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

Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

Transit Report Card released

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Nathan Pachal has posted his annual Transit Report Card on the South Fraser blog. This report compares information from the major transit authorities that is derived from the Canada Transit Fact Book published by the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

I am not going to say very much about the report itself because I think you should follow the link and go read it for yourself. It does show that Translink is doing pretty well. Or perhaps I need to rephrase that. It shows that in 2015 Translink did pretty well. Because despite this being 2017 and all of us having the equivalent of the data processing capacity of the Apollo space missions in our hip pocket, it still takes a bunch of publicly funded and regulated agencies that long to get their act together on comparative data. In the United States APTA and FTA seem to be able to do things better in the sense of “easy to get hold of” if not actually faster. Go to the CUTA web site and you will read “Please note that these publications are not available for distribution to non-CUTA members.” In other words you, the people who pay for and use public transportation cannot access this sort of information easily in Canada. So thanks to Nathan Pachal for performing a very necessary public service – and smack upside the head to the people who think this data needs to be locked away somewhere.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Tagged with , ,

TransLink on track for record-breaking ridership

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Source: TransLink on track for record-breaking ridership

I was expecting to actually see the Press Release and the stats from Translink instead of just a link, but this is easier than all the copy and paste I was going to have to do otherwise

Written by Stephen Rees

July 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm

What if we took transit out of politics

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The article in the Globe and Mail (paywalled – sorry!) actually is entitled “What if we took transit out of the hands of politicians?” And looks at the sorry record of the Greater Toronto Area in the hands of Ontario politicians at both municipal and provincial level. It is hard to disagree that they have not covered themselves in glory and seem to be putting short term political advantage ahead of sensible planning. And actually the key event is not really “transit” as it is a proposal to build intercity high speed rail between Toronto and London, passing through Kitchener-Waterloo. Something already announced more than once.

I am not going to get into why this is indeed nonsense on stilts, but I am going to turn my attention to this bit down at the end of the article.

Public transit doesn’t have to be run by a private business. But it has to be run by an organization that operates like a business, responding to market demand – actual customers – not political demands.

And that is wrong on more than one ground too. It is only because the article is the usual right wing, business is best, mainstream media obsession that the quote starts as it does. Privatisation of public transport – urban transit and passenger bus and rail services – has been a dreadful failure in Britain. As has been pointed out here more than once, it actually now attracts much more subsidy than it did when publicly owned and operated. Complaints about service are legion, but the companies that run trains and buses for profits have generally made out like bandits. When those companies have failed, and the service taken back into public control, it has always improved

But in the case of urban transit in a rapidly growing region “responding to market demand” is also a recipe for certain failure. And that stems from the myopia that separates out building new transportation from planning urban growth. Land use and transportation are inextricably locked together – but Tony Keller doesn’t mention land use once. This lack of understanding is also why we should mistrust the federal Infrastructure Bank – if its ludicrously high interest rate costs were not enough reason already.

Transit expansion should not wait for market demand – it should lead it and shape it. Especially if the project requires large up front capital investments in buying new rights of way and building massive infrastructure. You have to build these things where people are thin on the ground, if you are to be allowed to start at all, because once they are opened you want to attract development. Building in already densely populated areas – like New York’s Second Avenue subway – is hideously expensive, and the cause of much complaint from the existing residents. The huge interstate freeway system was built between cities, on greenfields, first before tackling the much more contentious inner city areas. The result was, of course, urban sprawl and much disruption of established communities. Doing transit right in major cities requires expertise in “the art of insertion” as the Parisian tramway planners say.

If we had built the SkyTrain through the TriCities before they developed, the trains would have run empty for the first few years, but the style of  development would have been very different. Transit oriented development is actually not at all new and untried – it is what was built before car ownership was widespread. It is only because North American development defaults to the low density car-oriented urban pattern that transit struggles. Before Henry Ford, most streetcar and interurban service was privately owned – and its promoters were usually real estate developers.

