When did Drivers become the New Smokers?

Reading the various coverage about traffic in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics, I was struck about how social attitudes change.

In the 1970’s, if you recycled, you were pretty much a hippie freak. A scant couple of decades later, if you didn’t recycle, you were an earth hating jerk.

Again in the 1970’s, most adults were smokers – decades later, a minority (at least in British Columbia) that’s become so powerless that the majority of anti-smoker groups seem to have moved on to their new target:

Car Drivers.

There was a lot of pressure on drivers during the Olympics – parkades and roads closed. Easy information for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users – but generally scant information for drivers other than be one of the other three commuters.

What was frustrating was the utter lack of regard for drivers who drive for a living or commuters for whom transit is actually not a reasonable option.

For myself, a transit commute would be twice as much time as driving and since there’s two of us, cost about the same as driving and parking.

So, not actually any benefit since I don’t really want a nearly 2 hour commute at each end of the day – or the motion sickness that goes with transit.

The other reason that I don’t like transit is pretty much the other passengers. They bathe in perfume, reek of hair and hygiene products or from the lack of same, performance talk inanely and loudly on cell phones as if cells were a status symbol rather than the ubiquitous annoyance that they are, be forced to be a captive audience for teens who don’t realize that no one else cares what happened in school or in their life lessons (clue, you haven’t lived long enough to have wisdom to share with the class) and on rarer occasions, the other passengers are dangerous.

I’ve been on transit were 2 young men got into a fist fight, where men have been sexually aggressive to women – verbally, exposing themselves or actually rubbing up against anything female. And that’s before you get into muggers, random assaults, crazy people. There was even a twosome of young teen girls who would lure older men for a sex romp and then beat and roll them instead.

In our car, my spouse and I share quality time, listen to audio books, and are comfortable seating and temperature wise. If traffic is bad, we can take another route or pull over and have a meal or coffee or run an errand.

On transit, you are just trapped and stuck. Unless you can get off and catch a taxi….

Back to this attitude shift.

Drivers in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (“GVRD”) (basically all the cities in the lower mainland of BC) are being tapped and not even kissed on the mouth.

We are compound taxed (that’s a tax that on other taxes) at the gas station, we are getting a 35% parking tax hike, we are paying insurance and on new car purchases, there’s a vehicle levy tax.

Pretty soon, there won’t be any drivers left to squeeze. And that is not a good thing, considering how much tax revenue is derived from drivers.

So, here’s some suggestions for government levels and transit boards:

1. Make cyclists buy insurance and have licenses & plates too.

Use the revenue to underwrite the creation of bike paths that are separate when possible from roads. A collision between a cyclist and pedestrian results in less damage than a vehicle and a cyclist.

This also changes the assumption that it’s always the car to blame for any collision between the two.

Personally, I live in fear of a cyclist coming out of nowhere – and usually through a stop sign – smash into me and the cyclist dies and leaving me to sue their estate to cover my vehicle damage and trauma. Let them carry insurance to respond.

Let cyclists get tickets for bad driving as a revenue stream and to weed out the bad ones.

If they want to use the same roads, then they should share in the costs as a user. Even a 10 to 15% of what vehicles pay would make a big difference.

2. Transit Fees Restructuring and Transit Boards.

I don’t know about other places, but in the GVRD, you pay for how many transit zones you cross. They classify 3 zones, but if you travel from Surrey to West Vancouver, it’s technically 4.

Each transit ticket gives you 90 mins of travel.

You pay more for how many zones you cross. So, if you live close to a boundary that you work on the other side of, you pay for two zones for maybe 10 mins of travel.

Who wants to do that?

Why not get rid of the zones and have people pay in increments of 15 minutes of travel?

That seems fairer to me, the heavier the user, the more they pay for the service they get.

Paying on buses is good because a driver it there to ensure the person does pay – but the rapid transit system is on your honour. Put in turnstiles or put in an employee ticket checker at each platform entrance. It took them long enough to make the tickets only work in the stamping machines one way.

Replace the paper tickets with plastic cards with magnetic stripes – if coffee shops can use refillable cards, transit can too. That alone should be a cost savings over time.

Oh, and for translink specifically, reduce the number of board members and their salaries – better yet, make the boards be mayors again so there is some accountability and repercussions for their decisions.

Eliminate fake costs by not giving politicians, high ranks transit employees and other VIPs lifetime transit passes that they are never going to use.

Oh, and anyone on the transit board should be forced to use transit for all their travels – if you’re going to force anyone out of their cars, then these are the people who should be leading the way.

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Here’s a place to tell them:

thanks Kim for the link!