Tagged: public transit

The Red Herring Referendum

“One thing that we have learned however is that the best thing to do to make your transit agency worse off is to de-fund them. That taking away money from them in order to demonstrate frustration only punishes the people who are reliant on the transportation system.”

Jeffery TumlinNelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates

How making those with low incomes, students, new immigrants and the elderly wait longer for the 99 B-line will induce Christy Clark to give Translink executives a salary haircut is a mystery to me.

Stuart Parker makes a similar point here.

Let’s be clear: the BC government already doesn’t care about low-income people, transit riders and families forced to suburbanize due to the affordability crisis. If our lives get worse by our own hands, it’s just going to broaden the smile on our premier’s face. What so many “no” supporters are missing is that hostage situations only work if the people you’re threatening care about the hostages.

Indeed. People, including some progressives, seem to be under the mistaken impression the Premier wants a Yes victory.

UPDATE: Stephen Rees has another of his always useful posts:

In fact most of the problems that beset Translink at the moment all have their genesis with the provincial government. Christy Clark has done one brilliant job: she has deflected all the criticism of her failure to authorize adequate resources for running the transportation system in BC’s largest metropolis onto an organisation that she herself controls. It is an appointed Board – with a bafflingly complex system of appointment to disguise the very limited range of qualifications of its appointees. No-one represents the users of the system, and there are only two of 20 Mayors on the board, both very recent appointments.

Voting NO is not going to change anything.

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A compelling reason for a Transit Yes

Campaigning in the Lower Mainland’s transit referendum begins to unfold in earnest and the Yes and No sides have now unveiled their core arguments. For my own part I feel we shouldn’t even being having a referendum on such matters. It is in my mind a transparent attempt to pit one set of users in our transportation system against another, for the political benefit of the B.C. Liberals. Whether a clumsy attempt to regain a degree of populist cred after the HST referendum fiasco or perhaps to distract from other things. Who can say?

Nevertheless, we can’t wish the referendum away. Thus I support the Yes side.

One the arguments for Yes, and Yes now – rather than 3 years from now hoping for a BCNDP victory – that I think is being overlooked (and what might appeal to small-c conservatives in the Langleys and Maple Ridges better than the health benefits of transit) is this argument put forth by David Dodge:

This is the right time to invest in infrastructure for both governments and businesses, not only because of our structural problems but also in view of the prevailing low real interest rates.

Interest rates are at historic lows. It has never been cheaper to borrow money to build stuff, especially economically useful stuff like public transit. In the 5 to 10 year period (or more) it might take to address this issue again in the wake of a No victory, it might cost us a lot more to build our needed expansion of public transit. But wait, there’s more!

Moreover, infrastructure bonds would provide suitable long-term assets for pension plans and insurance companies to match their long-term liabilities.

Kevin Milligan has some thought’s on Dodge’s arguments here.

Auckland observations

I’ve just spent a wonderful 3 weeks in New Zealand. It’s a great country – a little bit Britain, a little bit California and, yes, a little bit British Columbia. For the urbanists in the audience here a few brief observations:

Auckland Public Transit: Auckland’s privatized, balkanized public transit system was strange to use.

  • Tickets purchased on one line often couldn’t be transferred to another connection – requiring the purchase of a second ticket. I understand the system is going to be amalgamated once again soon.
  • Staffing levels was also unusual. There was the driver, who you would sometimes buy a ticket from. Sometimes you would buy your ticket from a transit official at the stop. There was another staffer at stops keeping an eye on things and taking stats. And there there was a staffer who, as far as I could see, was there to keep the ticket seller company. For a private system this seemed odd.
  • Buses didn’t operate to a schedule – they left when they were full (at least on the lines I went on). It was impossible to connect with the trains, which did operate to a schedule.
  • You would receive a ticket, which was punched with an old-fashioned ticket puncher. If you were transferring (from train to bus or vice versa) you’d receive a second transfer ticket. You could have a pocket full of little stubs quite quickly.

Pedestrians: Unlike in Vancouver pedestrians do not have the right of way at street corners. The only place they do have the right of way is at zebra-stripe crosswalks which are few and far between. Unless you are at these crosswalks cars will not stop for you. It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian in New Zealand.

Pedestrian-only streets: That said, both Auckland and Wellington each have very nice new pedestrian-only streets to stroll, shop and eat.

Shopping Streets: Auckland is older than Vancouver by decades and retains the local “village” shopping street of days past (in Vancouver think Kerrisdale). They’re quite charming and walkable and something which Vancouver is now trying desperately to recreate. Small towns too still have their “downtown” shopping streets – which you could not say of many small towns in B.C. Ironically I was told these streets are suffering due to new North American style autocentric malls and big-box stores.

Architecture: I find many buildings of recent construction in Vancouver to be extremely bland architecturally and in terms of materials and finish they often look like they were done on the cheap (which they, you know, were). Perhaps I’m just looking at someone else’s bad architecture with new eyes but I found new buildings in Auckland and Wellington to be more daring, better made, and much more varied in look and feel. It’s almost as if the Kiwi architects weren’t using a cookie-cutter!

Heritage: Auckland has done a much better job at preserving and refurbishing it’s heritage buildings than Vancouver. But then…most cities have.

Policing: There are no local police forces in New Zealand – everything is handled by the national New Zealand Police. I don’t know if this is good or bad but it comes in the shadow of recent local discussion on amalgamating the local Metro Vancouver police departments and ditching the RCMP and setting up a B.C. provincial police.

Highway Viaducts: According to the Auckland Transport Blog, Auckland like Vancouver is also considering ditching one of it’s viaducts. Neener neener.