at a few of the details of their latest missive, titled: More Transit Service for More People.

Read: More Transit Lies for More People.

Let’s start with the obvious: “Since the last fare increase in 2005, TransLink has significantly expanded and modernized its bus fleet.” Hello? The only “bus” fleet that has expanded is the Community Shuttles, aka minibuses, whose drivers get less pay and benefits than regular bus operators. Aha.

The “modernized” part of that lie, I mean advertisement (same thing), above must refer to the new trolleys, which were supposed to go into service in 2001. These long awaited trolleys are so modern that they can’t take bikes in their racks after dark! But they do have signs that can say “Sorry, Bus Full.” Now that’s More Transit Service.

The specific new promises (34 new SpyTrain cars and a 3rd Seabus) won’t be fulfilled until 2009 (don’t hold your breath), but the fares go up now. Nice.

But wait! There’s more…we will get “continued expansion and modernization of the bus fleet” and “new routes and more frequent service.” Gee, how will that be measured? And why would we believe it?

The one promise made that you can bet on is that fares will go up again within 3 years. If the current TransLink management remains, they may break this one, too…in order to raise them sooner.

Too bad they didn’t use the money spent on this propaganda to buy the new buses that they keep promising and not delivering; I’d guess this latest bit of propaganda is worth at least one and maybe even 3 or 4 new buses more.

So what to do, what to do?

If you’re a parent in the ‘burbs, I bet you’re not going to bring your 3 kids with you into the City by bus. That would put you back at least $30; gas still doesn’t cost that much and there is lots of free parking to be had.

If you’re a commuter, or “regular customer” in TransLink-talk, maybe you have the resources to stock up on “FareSaver” tickets or you buy a FareCard. Or maybe it’s just cheaper and easier to drive. Only 10% of commuters before the fare increase would have disagreed. How many more will be driving in 2008?

Okay, before the doom and gloom sets in, let’s get to some action plans to lift our spirits…

1. write a letter, if you haven’t already. I’m sure this will make a big difference in the fares imposed by TransLink.
2. attend a TransLink Board meeting. Oops, sorry, these have been privatized by Kevin Falcon and TransLink’s CEO Pat Jacobson (you know, the woman who created Canada’s first private highway for Ontario’s version of BC’s Liberals). But hey, weren’t those old meetings fun! The Chair was always so friendly and encouraged everyone attending to share her/his thoughts with them.
3. write a blog entry. I recommend this especially for any parents reading this. Not only will this make you feel much better but it will make it look like you are doing something…so that when your child looks you in the eye just before the planet dies, you can say you…wrote a blog…
4. write a letter…oh wait, we did that already.
4. write a series about Fare-Free Transit to show how easy it can be and how evil fares are. That will show TransLink!

I guess that’s it for law abiding, good people like us. Oh wait, we can talk about the issue with all our friends and family…yeah, that’s number 5. And my personal favourite:

6. Vote next November for transit-friendly politicians. Unlike when they governed TransLink during the last 4 fare increase, they won’t have any influence over TransLink’s policy or staff. But you voted for a change! Well done.

Unfortunately, most that can, will probably opt for number 7: drive a car. And who could blame them if the planet wasn’t burning?

Of course, blogs like these aren’t read by only good and nice people like us. Which means, of course, there’s hope…so here’s a list for those “other” folks:

1. Stop paying fares. Why pay for something that we own and already paid for with taxes and rent and hydro bills and gas taxes. Of course, drivers gotta do their job, which is drive the bus and inform you of the fare. But remember, the driver is a working stiff like most of us, so do give a smile and a hello/thanks. It makes all the difference. In short: don’t just dream about it, be the Fare-Free Transit system you desire!
2. Share your transfers/tickets, if you have one. Despite TransLink’s propaganda that tries to scare people into unlearning decent, common behaviour, it is NOT a crime to share. Even with strangers.
3. Get a ticket from the only Transit Police in the country (with the only Police board that has cops) and challenge it in court. Hey, “those” folks are often rich and the rich write the rules. Besides, “Fare-Paid Zones” are public property paid for by you and me. Sharing is as human as breathing. Taking transit is good communal behaviour, not a crime! Or is it driving alone in a noisy, polluting, greenhouse gas emitting, one tonne killing machine? I can never remember…

Speaking of killing machines, all of the guns and tasers and cars and uniforms and salaries for the only Transit Police in the country, could have bought 40 new buses by now.

