Is a Customer First Transit Policy Foolish?

In addition to Cardinal Fang’s most excellent postAi??last Sunday, one has to reflect on the question; “Should a customer first policy take priority over transit oriented development or TOD?” Certainly TOD has become the great philosopher’s stone for transit planners in METRO Vancouver, where most lands around SkyTrain stations and along the SkyTrain route have been redeveloped into higher densities. Along the Canada Line, there are large moans from land developers that it is now too late to assemble lands for redevelopment as homeowners now want a lot more money for their properties; in layman’s terms, homeowners want a piece of the action!

Despite the hype and hoopla that the Canada Line has over 100,000 boardings a day, bus patronage South of the Fraser is lagging, so much so, that many of the extra bus services added by TransLink for South Delta, were quietly canceled at the New Year. It seems that the predicted thousands of new customers to transit did not materialize as expected. Now the transit customers, who formerly had a no-transfer service to Vancouver, now must transfer onto the metro at Richmond adding time to their commute. Transfers and longer commute times are not user friendly and deter ridership.

WhenAi??Mrs. Zwei works late in Vancouver, with her evening commute home, I have to drive toAi??Landsdown Station (Bridgeport Station is designed to take the transit customer into the casino and is not amenable for customer pick-up, again customer unfriendly)Ai??to pick her up as there is no convenient bus services to the suburbs; in fact I now just drive into Vancouver to pick her up at night because it is cheaper, faster and safer for her. A hell of a way to operate a transit system. Of course this makes the regional transit system grossly user-unfriendly for many would be patrons and taking the car becomes the only option.

Has anyone noticed that no one is chortling that the predicted 200,000 car trips taken of the road each day has not happened?

To be successful a transit system must take a transit customer, from where he lives to where he wants to go, quickly, safely, efficiently, and affordably. If a transit system does not provide the service demanded by the customer, he or she will seek an alternative which in most cases is the car. Metro systems like SkyTrain seldom provide such a service as theyAi??so expensive to build, that they only operate on a ‘trunk‘ line with the transit customer forced to transfer between bus and metro two orAi??more times per journey. Again, not very customer friendly.

As for Transit Oriented Development or TOD,Ai?? that train has already left the station as massive developments are happening everywhere in the lower mainland and there is little or no public transit to be seen. It is now the other way around, we now have Development Oriented Transit, where development takes place and transit follows sometime in the future – maybe – well they promised. Those who still cling to TOD areAi??yesterday’s men and women,Ai??as we have lots of destinations for transit customers, yet little or no transit. This is not a foolish statement, rather it is a fact and until our transit planners stop wasting the taxpayers money shuffling paper and actually do the job of designing a viable public transit strategy for the future, we will never get the customer friendly transit system that will attract the motorist from the car.

In the 21st century, to be successful, transit must be able to provide a quality alternative to driving; transit must be ableAi??to attract the motorist from the car. To date, TransLink has failed in achieving this and planning more pricey metro lines to be built ten, twenty, and thirty years in the future is just not working.

The City of Surrey wants to break this cycle of building metro lines to suit the fancy of Vancouver oriented planners pursuing their TOD dreams and isAi??planning for much cheaper LRT to service more destinations and providing a more customer friendly and cheaper alternative than SkyTrain. Sadly, many local transit planners, bureaucrats, andAi??academics are afraid of providing customer friendly transit and want to stay firmly in the comfortable 20th century way of doing things.

In METRO Vancouver, large bureaucracies, shuffling paper and enriching land developers takes precedent over the foolish needs of theAi??transit customer.

A very customer friendly tram stop in Strasbourg, France.

Comments are closed.