Stephen Rees's blog

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

The Economist chips in

with 2 comments

Our strange way of finding out if we really should be collecting more tax to pay for transit expansion reaches the hallowed pages of the Economist . I would post a link but it points to a paywalled article which quotes Todd Litman. He, of course, makes his research freely available on his web site.”Twelve Reasons to Support Vancouver’s Transportation Tax” was published on 28 March 2015 and is a thorough piece of work, all properly referenced of course. You can download the entire fourteen page document as a pdf.

Key findings

Vancouver households spend less on transport than any major Canadian city except Montreal and Winnipeg, and the smallest portion of all cities. Vancouver households save about $800 annually compared with the national average.

Vancouver households spend a smaller portion of their budget on transport than in any other major Canadian city

The Vancouver region has 3.9 traffic deaths per 100,000 residents, one of the lowest among North American cities.

As Heeney and Yan (2015) explain, “One in five, or 20% of all Metro Vancouver workers take public transit to work, well above the Canadian average of 13%. This is light years ahead of every metropolitan region on the Pacific Coast from Seattle (8%) to Portland (7%) to San Francisco (15%) to Los Angeles (6%) to San Diego (3%). Calgary, by the way, is 16%. If we were to slip to Calgary levels, Metro Vancouver would need to accommodate another 117,000 drivers on the road – imagine the new roads and bridges we would need for that!”

Greater Vancouver has about average costs per passenger kilometers for Canadian cities, and much lower costs than peer cities in other countries

The Vancouver region’s subsidy per transit passenger kilometer is about average for Canadian cities and much lower than peer cities in other countries.

The Vancouver region’s farebox recovery rate is about average for Canadian cities, and much better than peer U.S. cities.

Greater Vancouver has relatively high per capita transit ridership compared with peer cities.

Between 1985 and 2011, walking, cycling and public transit mode share increased by 42% [in Metro Vancouver] , indicating growing demand for these modes – residents increasingly want to use these modes but can only do so if they are convenient, comfortable and affordable.

The TransLink Efficiency Review [which so many of the NO side “experts” like to quote] compared TransLink with transit agencies with much smaller and more compact service areas, which made it look inefficient.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 2, 2015 at 7:47 am

Posted in Transportation

2 Responses

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  1. Here is the text of article.

    “More tax, less traffic? A famously “liveable” city is becoming too popular for its own good” ( )

    Mar 28th 2015 | VANCOUVER | From the print edition

    VANCOUVER is the best place to live in the Americas, according to a quality-of-life ranking published earlier this month by Mercer, a consulting firm. The city regularly tops such indices, thanks to its clean air, spacious homes and weekend possibilities of sailing and skiing. But its status as an urban oasis is threatened by worsening congestion. Over the next three decades, another 1m residents are expected to live in the Greater Vancouver region, adding more cars, bicycles and lorries to roads that are already struggling to serve the existing 2.3m residents.

    A proposal by Vancouver’s mayor and 20 of the 22 other local governments in the region seeks to avert the snarl-up. Upgrades would be made to 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) of road lanes, as well as bus routes and cycle paths. Four hundred new buses would join the fleet of 1,830. There would be more trains and more “seabus” ferry crossings between Vancouver and its wealthy northern suburbs. The catch: to get all that, residents must vote in a referendum to accept a hike in sales tax, from 7% to 7.5%. Polls suggest they will vote no.

    Everyone agrees that a more efficient transit system is needed. Hemmed in by mountains to the north, the United States to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Vancouver has sprawled in the only direction where there is still land, into the Fraser Valley, which just a few decades ago was mostly farmland. Highway 7 winds eastward through shopping centres in the suburbs of Burnaby and Coquitlam, and into the residential neighbourhoods of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. The road is often clogged. Signs tout high-rise apartments and condos under construction, telling drivers that they could be home by now if only they weren’t stuck in their cars on a slow-moving highway.

    Yet commuters’ suspicion of local bureaucrats may trump their dislike of congestion. TransLink, which runs public transport in the region, is unloved by taxpayers. Passengers blame it when Skytrain, the light-rail system, stalls because of mechanical or electrical faults, as happened twice in one week last summer, leaving commuters stuck in carriages with nothing to do but vent their anger on Twitter. TransLink’s boss, Ian Jarvis, was ousted early in the referendum campaign, only to be kept on as a consultant earning C$35,000 ($28,000) a month.

    That sort of thing has made voters less willing to fork out the C$7.5 billion in capital spending that the ten-year transit upgrade would involve. Gregor Robertson, Vancouver’s left-leaning mayor, acknowledges that the plan is a hard sell. “Generally people don’t opt in for paying more taxes. It’s a difficult question to pose to citizens and it doesn’t always succeed unless a really strong case is made,” he says. He is running out of time to make it. Postal ballots went out earlier this month, and voters have until May 29th to return them.

    A coalition of trade associations, labour unions and environmental groups is hoping to turn the tide. Despite the complaints, Vancouver’s transit system is a decent, well-integrated one on which to build, reckons Todd Litman, a transport consultant who has worked for TransLink. “These upgrades are all-important if Vancouver wants to maintain its reputation for being a destination others want to go to,” he says. If congestion worsens, the city may slip down the liveability rankings, attracting fewer new residents. At least that might mitigate the traffic problem.

    Todd Litman

    April 2, 2015 at 11:24 am

  2. Most of what Todd said makes sense, but like everyone else he has not read the Mercer report. I guess I understand the purpose of the report better than most people, because both my late brother and I were at one time expatriate workers for 2 big companies.
    He was sent to a succession of African countries, where living conditions were harsh…and this is likely why he died in his 40s. I was sent to Germany. His hardship allowance was just a bit more than his annual salary; mine was minimum (free housing, several free trips a year to France, free transportation to a few German cities I wanted to see). My daily life was great..practically a very long holiday…

    “Mercer conducts its Quality of Living survey annually to help multinational companies and other employers compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.
    Two common incentives include a quality-of-living allowance and a mobility premium. A quality-of-living or “hardship” allowance compensates for a decrease in the quality of living between home and host locations, whereas a mobility premium simply compensates for the inconvenience of being uprooted and having to work in another country”

    The high ranking of Vancouver simply means that the level of the 2 incentives a company will pay its worker going to Vancouver will be lower than if the worker was sent to Toronto. STILL it will be a hardship and an inconvenience for the worker and his/her family.
    Mercer makes a point, buried in the fine print, that the ranking should NOT be used by cities and their tourism board. The ranking is not for people living full time in the city.

    Mercer also explained, a few years ago, that:
    “A city with a high Quality of Living index is a safe and stable one, but it may be lacking the dynamic “je ne sais quoi” that makes people want to live in world-renowned cities such as Paris, Tokyo, London or New York. Sometimes you need a little spice to make a city exciting. But that “spice” may also give a city a lower ranking”
    Except for Dusseldorf, that has a carnival season that last 3 full months, ending with a parade of floats that are, for the most part, rude, raunchy and totally incorrect, the 10 cities at the top are “nice” meaning on the dull and boring side.

    Pete McMartin wrote a funny column back in 2009 about the Mercer ranking…he wrote—I hope he doesn’t mind being quoted:
    “New York, the messy, boisterous cultural capital of the world, came in 49th on the Mercer list, beaten handily by, among others, Auckland (tied for fourth), Helsinki (29th) and Ottawa, which came in 16th, and which compels me to remark, having lived in our nation’s capital, if Ottawa is the 16th most livable city in the world, kill me now”

    Red frog

    April 5, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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