That’s new buses, as in an expanded fleet, not empty promises.

i Viva la farestrike !

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Fare-Free Transit: is it finally time?

I’ve had the pleasure to research and write a series of articles about Fare-Free Transit around the world and how these systems compare to what exists in Vancouver and Nanaimo.

You can find these articles on the daily on-line newspaper, theTyee.ca. The folks at the Tyee were so supportive and helpful from start to finish and I can’t thank Dave Beers and Bryan Zandberg enough for the polish they put on every article. They also helped facilitate these resulting radio interviews about Fare-Free Transit.

Kathryn Gretsinger hosted the first of these, which you can find right on the Tyee’s site.

On Wednesday, July 11th, I was in the studio for CBC’s afternoon show; you can listen to the portion which featured a Q & A and call-in about Fare-Free Transit here.

That night, there was a short Q & A on CKNW, which you can listen to here.

Saturday afternoon, I was asked to be a guest on CKNW’s Sean Leslie show; I called in from the Folk Music Festival and you can listen to that here (alternatively, here is the link to their Audio Archive: select July 17th @ 4pm after logging in).

CiTR‘s Pedal Revolutionary show devoted the last half of their show to Fare-Free Transit on Thursday, July 19th. You can listen to the whole show or their previous shows by clicking on Podcasts and then their show name from citr.ca. You can listen live here.

KPFK Los Angeles, Pacifica Radio’s affliate for Southern California, ended their August 6th edition of Beneath the Surface with Suzi Weissman with a discussion on Fare-Free Transit. You can listen to their whole show here or listen to KPFK live here.

UPDATES SINCE THE TYEE SERIES WAS PUBLISHED

Alternet.org asked for an US-focused summary of the Tyee series and published it on 26 July 2007.  You can read it by clicking here.

Community Transportation Association edited the Tyee series (with permission) and published a short article in their magazine that you can also find on their website by clicking here.

Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) student paper, the NAV.ca, published an article written by Morgan Vanderree entitled, “Fare-Free Transit Equals Fair Transit.”  You can read it by clicking here and scrolling down to page 6.

Planetizen asked me to write a follow-up piece that was published on 23 Feb 09; it’s entitled, “Why Is Fare-Free Transit the Exception Rather than the Rule?” and you can read it by clicking here.

PHOTO MONTAGE OF THE TRIP TO WHIDBEY ISLAND

On 29 January 2007, I rode my bicycle and took transit all the way to Whidbey Island, Washington State, USA (from East Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory) to research and experience Fare-Free Transit:

The start of my pilgrimage to a Fare-Free MeccaThe start of my pilgrimage to a Fare-Free Mecca; the fare: $4.50

A beautiful Pedestrian and Bike BridgeA wonderful Pedestrian and Bike Bridge

The prettier side of the imaginary line…The prettier side of the imaginary line…

…and the ugly; only bikes were sent this way!…and the ugly; only bikes were sent this way!

Round two, Blaine to Bellingham; the fare: 75¢Rounds two and three, Blaine to Bellingham and Bellingham to Mt. Vernon; the fare: 75¢

The breath of fresh air that is Island Transit; the fare: 0!The breath of fresh air that is Island Transit; the fare, everywhere: 0!

Isn’t something missing?  Nope, the passenger counter is all you really need here…Isn’t something missing? Nope, the passenger counter is all you really need here…

Just the facts…and not one trace of propaganda or misinformation, inside or out!Just the facts…and not one trace of propaganda or misinformation, inside or out!

