FACE TO FACE: Here's a crazy idea: free transit. Would that work?
Metro Vancouver should consider moving toward a free public transit system.
I know, I know, it sounds way too Scandinavian. But the idea of free transit is not as farfetched as it seems at first incredulous gulp.
San Francisco is considering the idea.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg - hardly a lefty - favours free transit.
And many cities around the world already offer free transit, not the least of which is Seattle in its downtown.
While it might take some time, moving towards free public transit is an environmentally worthy goal - certainly more worthy than our current goal of extorting as much as possible from transit users.
Revenue from transit fares supplies only one third of Translink's annual budget.
Rather than spend millions trying to put the cap back on the bottle, let's embrace public transit, make it comprehensive and make it free, funded by Metro Vancouverites, the province, and the feds.
It would cost a lot of money but it would save a lot too.
It would save $171 million on fare gates.
It would save the up to 22% of revenue it costs for fare collection, millions on enforcement processes and some of the $12.7 million per year we pay for transit police.
It would save the $2.4 million Translink spends each year to supply passes, transfers and tickets, and to collect and count money - and there would be no reason for fare evaders to spit on bus drivers.
More importantly, free transit in Metro Vancouver would be a bold and heroic environmental statement to the world.
We want to get people out of cars and lower our collective carbon footprint, yet we raise transit fares - 50% since 2000 with another increase imminent, after which it will cost a family of four $30 to take transit downtown and back.
And while transit users pay more, we subsidize car drivers. Government pays for roads, bridges, parking, automobile and oil company subsidies and tax breaks, and business transportation deductions.
As Vancouver transit consultant Dave Olsen puts it: "Here we are without any doubts about global warming, and we're tolling the people who are moving in the way we want them to move and subsidizing those who are not."
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.