In addition to Vancity Buzz, the SFU City Program is going to take some claim to Darren Davis: one of our cohort for the Next Generation Transportation certificate program.
Written by Darren Davis for Vancity Buzz. Davis is a proudly car-free principal public transport planner at Auckland Transport with over 20 years experience in transport in Auckland, starting out as a rabble-rousing public transport lobbyist, who evolved into being a planner, strategist and consultant. He has produced high level strategic policy advice, successfully influenced regional and national government agencies, been involved on-the-ground in major transport infrastructure, carried out public transport service design and worked on Transit Oriented Development projects.
In early October last year, I had the privilege to spend 10 days in and around the Metro Vancouver region. And being a professional transit nerd, I did what transit nerds do and rode transit – and did other stuff too like eat, drink, hang out and have fun.
Like many Vancouver residents I had my issues with the transit system. The biggest issue I had was that buses would turn up so soon after my arrival at the stop that I didn’t have time to assemble $2.75 in change to pay the fare. I quickly solved this issue by purchasing a pack of FareSaver tickets at a 7-Eleven.
The other issue I had was long waits for buses. One time at 11 p.m., I had to wait a whole nine minutes for a bus. And at YVR Airport, I missed the departing Canada Line train but before I stopped cursing under my breath the next train turned up.
And the biggest mistake I made was massively overestimating the time it would take me to get from one place to another. One day I had to get from English Bay to Gastown for a lunch date at noon. Based on my Auckland experience, I set out at 11:10 a.m. I had a choice of the #5 Robson or the #6 Davie bus. I got on a #6 Davie and made it to the corner of Granville and Hastings by 11:25 a.m., then walked five minutes to Hastings and Cambie for my lunch date, getting there at 11:30 a.m. I then got to enjoy Victory Park for half an hour. The point I’m trying to make is that TransLink’s network gave me a bonus half-an-hour of my life over my current expectations from my hometown of Auckland.
My generally pleasant encounters with Vancouver’s transit system was at the conclusion of a 10-city trip in Canada and the U.S. with highly variable levels of transit service from dismal to fairly good. But Vancouver’s system was easily the best – something that Vancouverites really should treat as a source of pride, not acrimony.
Probably the most striking thing for me was the lack of appreciation, even disdain, for the service that TransLink provides. I suspect that this is a case of “you’re used to what you’re used to” taking the status quo as a baseline and judging the system as a whole by instances of less-than-perfect performance. This is an example of perception driving reality.
A case in point is Auckland and Wellington. Auckland’s customer research shows much higher scores for our public transit system than similar work in Wellington, even though most people, especially Wellingtonians, will tell us that Wellington (currently but not for much longer) has a much better public transit system than Auckland.
This is why people like myself, and many other observers from around the globe are flummoxed and somewhat perplexed by the debate going on in Vancouver about future transport investment that appears to have descended into a slanging match about TransLink and its alleged catalogue of sins. No transit referendum has, or could or should, attempt to solve issues of structure and governance. These sorts of issues are best sorted out between Metro Vancouver and the province. Read more »