May 24, 2016

Transit Funding and Health

Today comes this plea from three of the province’s top medical people for the region to work together and fund more transit.

Why?  Because transit has a large positive impact on population health, and health care costs.

Is transit really a public health issue or should we just stick to germs and vaccines?  The reality is that our biggest health challenges in the 21st century are injuries and chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Together, these conditions are responsible for three quarters of the burden of disease and health care costs in British Columbia.

We know the “vaccines” that are effective against these problems: physical activity, good nutrition, not smoking, sufficient sleep, stress reduction, a healthy and safe environment, social connectedness — and sufficient income to achieve all of these things. . . .

. . .   We are writing today to urge local and provincial governments to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fund critical transportation infrastructure and to build a modern, health-promoting transportation network. The result will be significantly fewer of our citizens burdened with avoidable illnesses and injuries — and healthier, more livable communities for all.

Dr. Perry Kendall is B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Patricia Daly is chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health and Dr. Victoria Lee is chief medical health officer for Fraser Health Authority.


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  1. While I agree that walking and biking is healthy I do question that riding a vomit inducing wobbly bus or the SkyTrain is better for your health than riding a comfortable car !

    1. The obvious implication is that you walk more if you ride transit. People walk to the bus stop, or rapid transit station, then walk to their destination.

      Unless you have very odd parking habits, you’re almost guaranteed to be slightly more active by default if you take transit on your regular commute compared to driving.

    2. Also don’t forget the health benefits of having less concrete/road space, less pollution and more equitable/cheaper form of transportation.

        1. Although I wouldn’t discount the number of cyclists injured. Two of the five people in my household have had pretty good head injuries cycling, neither of which was the fault of a car or motorist.

        2. Rather off topic urbinflux. But while the risk of head injuries in a car, on a bike or walking our sidewalks are all similar, the risk of head injuries on transit is a tiny fraction.

  2. The quality of housing and buildings is as fundamental, I think not only does transit need to be addressed through the holistic public health, but housing should also (this would included density, unit size (relating to physical and mental health), access to sunlight, access to green space, sociability of housing, and socioeconomic mixing … all affect health, few are addressed in law).

  3. This plea is a carbon copy re-run from last year and that one bombed, going down in a 2 to 1 vote. How do they ever expect this to fly this time?

    Other than a wholesale shuffling of TransLink is needed to win public support for a rejected plan. It wasn’t about the money.

    1. Fine get rid of translink and just fund public transit the same way that highways and bridges are funded and get over it. If that was the case I am sure Eric you would be in favor of the plan right?

      1. Judging from the results of the plebiscite many people think the governance model of the Mayors and TransLink needs changing. TransLink surprises many people too when they clearly practice societal steering in directions that many don’t want. The expenditures TransLink incurs as an unelected social agency rubs many people the wrong way. This is clear. Yes, some people do like the direction they take. A minority.

        Active personal transportation is obviously more healthy than just sitting in a motorized vehicle but then, cabbage is probably better for you than gobs of ice cream.

        Leading by providing quick convenient service is really the only way to garner support for grand plans. Certainly not by having a few CEOs on hefty payrolls and having bureaucrats in medicine and health interviewed on tv imploring the populace to be good boys and girls and support transit funding.

        Referendums have a tendency to fail when all the big guns come out telling people what’s good for them and trying to invoke fear. We had the Proportional Referendum that failed, here and in Ontario, the Charlottetown Referendum failed even though Mulroney lined up all the premiers and suggested the country might be torn asunder. People called his bluff and said No. They were proved to be right. Then you have the BC HST vote and the Vancouver Mayors Transit plebiscite. Do we detect a pattern?

        1. It’s not clear. I’ve heard 100 different reasons why people voted no. You like to deal in such absolutes, it’s comical.

        2. There are many variations on why. Jeff Lee reported, ” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan questioned the value of an interim CEO firing two top executives instead of leaving it to the incoming CEO to pick and choose his own team.

          “All this shows is that the board is panicking again and making mistakes that are going to cost taxpayers lots of money in unnecessary severance packages,” he said. Corrigan noted that Paddon and Kelsey were only the latest people to go; in the middle of the referendum the TransLink board fired CEO Ian Jarvis and hired Allen, and a month ago also got rid of two senior planners who were involved in the referendum.

          “When you get rid of three of your four top executives, it shows they don’t know what they are doing and where they are going. They are panicking,” he said.

          Have they considered a tax on pop drinks, like Berkeley?

  4. A recent poll shows most people consider their commute “pleasant” and wouldn’t relocate, change jobs, take a pay cut or pay a toll to make it shorter.

    So why does the province continue to line up highway project after highway project? Why are they spending billions to solve a problem that clearly doesn’t exist?

    1. Pleasant? Even with a reduction of 42 km one way from my previous job, my 13 km commute to work for the last 23 years is still a pain in the posterior. I would say “tolerable”, but not pleasant. And to think that my second last job had a commute of three minutes door-to-desk. Those were the days, and it was pleasant.

  5. Obviously less commute is better than a longer commute but I do question that a 3/4 h commute by bus or train in rush hour squeezed like sardines ( in inclement weather ) is any better than in a car with personal choice of time, route, music and temperature !

    The ONLY benefit of a public system is lower price at a heavy expense of inconvenience, temperature, time, personal space and seat comfort ! This is healthier why ??

      1. I find a 3/4 h commute by bus or train in rush hour squeezed like sardines ( in inclement weather ) far more stressful than sitting in a car with personal choice of time, route, music and temperature !

        1. I wonder when you last made that commute by bus for 45 minutes?

          I take the train almost everyday. It’s fast, reliable and very rarely has issues. I had to drive once last week and got home an hour later than I normally do.

        2. Headphones solve the music choice problem. Also, there’s not much choice in route if you have to cross a bridge.

          Either way, you can have you four-wheeled death trap and I’ll take my smelly sardine can. But saying that the only benefit of public transit is a lower price is simply not true for everyone.

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