What’s needed is provincial legislation forcing TransLink to reach standards of service and performance for transit’s ignored constituency: the riders
Appeared in Business in Vancouver – March 12, 2013
Today’s theme is the Miss Adelaide factor in Vancouver’s gripping issue of public transit.
Puzzled? You look old enough to recall that in the great film Guys and Dolls the sadly single Miss Adelaide suffers from a chronic cold. No matter what nostrums she takes, the medicine “never gets anywhere near where the trouble is.”
Her problem is that she has principles and no husband. What TransLink shares with her is that it doesn’t need more experts, studies, bar graphs and such. They’re failed medicine. Decades of ineffective prescriptions haven’t cured Vancouver’s traffic problems or the scandal of four hours of daily suffering for suburban strap-hangers.
The right medicine is a Transit Riders Bill of Rights.
Not top-down but bottom-up power. Not more pronouncements from on high – by Metro bigwigs who travel majestically from reserved parking spot to reserved parking spot and haven’t seen the inside of a bus for years. Not Mayor Gregor Robertson’s populist twaddle or hauteur in the style of Marie Antoinette (“The commuters are angry? Let them ride bicycles”).
What’s needed is provincial legislation forcing TransLink to reach standards of service and performance for transit’s ignored constituency: The riders.
- Article I of the bill: Every rider guaranteed a seat. Initially, on rides over a certain distance; ultimately, over any distance. If no seat is available as shown on a computer read-out, fare discounted 50%.
- Article II: New policy emphasizing surface transit, reversing any further expansion of so-called rapid transit. One of the world’s most beautiful cities, and you move people underground like moles?
- Article III: Same footprint, bigger passenger load: Conversion to mostly double-decker buses. Victoria has them, and they’re popular as well as practical. The cost of raising or burying overhead wires to accommodate their added height would be trifling compared with the outlays for rapid transit. Anyone for the added sense of safety of buses and streetcars at grade level, as opposed to the spookiness of underground stations at low-use times?
- Article IV: Dedicated bus lanes on all major and some minor arteries – much more necessary than many of Gearloose Gregor’s bicycle lanes.
- Article V: Sharply raised standards of bus suspension, ride, quietness and comfort. The real free riders aren’t the SeaBus fare-dodgers but the near-monopoly bus manufacturers whose products have scarcely changed in the 70 years I’ve known them, and the public transit authorities who have let them get away with it – because neither gives a flying frog about the riders. (I can personally finger bus 908, which rides like a bucket of bolts.) One current moronic design has a pair of face-to-face seats that compel a spontaneous and possibly sensuous game of kneesies. Get off your butts and try them, TransLink directors, and you’ll see this isn’t poetic licence.
- Article VI: All transit vehicles air-conditioned. Each seat with air and heat controls.
- Article VII: Mini-buses located at strategic staging points along the routes, offering reserved-seat transportation directly to the rider’s abode.
- Article VIII: Driver training aimed at standards of politeness, competence and, dare one say, friendliness of most West Vancouver Blue Bus drivers. They could give lessons to many jackrabbit-start, panic-stop drivers downtown.
- Article VIX: Big, big penalties for bus driver assault.
Impossible? That’s what the auto industry cried when the U.S. government imposed CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards more than 30 years ago, and Canada followed. But it grumpily met the standards, and fuel efficiency (and coincidentally quality) levels soared. Next target: The equivalent of 65 miles per U.S. gallon by 2025.
What’s that? Transit costs would explode? I’m a visionary. Don’t bother me with petty details.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013