BC Transit Fare Review

Last week, I completed BC Transit’s survey for the 2016 Victoria Regional Transit Commission Fare Structure Review. (The survey is now closed, and a decision on the new fare structure will be made on December 8, 2015. You can find a review of the three options presented in the survey in the Times Colonist and Saanich News reports.) Here’s what I told them in the survey:

I would really like to see increasing property taxes presented in this survey as an alternative to increasing fares. We pay for local roads almost entirely through property taxes and provincial funding, and we don’t toll local roads or bridges. The same should go for transit, which increases everybody’s mobility by reducing traffic congestion. We should not have to pay directly through fares every time we want to use transit, just as people don’t have to pay a user fee every time they take their car out of their driveway. 

Any of the changes suggested in this survey will lead to me using the bus less frequently, reducing my mobility. Eliminating transfers, as option 3 suggests, would mean that I would have to buy a car rather than relying on the combination of transit, cycling and walking as I do now; it would simply be too expensive and inconvenient to pay multiple fares on multiple buses to get where I need to go. As transit planner Jarrett Walker says, “Charging passengers extra for the inconvenience of connections is insane. It discourages exactly the customer behavior that efficient and liberating networks depend on. It undermines the whole notion of a transit network.”

If you’d like to say something similar to your Transit Commission members in advance of the December 8 meeting, you can find their contact details here.

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2 Responses to BC Transit Fare Review

  1. Michael\\ says:

    Hi Vincent, I agree with you.

    The user pay approach to transit assumes that only the transit rider is the beneficiary when it’s becoming apparent that the real beneficiaries of an efficient, egalitarian, convenient and well used transit system are all the shops, businesses, work sites and services and people whom our transit riders visit, or deliver services, community and support to each day. Because transit is an important service which can and should optimize all functions in the entire region, we all have an interest in encouraging its maximum efficient utilization.

    Imagine your in a five floor department store that provides four or five stair cases to facilitate customer access to the whole store. Store shoppers might browse the main and second floor but unless they are already determined to make a purchase, they are less likely to browse the fourth and fifth floors. The Bay, Eatons, Harrods and Macy’s figured-out over a century ago that facilitating shopper mobility within the store translated into greater sales, greater shopper ease and comfort, and greater awareness of other products on all floors and in all departments thereby encouraging repeat shopping visits. That’s why department stores provided easy cost free store-wide access with escalators and elevators.

    Now, a good question for us is why don’t we have a goal similar to the department store in the delivery of common all user friendly egalitarian pedestrian mobility and access throughout the city? In our region, we jump over backwards to create dedicated bike thru-ways, bike lanes and bike paths as an upscale convenience and bicyclist amenity, but the city’s common pedestrian infrastructure including sidewalks, crosswalks, and transit is discouraging, unattractive, unreliable, often noisy, exposed, dangerous and inconvenient. The transit system in Victoria works at a utilitarian level but not at a level of comfort, convenience and efficiency adequate to maximize utilization of our city’s resources or move people out of their cars except on the few days each year that it snows.

    Instead of achieving maximum utility and economic efficiency for an upscale convenient and attractive transit system, we are placing per trip pricing hurdles in the way of our potential transit clients, and most citizens realize that the pricing hurdle is intended to compromise the use of transit on the basis financial capacity. Let’s admit it, we designed a transit system to keep the working poor, recently released, destitute and homeless off the bus and in the gutter. Our concept of a transit system was formed about the time there were four classes of train and ocean liner tickets to the same destination based on relative wealth and one’s tolerance for incremental discomfort, noise level, crowding and air quality.

    In Victoria, we have avoided a truly excellent egalitarian transit system and we are still waiting for the very wealthy to pony-up, dump the Cadillac and take the bus! We are seriously conflicted about classless transit and the only reason we are not considering how to establish a less expensive, well used and potentially free transit system is because we are retaining public transit as an amenity for those people who actually relish having transportation alternatives like limos, cars and taxis. Those people are never going to support or adequately populate the seats on a sophisticated, city optimizing, convenient, comfortable and egalitarian transit system.

    We need an upscale pedestrian focused mobility and access system which includes high quality transit that is as comfortable, inexpensive and convenient as necessary to render personal vehicles unnecessary in the city and that works just as well for rich and poor and shoppers, tourists, students, workers, explorers and people seeking all that this city offers in access to amenities, services, shopping, entertainment, education and urban experiences.

    So, how do we do it? What does it cost to operate the current transit system including subsidies from all levels of government? What is it really worth to us? By doing it right, what are the forlorn expenses avoided and what are the real added-values for all users and all beneficiaries of the transit system?

    Is it reasonable that only the fair paying user and not the many other beneficiaries should pay the entire cost of a better transit system? How can we achieve a level of convenience and a degree of utilization adequate for an egalitarian transit system which meets and exceeds current pedestrian expectations without compromising either user access or other beneficiaries utility on the base of per trip prices. Can we develop advantages in our transit system that will augment the utilitarian common denominator of pedestrian mobility and city-wide accessibility? We are all pedestrians with the same needs when we shop in a mall, visit a park, tour the museum or art gallery, go for a walk, take a course or meet downtown for coffee or beer.

    If we can’t imagine the need for a fully pedestrian focused mobility and accessibility environment which includes and adds value to a compellingly attractive transit system, then we really don’t deserve to live in such an inspiring and wonderful environment. Let’s answer the questions, challenge the expectations, push the limitations and see if we can make it happen.

    first draft, November 8th 2015, Michael\\\


    • vincentgornall says:

      Michael – For a first draft, that’s an amazing essay. If we want to create the kind of transit system we want, we have to organize and advocate for it to happen. We should meet to talk about forming an organization to do that.

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