Otis and another happy Island Transit rider…Island Transit operator Odis D. Jenkins and another happy Island Transit rider…

Vancouver City Staff prioritize North Van car commuters over local residents who walk and bus…again!

Imagine yourself trying to catch a bus to work, to an appointment or to school. You can see the bus a block away. You run toward the intersection but you can’t cross safely. You have to wait for 3 different lights to change. By the time you get to the stop, well, the bus is long gone. If you’re lucky, you wait another 15 minutes; if not, 30 minutes or more!

This is the reality for many commuters living around Dundas and Nanaimo. The #4 and the #7 bus routes join together and stop near this corner on Dundas to take residents downtown and beyond. But bus riders as well as pedestrians have to cross 3 busy and very wide roads to get to this bus stop safely because the north crosswalk across Nanaimo remains closed. And despite an excellent opportunity to improve this, the City of Vancouver Transportation Staff continue to hinder East Van residents from taking transit.

About 10 days ago, the traffic light pattern at the intersection of Dundas and Nanaimo was changed. The City of Vancouver Transportation Staff who made this change were well aware of the problems faced by residents in the area trying to take transit. Here is their response to a request to reopen this crosswalk (note: bold has been added for emphasis):

“The change does make a north crosswalk fairly easy to open though. We may do so in the future if it can be accommodated without causing too much congestion. The north crosswalk would operate during the westbound green. But the westbound green must be kept short for this change to work, and pedestrians require a long time to cross. I am hoping that we can make the change, see if it has the desired effect (reduce the use of Dundas east of Nanaimo), and then consider opening the north crosswalk.”

Although this change greatly improves motorists’ safety, it was motivated by a group called SlowDownDundas.org which is trying to stop through traffic on Dundas between Nanaimo and Renfrew. Similar to the situation that previously occurred east of Victoria on Venables, suburban commuter traffic is making local residents’ lives louder, stinkier, and very dangerous because there are no physical limitations to their speed.

Meanwhile, pedestrians have not been able to safely cross Nanaimo at the north side of this intersection for years.

The significance of this missed opportunity for change is that it flies in the face of what we in the City have clearly prioritized.

First of all, our 1997 Transportation Plan clearly places pedestrians first, followed by cyclists, then transit users (remember this one), then goods and services (some of the freeway traffic) and finally, but lastly, private motorists (the vast majority of this freeway traffic).

On top of this, the City has had an active program to eliminate the kind of situations that occur at Nanaimo and Dundas. It was designed to removed the “No Crossing” signs that only pedestrians have to endure. And despite being reminded of this information, yet another opportunity was lost when this change was implemented.

So not only are our highest priority transportation users (walkers) completely ignored, so are our third highest (bus riders).

Perhaps it is because the majority of our City’s Staff commute to City Hall from the suburbs that the will of Vancouver residents continues to be ignored and car users are prioritized over pedestrians and bus riders.

If you’d like to let our City’s Transportation Staff know what you think about this (and other) transportation situation(s), call the Traffic Management Branch at 604-873-7910 or email:

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca
tom.timm@vancouver.ca
peter.judd@vancouver.ca
ian.adam@vancouver.ca
jerry.dobrovolny@vancouver.ca
dave.coburn@vancouver.ca
scott.edwards@vancouver.ca
engineering@vancouver.ca

This is a Truly Terrible Twin!

No one likes to sit in traffic. That’s one reason why I ride a bike. Unfortunately for those who didn’t look at the big picture when deciding where to live, this isn’t much help. Thousands of folks bought homes in the ‘burbs to try to save money while continuing to work in or near the City. And while they’re stuck in traffic and losing their financial gamble, they aren’t the only ones fuming.

Now the BC Fiberals have their very own solution for this (and yes, I mean their very own). It is a solution much like everything else they’ve done over the past five years (i.e., good for big business, bad for people). They want to double the capacity of Highway #1 from Langley to Vancouver by paving more of paradise and twinning the Port Mann bridge.

Obviously, this appeals to the short-sighted folk sitting in the Trans-Canada parking lot. They don’t want to move, despite being in gridlock.

