20 July 2007

Paying for Transit is Dumb


Vancouver is a beautiful city, it's got everything going for it. Almost. Among a couple glaring problems is the old transit issue. BC Transit is run by greedy idiots, which doesn't necessarily ensure proper stewardship of this important service. In fact fares have been hiked 50% since 2000, which makes the service less accessible, and transit is always the 'choice' for those with few options.

But not only do fare increases suck, they're stupid as well. "Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has estimated that in 2000 the government subsidy to each private vehicle owner was about $5,378 in Canadian dollars.

In that year, the average cost of providing each trip taken by transit in Vancouver was approximately $5. The equivalent subsidy for transit users would have been 1,075 free trips. Few of us could even use that many." (Tyee)
Environmentally, economically and socially public transit is the system that makes sense, it's one you want to encourage people to use. Stop the spiral of increased fares, decreased services, decreased ridership. Make it free.

There's been a series of articles in the Tyee (to which I was referred by Only Magazine) exploring (and explaining) how free transit makes sense. There's even a shout out to Hasselt, Belgium, a free-transit city.

It just makes sense.
Free Transit Anecdote:

Year 2000 there was a transit strike in Vancouver. I had been a monthly buspass buyer and regular transit user for years. It turned into a lockout and went on for 3 months. What a bunch of pricks. Fortunately I was fortunate enough to have a generous friend and co-worker at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre who lent me a bike and accoutrements. So I was ok for the duration. When it was finally settled (ie. BC transit had crippled the union) the buses went back on the road. To reward people for their patience BC Transit made Transit free (completely free!!!)

For three days. Complete pricks.

I however took matters into my own hands and had my roommate help me make up fare Strike cards to look like bus passes. I handed them out and used mine for 3 months, I never had a problem with bus drivers, until after 3 months one kinda looked at me like "don't you think you've milked this cow enough?" I acquiesced.

But the point is free transit is awesome. Not only when you're rebellious and sneaky about it, but also as a policy to encourage ridership thus freeing up roads, helping the environment and lessening the financial burden on those least able to shoulder it. It makes 50 kinds of sense. And when I say '50 kinds of sense' I mean, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than increasing fares (again). Check it out.

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