Because everything about the suburbs depends on subsidies transit has to be subsidized, which is why some form of political control is essential. It also has to be recognised that most of the benefits of not being car oriented come from things that the private sector has a hard time monetising. Or the people suffer terribly when they succeed.  People who use transit, cycle or walk for most of their trips are both happier and healthier. People who feel forced to spend far too much of their day stuck in traffic in their cars are both unhealthier and frustrated. Drive until you qualify for a mortgage is actually a deal with the devil. The combined cost of living – travel plus accommodation – is actually higher for low density car oriented suburbs – but the lower house prices (and tax treatment of mortgages in places like the US and UK) seem to continue to attract buyers.

While we have done quite well in producing a greater variety of housing stock, we have not done nearly as well in providing the necessary mobility services. This is partly, once again, because we have relied on politicians. And sadly the supposedly “progressive” NDP wasn’t actually that much different to the evil BC Liberals. The Millennium Line for a long time wasn’t as useful as the whole T shaped arrangement we have now (due to the long overdue Evergreen extension)  but at least it was capable of expansion. Unlike the deliberately underbuilt Canada Line.

The next steps to be taken here – and in Greater Toronto – inevitably will involve politicians since huge amounts of money need to be spent. And they would be well advised to avoid the pitfalls of P3s and go with public sector investments, that are designed to support rather than confuse the necessary land use arrangements. In this region we once had such an integrated and use and transportation plan: it was deliberately scuttled by the BC Liberal Party as a way of paying off the people who provided them with the money to run successful elections. Obviously we need to get the big money out of provincial politics. Obviously we need a better way of electing politicians. We also need to have system of urban and regional planning that integrates development of land use and transportation systems. Their operation can indeed be left to the professionals BUT wherever public money is used there has to be accountability. That requires openness, honesty and a commitment to listening. Indirectly elected municipal politicians cannot be expected to do this well at a regional level.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2017 at 11:32 am

Is MicroTransit the answer?

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Regular readers of this blog will recognize a long running idea of mine, that we need something that is “better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi”. Now back when I was actually working in the industry we had not yet got the sort of systems that we have now that would make this sort of thing possible. But one thing has stuck with me, and that first entered my mind in 1988. I was new in town (Toronto) and writing a proposal for the TTC in response to an RfP on what they called WheelTrans.

TTC Wheel Trans Orion II off

 

They used these Orion II vans for the specialised dial a ride transit service (“paratransit”) offered by the TTC to those who need door to door transit. Of course, wheelchair users are a minority among those whose disabilities make conventional transit difficult or even impossible. But also the number of rides they could actually offer, and the ability to match routes of the vans to potential riders, was very limited. The company I worked for was at the leading edge of demand forecasting, so my proposal was that we would come up with better ride matching software. We did not get the job because the people reviewing the proposals simply did not understand what I was proposing. You have to bear in mind that in 1988 cell phones were a novelty and most people did not have a PC on their desk.

It seems that even though we now have much better hardware and software, there is still a big issue: transit needs subsidy. The recent closure of Bridj in Boston shows that.

Transit depends on subsidies, and if microtransit really is an answer to underused, oversized public buses traveling along 30-year-old routes, then at least some of its backing should come from taxpayers, without the expectation of turning profits.

In this region, the oversized buses have been taken away to run on the overcrowded routes. Some routes now run as Community Shuttles, which have somewhat lower costs (due to a different union agreement) but still run on fixed routes.

Community Shuttle S534

The HandyDART service has a different vehicle – the lift is at the back not on the side – and operates on routes which are based on prior bookings.

HandyDART T710 Tsawwassen BC 2009_0121

There have long been complaints that this service is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of those who cannot use conventional transit, and while some changes have been made, and Translink is looking at more, the cost per ride of this service is much greater than conventional transit – or even taxi services. One advocate even suggested at one time that taxis be used as the contractor for all these trips – but I think he was out of touch with both basic economics and the expectations of most HandyDART users.

