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I wrote earlier about my frustration at the lack of commitment to transit on Burnaby Mountain, and in reflection all of the GVRD.  See my article: “Bus torture” from Aug 2011

Our community was graced with a great system of subsidized tickets for UniverCity residents for many years 2004-2012.  The UniverCity Transit pass program was an important accomplishment for early UniverCity developers; the early residential and commercial stratas and community programmers such as Translink and the SFU Community Trust as well as business partners such as VanCity.

They made a difference by working together.

This subsidized monthly bus pass encouraged residents to buy into this Sustainable Community (and make a difference daily)  at UniverCity of Simon Fraser University Burnaby.

However we lost this program, that popularized bus ridership, in 2012.

I was thinking about this recently as I watch my fellow travellers on a West Vancouver route.  My consistent observation is the narrow seats on our buses.  Is it just my own experience or can you not sit straight when a person sits in the seat beside you on the bus.  I am always leaning away so as not to rub elbows.

Why does riding a bus feel like ‘slumming it’?

This article is a glimpse into this phenomenon.  It is a little light upon my concerns that bus travel is stigmatized in Vancouver. The problem is social as much as economic (I’m not asking for luxury seating, only that accomodates humans).

In this article “The High Cost of Climate Uncertainty” Kent Daniel of Columbia business school writes:  ..

“Recent research further suggests that the United States may be an outlier in the regressivity of its present gasoline taxes, due in part to low investment in public transit [my italics]. In many countries, particularly developing nations where car ownership remains out of reach for most, carbon taxation may actually be progressive.”

My feeling is that we lost the UniverCity monthly bus pass subsidy because of economic argument and failure of public outside of UniverCity to see value in a sustainable community.  The failure to invest in social benefit is unfortunate. Though the argument for a community pass for economic reasons is equally viable.  Supporting transit as an alternative to single occupancy vehicles is also investment for the environment.

Do we want bus riders to feel like they are outside of the thriving part of our economy?

Do we want this to be a comfortable part.  Travel is a big part of our day!

As we say of the Sustainable community model (though different sustainablity models use different language and emphasis) it is a synergy of 4 cornerstones: economic, educational, equity and environmental.  See SFU Community Trust page.

How else do we change popular opinion of bus ridership?  Really?

To further understand some of the economics (faulty) thwarting investment in public transit I recommend reading Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”.

Jane Jacobs argues how big business interests thwarted the opportunity for municipalities to invest in public transit (electric buses) in key stages of US city development in the 20th century.

I invite you to comment.  What are the social dynamics that prevent the popularization of public transit.  Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree.  Maybe we will never embrace buses – for whatever reason – in North America.

Do we need to try another sustainable route.  Bikes?  A sustainable transportation plan will require a synergy of solutions.


See more information on the subsidized bus pass: “UniverCity Bus Pass.  Is it Excess or Sustainable?”

When I say the pass “popularized” transit, I am not specifically saying it produced high traffic on the buses, but that it made transit riding a point of pride in our community.  In fact UNES did a little study that found community ridership on a per bus basis was low, and leaving much room on the buses largely servicing the SFU University students.

Please contact us if you are interested in our BUS Pass ridership findings.