December 13, 2018

Christmas Wish Granted? Universal Internet and Public Washrooms on TransLink System Coming!

As public transit for a major city we have been wondering why TransLink does not have continuous public internet along the system, and why there are no washrooms, because it is a human need and everyone needs access to washrooms. We have been exploring those issues for some time in Price Tags.

TransLink has now announced that free access to internet service is coming, and will be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit.

As the Vancouver Sun noted, there had been cut and paste internet service offered at SeaBus terminals and on the SeaBus, but service was not extended beyond these locations. Working with Shaw the idea is to provide uniform service across the transit network, with the proviso that such coverage will take six years to be completely implemented. And yes, you will be able to access the internet even if you are not a Shaw customer. Trials will start next year, and the complete internet coverage of the public transportation system is said to the first in Canada.

And to make matters even more comfortable and convenient, the TransLink Board has approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”.

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Bob Ransford posted this:

When the Canada Line was being planned more than 15 years ago, the public was shown ridership models that said 70 percent of the ridership would be in the portion of the corridor between Waterfront Station and Oakridge Station.

Reality today is crush loads during rush hour from Richmond Brighouse all the way to Waterfront with lines at many Vancouver stations where crush-filled trains can’t accept more riders and near full loads at all hours just within Richmond alone. They got it wrong.

Transit drives housing development. So much for empty condos. Empty condos don’t drive this kind of heavy ridership.

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There is an extraordinary video on YouTube with Vancouver television host Jack Webster taking an early ride on the SkyTrain from New Westminster to downtown in January 1986. The video has some funny angles~Mr. Webster whose Scottish brogue made him often undecipherable has to pay fifty cents for a senior’s fare on the bus, and does not have the change. He has to dismount the bus and walk across to the station, something he grouses about.

He is greeted by Michael O’Connor, who was the Chief Administrative Officer for the former “GVRD”, the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro Vancouver) and later became head of B.C. Transit.  Mr. O’Connor now heads up NaiKun, the project harnessing wind power off Haida Gwai. The “Mr. Hodgson” who is chairman of the GVRD board is actually the highly respected  Stuart Hodgson who was the first Commissioner of the Northwest Territories and worked at bringing services to run at the  community level in remote arctic towns.

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Let me quote myself:

I’ve been predicting the rise of the “Transportation Service Provider” — a consolidator of every mode of movement imaginable, integrated with technology, and designed to provide consumers with a suite of services for which they pay (as with telecommunications) one provider with a lot of money.

This is based on the assumption a single provider or oligopoly can emerge. Look to see some of today’s giants try to get even bigger and more diverse as fast as possible in order to dominate the market.

Now it’s just a case of documenting how and how fast this is occurring.  Like this, from The Conversation:

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The number of boardings on all TransLink services in October: 39.65 million. The busiest month in TransLink history, including February 2010 during the Olympics.

Up 9.3 percent over October 2017.  Quite astonishing, given that almost every transit system in the U.S. has seen a decline in ridership.  For instance, NYC:

More numbers:

  • 24.45 million = Total bus ridership, an all-time record
  • 10.04 million Expo/Millennium line – Surpassed 10 million boardings for the first time
  • 4.26 million Canada Line ridership – Up seven per cent from October 2017
  • 530,000 SeaBus ridership – Up 9.3 per cent from October 2017
  • 240,000 West Coast Express ridership – Biggest month since October 2014
  • 140,000 HandyDart ridership – Up 9.1 per cent from October 2017
  • 407 million – Total ridership in 2017

Provide it and they will ride.

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Yesterday’s post about the Vancouver Sun op-ed by Alex Boston scraped the surface of what could comprise an effective business case for Skytrain south of the Fraser, let alone what numbers may (or may not) have been used to justify LRT in the first place.

Did Translink miss some data? As I hinted in Part I, perhaps they simply missed communicating the most relevant, top-line numbers the public have an appetite — and capacity — to understand (no offence to all of us).

But let’s assume they made a whole raft of calculations, such as those that can be found in “Regional Transportation Investments: A Vision for Metro Vancouver (Appendices)“, pointed to me by  Boston’s colleague Keane Gruending from the Centre for Dialogue. The Centre’s own analysis on this file is reminiscent of their Moving in a Livable Region program around the time of the 2015 transit plebiscite, which attempted to hold our leaders accountable (and the politics in check), using a facts-first approach.

Boston’s deeper piece on the Renewable Cities website also reminded me that a lot of the debate on whether to pause Phase 2 and 3 of the Mayors Plan to once again deal with the Skytrain question often fails to deal with two important metrics tied to land use: jobs density, and CO2 emissions.

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This week, Alex Boston, the Executive Director of the Renewable Cities program at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the proposed two big changes threatening to upend phases 2 and 3 of TransLink’s Mayors Plan.

Boston’s piece is a call, if slightly veiled, to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart and Surrey’s Doug McCallum to do what they were elected to do when it comes to regional matters — understand all the issues in a city which are regionally dependent or impactful, obtain support and confidence from your respective councils on big ideas, and work collaboratively with the other mayors and the TransLink Board to realize them.

But of course as you may know, it’s never that easy. And much like the housing crisis, there may not even be agreement on what the two problems are. 

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This piece very much confirms my thesis: transportation choices will be consolidated (and restricted) by ‘Transportation Service Providers”, in the hope that one or a few will emerge dominant, following the precedent of Telecommunication Service Providers like Telus, AT&T and eventually something Amazon-like. 

From Fast Company:

By David Zipper, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund

If you’re not a techie, you may not have come across the term “walled garden” before. But it’s a critical concept these days in technology business strategy–and it has the potential to fundamentally change the ways we travel throughout cities.

In essence, a walled garden is a closed technology platform that limits the information and options available to a user.  … You can find walled gardens in products ranging from e-readers (Amazon Kindle) to social media (Facebook) to various video game consoles. For the first time, the walled garden strategy is now being applied to urban transportation, with ride-hail giants Uber and Lyft racing to add new mobility modes to their apps. Read more »

You find heroes in the most unlikely places. The Evening Standard  reports on the plight of Francois Le Berre who was waiting in his wheelchair to get on a bus in the suburbs of Paris. Mr. Le Berre has multiple sclerosis and needed the front area of the bus to be cleared off in order to board the bus. Unfortunately no passenger would move from the front area to allow Mr. Le Berre to safely board.

Seeing the situation, the bus driver announced that the route was terminating at the bus stop and demanded that all passengers leave the bus. He then assisted Mr. Le Berre to board in his wheelchair and drove off with just Mr. Le Berre as a passenger. And surprise! Under the  twitter name “Accessible POUR TOUS” the story has been liked over 12,000 times. And while many of the comments are congratulatory to the bus driver, that ever so gallic  point of view also snuck in with one bus rider stating “If you had been on that bus you would not have moved either”.



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