DART by the way is the acronym for “dial a ride transit”. But you can’t just call for a ride like you do for a taxi. First you must be qualified, and second you must book in advance. And currently trip bookings are allocated by priority – work/school, medical, other. Unsurprisingly, given the demographics of users it is the second one which accounts for most of the trips. To allow for some spontaneous trip making, registered HandyDART users can buy taxisavers to make subsidized taxi trips.

It seems to me that microtransit has the potential to solve a number of issues.

Havana Bus

What Bridj offered was nothing new, really: services like jitneys and dollar vans act as informal, quasi-public shuttle transport all over the world, and plenty of agencies serve paratransit needs this way. What Bridj brought (and others bring) to the table is super-smart software that formulates routes and spits out pick-up spots in real time, based on demand, for any type of rider.

Pick up variation

The idea I had back in 1988 – and still think might work – is that we could use some super-smart software to provide better door to door transit for all. It should be accessible to everyone. And to make sure that people with disabilities get first dibs we come up with a booking system that works like the dedicated seating on conventional transit. People who can use conventional transit would have to give up their seat if someone who needs it more wants it. If the software is smart enough that can be done without bumping. This ought to make transit much more attractive – after all fixed routes take you from where you aren’t to where you don’t want to be. So if you are saving some walking you ought to be prepared to pay more for that  convenience: people who can’t walk, wouldn’t have to pay that premium.

Both need subsidy, but it ought to be less than the current dedicated system, and it will also be cheaper than running a big bus nearly empty. It will also remove whatever stigma is associated with a specialised service. As the US Supreme Court famously noted “separate isn’t equal” (Brown vs Board of Education).

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 3.40.03 PM

Source: Translink Accountability Centre

A number of things need to happen to get this to work. Firstly, the current contracted out HandyDART has to be brought back in house. Secondly the legislation that governs ride sharing in BC needs to be revised. It also needs to recognize that it is quite legitimate for existing taxi operators to expect some protection from predators like Uber and Lyft. While they are currently aiming at getting a monopoly of taxi like services, it is clear that transit is also in their long term strategy. And some politicians of the “anti-subsidy except for my favourite corporations” parties want to facilitate that. So a public service obligation has to be baked in with provision of subsidies.

But most importantly, transit planning for the future has to be for everyone and not just for those who can run up and down stairs. Transportation planning also has to be for everyone and not just those who want to drive or ride in a single occupant vehicle.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 3, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Translink Liveries

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This post started life as a comment. Back in 2007. Originally the links in the comment went to a site called fotopic.net which ceased operations in 2011. So I went to my flickr stream to see if I could find similar illustrations.

So why did I “need” this? Becuase of this in my inbox this morning

The pingback was to this post and was from this article . It is nice to see that old stories from this blog continue to have some utility. And now this new post can be the source of reference to the old article and my comment under it.

For a while Translink had plain white buses: this was for buses ordered in the period of transition from BC Transit, before the new blue and yellow livery was decided on.

Translink P8101 Braid Stn New Westminster BC 2002_0114

Many remained in service in the old red, white and blue of BC Transit.

Translink P3105 D40HF Braid Stn 2002_0612

Note that black paint has been added to to window pillars and on the upper part of the doors. This was peculiar to the Vancouver transit system and was not added to BC Transit buses operating elsewhere.

Translink P4226 Pitt Meadows BC 2006_0908

This was the standard livery in Translink’s first iteration. As the fleet went through its usual maintenance cycle the older buses were repainted white with a blue and gold set of stripes.

TL S058 on C93 Williams Rd 2004_0811

Community shuttles had a variation on the paint scheme.

Translink R8076 D60LF on 98 B Line Richmond BC 2007_0708

The B Line had its own variation, with a blue front to help intending passengers spot the difference from regular services. This was very similar to the BC Transit B Line livery, which had a red rather than the gold swoosh.

