Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Why cars are bad

with 6 comments

This should link to another WordPress blog on transit, which has some US figures comparing the cost of using a car and transit.

What makes this relevant to readers of this blog is that our media is currently full of stories about the transit fare increase here. And this aspect, of course, was not covered at all. ( Or perhaps was not covered by the sources I have checked so far.) Now the media types will of course point to pressure on space and time. Even though most media have been filling up on reviews of the year and even more agency clippings than usual, to cover for staff holidays and the subsequent news shortage. But there is also a sneaky suspicion that I have that local free newspapers utterly depend on adverts – and the CBC looks just like a commercial tv station with its frequent interruptions of every program for commercials. And a big slab of those come from companies that make or sell cars or the fuel for them or bits to keep them going. It is not often that these ads slag off transit (remember the “wet dog smell” bus sign in a GM ad published by the Straight last year?) but that does not stop the news side of the business picking up all the bad things it can associate with transit.

The worst bit of the story on the CBC last night was the dramatic improvement that Translink is now claiming for its approval rating. Apparently the comparison made by the Translink report was with the year of the bus strike.

I watched “Citizen Kane” again this week. Back at the end of the last century, many more people in major cities were dependent on transit, which was run by a private sector concern. So for a new young publisher, stories that targeted the “transit trust” were sure to sell more papers. Things don’t change that much.

Written by Stephen Rees

December 29, 2007 at 7:42 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. TransLink quoted a survey responder in their Phase II SoF transpo report as saying it was cheaper to drive into Vancouver and park their car downtown than to take Transit. Riiiight.

    I’m not too happy about this fare increase especially because they’ve done nothing but screw me over every time they make “improvements.” If I’m dissatisfied, can I pay less? Why am I paying more for less service? It’s a big burn to my pocket this time because I’m going from a student rate of $69/mo to a 3-zone adult rate. And why are 2-zone fares increased by a larger percentage than the others? But as far as I’m concerned, no matter what the percentage is, a hike of 50c to 2/3 zones sounds unfair compared to a 25c hike for 1 zone, like they’re punishing people who live farther away.


    December 29, 2007 at 2:03 pm

  2. It would be nice if you could do a post comparing the prices of Transit in major Canadian cities. Googling around it seems that fares in Toronto start at $2.75 ( but there is no mention of Zones there. I am not sure what area is covered by this. Montreal is the same – $2.75( but no mention of zones either. So do these cities have zones or not? If they don’t then people in our suburbs are getting a rough deal. I could see how dropping zones 2 and 3 could increase use of Tranit if you had to pay only 2.75 to ride all the way downtown.

    Looking south:
    New York is $2 US
    LA is $1.25 per boarding(
    Boston is $1.25 for bus and $1.75 subway
    Washington DC starts at $1.25

    So it seems to me that Vancouver fares are on the expensive side.

    Dejan K

    December 29, 2007 at 5:52 pm

  3. This is one of those times when if I still worked for Translink I could answer properly. I had a file with maps to the same scale which shows how we compare to other cities. We are one of the few systems in Canada big enough to need zones. Our Zone 1 is roughly equivalent to Toronto or the City of Montreal. If you travel beyond those areas on transit you have to either pay by distance on their commuter train/bus systems or trasfer (paying again) on another municiplaity’s system. For example, Toronto’s airport is actually outside Toronto, and you have to pay an additional fare on the TTC to get to the terminal. The same thing happens here as YVR is in zone 2.

    A suburban resident in Mississauga or Oshawa has a very similar transit fare as someone who live sin White Rock or Langley – assuming they both commute downtown. However in recent years much more commuting takes place suburb to suburb as jobs have left the downtown core and been replaced by residents who reverse commute out to suburban office parks.

    Translink has long had a policy of raising fares by a quarter each time. This is in response to public opinion surveys in which peole expressed their dislike of having to find nickels and dimes.

    Stephen Rees

    December 29, 2007 at 6:02 pm

  4. The analysis in the link nevertheless is very flawed as it did not include the subsidies that BART receives. I like transit and think that it might be able to help resolve the issues of peak oil, but to skew facts and claim that the costs are something they are not is misleading at best and deceitful at worst. I think about half of Vancouver transit’s operating costs are payed for through gas taxes and of course the rail and bus line production is a fixed cost that is definitely not payed for (at least directly) by those using the system. I’m not saying i think cars are the answer (in fact i just went on a rail line, although it has only one run per day and was half an hour late and about 50 dollars each way), but that skewing facts makes it difficult for me to support transit programs.


    December 31, 2007 at 1:22 pm

  5. ooops correction $50 for both ways


    December 31, 2007 at 1:25 pm

  6. I think that rather than get into a debate here over subsidies and how they distort decision making, I am going to suggest you refer to Todd Litman’s excellent web site and in particular the treatment of subsidies and externalities in the following documnet

    Click to access tca08.pdf

    Stephen Rees

    December 31, 2007 at 2:31 pm

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