May 6, 2015

The Daily Durning: High Transit Use and Low Income

Durning picks this up from Fraseropolis:


Transit use is highest among lower income households


The University of British Columbia and health authority partners recently published asnapshot of transportation habits in Metro Vancouver based on an online survey of more than 28,000 people.

Transit mode shareAmong respondents, 29 per cent said they commute by public transit, compared with 55 per cent who travel in personal vehicles. A high-level map suggests that transit use is above average in tower-dominated Skytrain nodes and in many urban villages, even remote spots like downtown Langley anddowntown Maple Ridge.

Demographically, transit users are likely to be lower income, or recent immigrants, or people from visible minorities, and often all three. There’s a sharp drop-off in transit use even in households that have risen above the $40,000 per year level.


Transit use


Some transit operators have responded in recent years by trying to broaden their base, shifting their marketing and service priorities to middle-class populations. The countervailing strategy — the businesslike strategy — is to keep service focused on  people who’ve shown they will use transit, and who choose to live in places that can be easily served. …

In Metro Vancouver, unfortunately, we can’t find a consensus on how to distribute these benefits, and we may be headed for the worst of scenarios. There is resistance in this region to any formula that would lead to increased transit funding, on the presumption that efficiency gains should allow the system to keep pace with demand; but there’s also an expectation, sometimes from the same people, that the system should serve every neighbourhood. To meet this second expectation, buses are sent to run empty through the most affluent, dispersed, and transit-indifferent communities. One likely outcome is that as financial resources are squeezed, we will have less and less service for the people who actually need it.


This is another aspect of the ‘ridership versus coverage’ debate that ‘Human Transit’ consultant Jarrett Walker addresses here.

The rather tragic outcome of the referendum, in the event of no, is that communities like Langley will justify their rejection on the grounds that they have been ill-served by TransLink or have no need of transit given their car-dependent urban form (and the Province’s expansion of the road system). The result is potentially even less service, particularly for those who most need it most since they have fewer choices and have chosen or been pushed to the periphery of the region to find cheaper housing. Sadly, many among them cannot even vote, and, with a reduction in transportation options, may find themselves pushed further into poverty.

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