Translink B8010 D60LF Broadway at Commercial 2008_0114

Of course that did not stop artics in regular livery being used on the B Line. A number of regular bus services needed the capacity of articulated buses to meet the surge of demand caused by the introduction of U Pass as UBC and SFU

E40LFR 2270 Howe at Smithe 2007_0827

When the new trolleybuses started being delivered they carried this new black and grey livery with the blue stripe converted to a swoosh and the black being expanded on the front and onto the upper panel – not just the window surrounds. New diesel and natural gas buses were similarly treated.

9548

The Novabus did not get nearly as much black paint as the New Flyers, and I think looks the better for it.

S351 on C21 Beach on Burrard at Dunsmuir

But the new Shuttle buses did

R9222 R9247 Bridgeport Stn

The high floor Orion highway coaches used on the express routes got their own yellow livery. This is the first version.

R9282 Burrard Station #602 Tsawwassen Heights

Later versions have grey on the lower panel. This one was photographed at Burrard Station: the introduction of the Canada Line saw these services cut back to Bridgeport Station in Richmond – which is where the previous picture was taken.

Xcelsior bendy on 41st at Arbutus

The most recent variation has also reduced the amount of black paint with grey on the front and sides and is, to my eye, more pleasing.

The last one on the lot

This was a variation used in West Vancouver for a while.

West Vancouver Blue Bus 1204

This is what they use now. There is so little blue visible that the words BLUE BUS have to be added above the bike rack in large, friendly capital letters.

BC Transit 9270 Abbotsford

BC Transit now uses this livery instead of the old red white and blue.

BC Transit 9067

Though in 2015 it could still be seen in Victoria – here on a British built Transbus (Dennis) Dart Plaxton Pointer delivered in 2000.

And, by special request, here is a preserved bus in the old BC Hydro Transit livery

BC Hydro Fishbowl

Photo by Michael Chu on flickr

2040 at Marpole 20080407

And I think this one may be earlier. I am told that in the bad old days buses got repainted with each change of government into the colours of the ruling party – but that can’t be true can it?

Written by Stephen Rees

April 28, 2017 at 10:21 am

Posted in transit, Vancouver

Tagged with ,

HandyDart users concerned about wait times and ride availability: seniors’ report

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The headline comes from the Langley Advance. The good thing is that the report itself is actually available in the article page and for download from Scribd, so you can make your own judgement about what it says. Of course the press will always go with a negative for anything about TransLink – and I must admit that I have long been critical of the lack of service available to HandyDART users. What I think is remarkable about this survey is that it reports a generally positive tone in the responses.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-38-19-pm

The other thing that has to be noted is that very few of the people answering the survey were entirely reliant on the service.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-40-06-pm

Now the report does spell out where it was conducted – across BC but proportionately by population with properly weighted response rates. So this includes results from Metro Vancouver – where it is contracted out to an American operator (MVT) – and several of the larger BC Transit service areas.

And my impressions are not those of a user. At the time I worked for BC Transit and then TransLink (1997 – 2004) I was only too aware of a very high level of dissatisfaction. That was not based on an impartial survey but rather the constant pressure from advocates – and dissatisfied users. On social media and talking to people my own age, all I see are complaints. But if you think about it, that is also the case with transit service in general. The posts about friendly helpful bus drivers are few and far between – but the gripes when service is less than perfect are plentiful.

Some of the responses reported seem to be a bit obvious: “71% of respondents used the service to get to medical appointments.” Well that is because the age group of users is heavily weighted to those who no longer work or go to full time education. The supply of HandyDART trips is inadequate to meet every need so they have to be rationed, and those are the three for getting priority. Now, if you are a user who knows how to work the system you ensure that your doctor or clinic is located in or next to a mall so that you can quite reasonably combine trip purposes. But when you book it is for a medical appointment and not just to change your library books.

Of course in recent years many more services can be conducted on line – and as a senior myself I am well aware that the degree to which people of my age group have become adept at using computers. I no longer even own a cheque book and the number of times I actually need to go into a bank branch a year is less than one handful.