But this definitely doesn’t work for most of the million living in and around Vancouver. East Vancouver in particular, is already choked full of commuter cars. This is despite (or more likely, because of) most of our transportation tax dollars being spent by the bureaucrats in City Hall to maximize traffic flow and make mini, urban freeways through the Eastside.

So what to do?

We may simply have to battle it out with a fascist regime that is due to crack at anytime…not easy nor particularly fun but perhaps inevitable. Especially given their maniacal desire to privatize everything they can get their hands on.

If these fascists somehow stopped to listen for just a moment, we could find a way for everyone to win (well, except for Big Business, but they take care of themselves).

Let’s start with the obvious need to increase capacity. The general assumption is that increasing capacity on the highway means accommodating more cars. But the reality is we need to move more people, more efficiently.

Despite being the most efficient vehicle known to humankind, bikes are not the answer. Hell, people can’t even walk over the Port Mann bridge, much less cycle over it.

Translink, on the other hand, has put all its eggs in one expensive, privatized basket (RAV, now known as the Canada or Worm Line). Even if RAV is stopped, TransLink clearly doesn’t possess the skills or creativity to make a significant contribution (aside from doing the proposed paving or bridge building) to resolving this issue with bus technology.

So let’s take a quick peek at what’s happening now. There’s an average of five (5) empty seats per vehicle idling on that highway. Most vehicles (80- 90%) are completely empty (the cars can’t drive themselves…yet). Maybe the solution is simply staring us in the face!

Crunch a few numbers, and it is easy to see how we can not only double the capacity of the bridge and highway, but quadruple it or more! If 8 cars are currently carrying (at most) 10 people, and those cars have an average of 5 empty seats, it’s easy to see how we could reduce the number of vehicles dramatically and not pave over even one more patch of greenspace.

Okay, the numbers work. How do we actually do it?

Right now, there are two lanes leading from Langley through Surrey to the bridge. There are no restrictions on use. Hence the preponderance of Single Occupant Vehicles (SOVs).

Converting one of those lanes into a DOV (Double – 2), LOV (Low – 3), or – gasp! – HOV (High, as in 5 or more) would quickly change habits.

Thinking this through, let’s start with one DOV that is ENFORCED and continues right over the bridge to the current “HOV” lane. By the time this lane starts to clog up (a few weeks or months), we’ll have increased the capacity of the highway by 50% without doing anything more than posting a few signs and enforcing them consistently. We’re halfway home.

When the time comes (imagine, if you can, appropriate planning, not just planning for planning’s sake!), we can then upgrade the DOV to a LOV (3 or more people per car) or we can convert the other lane to a DOV. Both options achieve the current goal of doubling the capacity of this commute. I like the double DOV designation because it is simply criminal, not to mention extinction-making, to allow folks to drive around with empty vehicles. But it is safer to assume that the LOV option will be chosen.

When the LOV option starts to fill up, then we can move to a true HOV (5 or more) designation for one lane of the highway. This provides an opportunity to move more people than even the terrible twinning option could ever hope for. And it costs about $4 billion less.

Don’t let folks tell you that they need a passing lane or that no one will use the DOV, LOV, or HOV lane. Putting a few cops to a rare good use will ensure that the lane is used appropriately. A very important side benefit from this change of use will be a safer highway. Right now, drivers believe they have a “right” to pass, no matter how fast the other driver is moving. Speed kills, and on a highway where cars are moving in an uniform stream, many less people will die or be seriously injured. The twinning-spinsters can’t make this claim with a straight face.

Let’s put to rest the myth that we can build our way out of traffic once and for all. The private automobile has cost us all more than we can ever imagine. The population of automobiles continues to grow faster than humans in the Lower Mainland; putting billions of our money into an already failed experiment will only make it worse…even the fascists admit this.

It is time to stop the madness. It is time to rethink our current infrastructure. And even better, it is time to get back on my bike! See you at the Car-Free Fest on Commercial Drive…