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

Archive for January 10th, 2011

Transport study derails thinking on outer suburbs

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Thanks to Ned Jacobs for sending this around. Its quite a short piece from The Age in Victoria, Australia.

In a paper for the journal Australian Planner, Dr John Stone, of the University of Melbourne, and Dr Paul Mees, of RMIT University, argue that many city dwellers have been presented with a false choice – live in apartments and enjoy good public transport or retain the house and land and rely on cars.

Shame you have to be an Australian Planner to actually get to read it.

Quite appropriate here given the recent government sponsored twaddle about rail for the valley and  “not enough density” to support transit.

They do it by comparing places that have good public transit to Australian cities. There is of course one great outlier – Los Angeles, even though it is the most densely populated city in the United States, has low transit use. So what is needed then?

The keys to increasing public transport use in outer suburbs are more frequent buses, running at least every 10-15 minutes, and not just in peak hour; better co-ordination with rail services; more convenient transfers; and fares that allow free transfers between modes.

Which I think Translink would say that we already have in large measure.  But there are still really low levels of market penetration in places like Langley. Not as dreadful as Chilliwack of course. And we really do not have rail in our outer suburbs like they do in Australian cities – electric trains that run in both directions, all day and every day.

My conclusion is that it really requires more than just density – as Los Angeles shows – and more than lip service to issues like frequency. Fifteen minute headways are really not “frequent” – especially when service is unreliable, due to traffic congestion or the multiple problems that beset under funded transit systems. Yes we can make transfers at no extra charge but convenience – and reliability again  – is a big issue. There are still quite bizarre scheduling decisions – like short turning half the #3 service  at the end of Main Street instead of running all the way to the Canada Line Marine Drive Station one kilometre away. Far side of the intersection bus stops impose delays and the need to cross busy intersections on foot meaning even scheduled meets will often be missed – and so and so forth. The devil is always in the detail, and we don’t do that well. Like ignoring the benefits of clock face service – something taken for granted in Zurich – same size, same density, lots more transit use. It comes down to money in the end. No mention of that here. And, of course, what it is spent on.

It also seems to ignore the fact that a lot of Vancouver is built at suburban densities yet has much more transit service than places further out but as dense or even denser.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Posted in transit