Buses in the City of Vancouver are now all accessible: back in 2004 they still looked like this:

TL 2926 on #16 Arbutus 2006_0416

One thing that has not changed is the level of dissatisfaction with taxis – which are used to supplement the inadequate supply of purpose built vans. This is not so much about the vehicles (though accessible taxis are often pre-empted by cruise ship passengers with lots of luggage) as the drivers, who still have a low level of understanding or tolerance for assisting people with disabilities. It is notable that those in Metro Vancouver get much lower ratings than those in other parts of BC.

I also still think that if we had an accessible, door to door, shared ride service – better than a bus, cheaper than a taxi – the overall level of service and customer satisfaction would increase and the need to rely on all those other types of service mentioned in that chart would decline. I hope that we recognize that this is a real need and one that ought to be met by the public sector, since Uber has clearly targeted this market as the one it thinks it will be able to monopolize and extort.

UPDATE   February 10

HandyDART trips to increase by 85,000 in 2017 says Translink CEO: currently, HandyDART makes 1.2 million trips each year and has 23,000 people registered with the service.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2017 at 3:11 pm

We’re number 59!

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UPDATE Feb 6
I usually put the updates at the end of the post. I am chagrined to admit that I missed a very important data point which Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight noticed 

Berlin-based Movinga has pegged the monthly cost in Vancouver at just US$66.26.

When converted from U.S to Canadian currency, that equals $88.68.

However, a monthly one-zone adult transit pass in Metro Vancouver costs $91.

That’s the cheapest way to travel, and it only works for those who live relatively close to work or school.
A two-zone pass sets an adult transit rider back $124.

And a three-zone adult pass costs a whopping $170.

Sorry


In a recent study that compares transit costs around the world our system ranks about half way in a list of 89 that puts Cairo as the cheapest and London as the most expensive. Toronto is in the top ten.

The rest of this post is going to be a simple cut and paste of the press release, but it seemed to me appropriate to report this given the amount of interest yesterday’s Fare Review report generated

Price Index of Public Transportation Around The World

2017 Study Reveals The Steep Price Differences For Commuters

  • Londoners pay the most for monthly transport ($153.58), 136.91% more than New Yorkers ($112.18)

  • Residents of Tokyo ($90.58), Berlin ($86.48), Paris ($74.74), and Madrid ($58.29) pay more reasonable commuter fares  

  • Prague ($21.73) and Bucharest ($14.27) are the most affordable European capital cities for public transport

Berlin, Germany, 18/01/2017 – Online moving platform Movinga know that after the cost of housing, food and transport are the two most relevant expenses to take into account when relocating. As part of the 2017 Relocation Price Index, a study detailing the costs associated with relocating to some of the world’s most in demand cities, Movinga also observed the cost of transportation around the world in 89 cities. The full Price Index of Public Transport cities can be found at the base of this press release.

The data was taken from all official transport offices within each city, using the cost of a monthly ticket within the major travel zones to standardise the results. The findings place London, UK as the most expensive city to use public transport at $153.58 and Cairo, Egypt as the most affordable city at $6.50 for a monthly ticket.

See here for the full methodology and results of the study.

The table below outlines the top 15 most expensive cities for public transport:

Eng-Int-USD.png

The study demonstrates the significant price difference for citizens of each city. This research will be useful for those considering their ideal city to relocate to, either temporarily for work or on a more permanent basis.

Transport costs were taken from all transportation companies in noted cities. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was not applied, in order to keep the data relevant from a local perspective. Data correct on 20th January 2017. Currency conversions calculated on 20th January 2017. Small differences in costs may exist due to recently fluctuating markets.

###

Publishers are allowed to publish this data and graphics but we kindly ask that you give credit and link to the source. For further enquiries do not hesitate to reply to this email.

About Movinga: Movinga (www.movinga.de/en) is Europe’s leading online provider of moving services. Utilising intelligent algorithms as well as a large network of local partner companies, the tech company is modernising the moving sector. Movinga customers value the simple booking process and high quality standards. Partner moving companies profit from efficient customer acquisition, disposition and invoicing. Movinga was founded in Berlin in January 2015 and is currently active in Germany and France. The management team consists of the experienced scale-up managers Finn Hänsel, Christoph Müller-Gruntrum and Jochen Cassel.

Monthly Transport Costs Around The World In £

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

1

Cairo, Egypt

$6.50

31

Austin, USA

$39.74

61

San Francisco, USA

$67.40

2

Hanoi, Vietnam

$8.65

32

Lagos, Nigeria

$41.30

62

Munich, Germany

$68.33

3

Jakarta, Indonesia

$11.07

33

Santiago, Chile

$47.61

63

Essen, Germany

$69.40

4

Tunis, Tunisia

$13.01

34

Toulouse, France

$49.11

64

Singapore, Singapore

$69.81

5

Bucharest, Romania

$14.27

35

Seoul, South Korea

$49.26

65

Leipzig, Deutschland

$71.53

6

Mexico City, Mexico

$15.33

36

Vienna, Austria

$51.25

66

Mannheim, Deutschland

$72.07

7

Buenos Aires, Argentina

$17.07

37

Strasbourg, France

$51.78

67

Braunschweig, Deutschland

$74.74

8

Bangalore, India

$17.32

38

Brussels, Belgium

$52.32

68

Düsseldorf, Deutschland

$74.74

9

Medellin, Colombia

$19.89

39

Lille, France

$52.85

69

Paris, France

$74.74

10

Prague, Czech Republic

$21.73

40

Montpellier, France

$53.38

70

Oslo, Norway

$81.49

11

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

$23.05

41

Riga, Latvia

$53.38

71

Zurich, Switzerland

$83.90

12

Moscow, Russia

$23.97

42

Istanbul, Turkey

$54.66

72

Stuttgart, Germany

$85.41

13

Tallinn, Estonia

$24.56

43

Grenoble, France

$54.88

73

Berlin, Germany

$86.48

14

Sofia, Bulgaria

$27.32

44

Sao Paulo, Brazil

$55.24

74

Stockholm, Sweden

$86.75

15

Warsaw, Poland

$27.45

45

Barcelona, Spain

$55.52

75

Hamburg, Germany

$89.68

16

Bogota, Colombia

$27.60

46

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

$55.81

76

Tokyo, Japan

$90.58

17

Beijing, China

$27.97

47

Helsinki, Finland

$55.95

77

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

$91.82

18

Shanghai, China

$28.67

48

Rouen, France

$56.59

78

Amsterdam, Netherlands

$93.42

19

Johannesburg, South Africa

$30.74

49

Copenhagen, Denmark

$57.40

79

Auckland, New Zealand

$95.28

20

Athens, Greece

$32.03

50

Madrid, Spain

$58.29

80

Seattle, USA

$95.38

21

Bordeaux, France

$32.03

51

Manchester, UK

$59.07

81

Luanda, Angola

$95.89

22

Nice, France

$33.10

52

Karlsruhe, Deutschland

$60.86

82

Cologne, Germany

$96.09

23

Toulon, France

$33.10

53

Tel Aviv, Israel

$60.86

83

Los Angeles, USA

$96.29

24

Marseille, France

$33.20

54

Hannover, Germany

$62.35

84

Melbourne, Australia

$99.55

25

Budapest, Hungary

$33.28

55

Dubai, UAE

$62.94

85

Toronto, Canada

$103.07

26

Bangkok, Thailand

$34.00

56

Dresden, Deutschland

$62.99

86

New York, USA

$112.18

27

Dijon, France

$37.37

57

Bremen, Deutschland

$64.06

87

Sydney, Australia

$116.26

28

Milan, Italy

$37.37

58

Lyon, France

$64.06

88

Dublin, Ireland

$128.12

29

Lisbon, Portugal

$38.44

59

Vancouver, Canada

$66.26

89

London, UK

$153.58

30

Reims, France

$38.44

60

Nantes, France

$67.26

MT = Monthly Transport Costs

Original Table

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm