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Category "transit"

1Oct

Open letter outlines Metro Vancouver seniors’ transportation needs

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Three women who are members of a seniors committee pose in front of a SkyTrain.


Brenda Felker (left), Anita Eriksen and Farideh Ghaffarzadeh are members of the seniors advisory committee Seniors on the Move, which released an open letter about transit and transportation on Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person.


Jennifer Saltman / PNG

Brenda Felker is dreading the day when she won’t be able to use her car to connect with friends and family, and still get where she needs to go.

“That’s huge, losing your licence,” she said. “It scares me that I would lose my independence.”

That is why Felker joined an advisory committee of Seniors on the Move, which represents seniors who use different modes of transportation to get around Metro Vancouver.

On Tuesday, the International Day of the Older Person, the committee released an open letter signed by 225 people outlining changes to the transportation system that would make it more welcoming for seniors. The letter was the culmination of three years of work.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said transportation is arguably the most important concern for seniors, and was the focus of a report — which included 15 recommendations — that came out of her office in May 2018.

“Your efforts, I think, are starting to resonate,” Mackenzie told the committee. “I think that local governments, regional governments, provincial governments, federal governments are all understanding this need around transportation and this huge group of people that is growing who can’t drive their cars any longer, but they still need to get out and about.”

Mackenzie noted that at age 65 about 90 per cent of seniors have a driver’s licence in B.C., but that number drops to less than half by age 85.

The letter has suggestions in a number of key areas, including walking, mobility aids, public transit, HandyDART, taxis, transitioning drivers to other transportation modes and volunteer ride programs.

“We think these changes would be a great place to start. Our cities may not have been built for an aging population, but we can adapt them,” said Anita Eriksen, a committee member who gave up her car when she turned 65.

Transit users are looking for a long list of changes, many of which concern bus travel. In addition to real-time information at bus stops and covered bus stops with seating, seniors are looking for drivers who make courtesy announcements, get closer to the curb, and wait for seniors to sit or get stable before leaving a stop.

Accessibility alternatives when elevators and escalators are out of order, and more community shuttles with ramps and kneeling capability are also important.

HandyDART users want a payment system and pricing that integrates with the rest of TransLink, coordination and integration with the medical system and better education about the service.

Kathy Pereira, director of access transit service deliver for Coast Mountain Bus Company, said TransLink is looking to address a number of concerns outlined in the letter, and promised to bring the concerns back to the transit agency.

“We do the things that most people do that are obvious … but sometimes we don’t think far enough. So I think that’s one of the big messages I’ve heard here,” Pereira said. “We’re on the right track, but maybe we’re not going far enough.”

Walkers and those who use mobility aids are looking for better-maintained, wider sidewalks, more benches, better street lighting, functional curb cuts and more time to cross the street.

Drivers looking to leave their cars behind need more information on other ways to get around and resources to make the change, as well as medical services plan coverage for required medical exams.

Taxis need to be given incentives to pick up seniors and those with mobility issues, and seniors need more information about taxi savers.

The letters says there should be ways to assess the fitness of volunteer ride program drivers and the suitability of their vehicles, and there should be standardized training along with more drivers.

Beverley Pitman, the seniors planner at United Way of the Lower Mainland and self-identified “young senior,” called the list of suggestions comprehensive, visionary and highly practical.

“By stepping up and taking this on, in effect you’ve made visible a whole bunch of other seniors who haven’t had the opportunity or maybe are really socially isolated because they don’t have access to at transportation system that enables them to get out and about,” Pitman said.

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9Aug

Committee recommends money for HandyDART, affordable transit fares in 2020 B.C. budget

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The HandyDART service made 1.3 million trips last year.


RICHARD LAM / PNG

Public transit could receive a boost in the next B.C. budget, if the provincial government heeds the advice of an all-party finance committee.

The select standing committee on finance and government, which conducted public consultations across B.C., released a report this week with more than 100 recommendations for the 2020 budget, including six for transit and transportation.

In the interest of making transit more accessible for people with disabilities, the committee said the province should increase funding to expand HandyDART, a door-to-door shared ride service.

“(The committee) acknowledged the importance of HandyDART for increasing accessibility and supporting inclusion,” the report said.

Beth McKellar, co-chair of the HandyDART Riders’ Alliance, said the recommendation is important because the service is in high demand and desperately needs more funding, despite Metro Vancouver’s regional transit authority having added more service.

HandyDART’s ridership has been on the rise for the past five years, and delivered 1.3 million trips in 2018.

“We’re just a wee tiny blip on the radar, but I’m pleased this all came out and I’m hoping that they do the right thing. I always have that little bit of hope,” McKellar said.

The committee made a similar recommendation for the 2019 budget, calling for “increased and sustained” funding for HandyDART services.

Although funding was allocated in the last budget to B.C. Transit to expand bus and HandyDART services in four communities over three years, Metro Vancouver was left out, to the dismay of advocates and the region’s mayors.

“It was good that the Island got it, that B.C. Transit got it, but we need it a lot more over here,” said McKellar.

In recent years, TransLink’s Mayors’ Council has argued that the province should help pay for HandyDART because the majority of trips are related to health services, such as dialysis, and said there should be a long-term, sustainable funding model for the service.

The committee also recommended that the province work with local governments and transit authorities “to explore new pricing mechanisms to help make public transit more accessible for youth and low-income families.”

“We think this is an excellent recommendation and we urge the government to follow through on it,” said Viveca Ellis, a community organizer for #AllOnBoard.

#AllOnBoard has advocated for free transit for all children and youth up to and including 18 years old, and a sliding-scale monthly pass system based on income for all transit systems in B.C.

“We know that affordability is an important part of our current government’s mandate, and as communities and many, many community members have brought forward to us transit is not affordable for many British Columbians,”

The Mayors’ Council has also discussed free transit for youths, but believes the province needs to be involved on the funding side to offset fare revenue losses. Victoria will offer free transit to all youths who live in the city in a pilot project starting in September.

On the transit side the committee also recommended working with public and private operators to address gaps in regional transportation services — particularly in rural and remote areas — and prioritizing faster deployment of electric buses in cities, including expensive charging infrastructure.

In the area of active transportation, the committee said the province should invest in walking and biking infrastructure, education and promotion, as well as eliminate provincial sales tax on electric bicycles.

In a statement the Ministry of Finance said it is “in the process of reviewing the report in detail and considers all proposals, including recommendations brought forward by this committee, during the yearly budget process.”

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23May

Dan Fumano: Nighttime economy — Vancouver looks at ‘the other 9 to 5’

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Does “No Fun City” need a “night mayor”?

Should some liquor-serving venues be allowed to limit entrance to only patrons over the age of 25?

What can the city do to promote family-friendly nighttime events for those under age 19?

And, crucially, what would it take for Vancouver to finally get late-night SkyTrain service?

Such questions, and many others, could come in for review if Vancouver council decides next week to proceed with what the city is calling a nighttime economy strategy.

“Despite the city’s support for many aspects of the nighttime economy, Vancouver has gained a reputation for being a ‘No Fun’ City in the minds of many,” states the motion on next week’s council agenda, put forward by NPA Coun. Lisa Dominato.

If approved, Dominato’s motion would direct city staff to work with the Vancouver Economic Commission to develop recommendations for a comprehensive citywide strategy, with the aim of “realizing the economic and other potentials of Vancouver’s nighttime economy.”

Vancouver is already developing other strategies involving the cultural sector, such the Vancouver Music Strategy, for which the city is seeking public input over the coming weeks, and the Creative City Strategy. Recommendations for both of those strategies will be presented to council in September.


Vancouver city councillor Lisa Dominato is behind an initiative looking at maximizing Vancouver’s nighttime economy, including expanded transit services.

Jason Payne /

PNG files

But Dominato wants the city to create a broad, more comprehensive look at promoting the city’s economic and cultural potential after dark, for tourists, locals young and old, and those who work night shifts.

“I think we have some untapped potential here … both in economic terms, with jobs and tax base, but also in terms of the vibrancy of the city, in terms of culture, arts, music, outdoor activations, retail, tourism,” Dominato said. “But if you really want to realize that potential, you have to have a strategy.”

This comes as a growing number of city governments around the world have started to take nightlife and nighttime economies more seriously. A City of Toronto report last month described nighttime as the “new competitive edge for post-industrial cities,” and asked: “What is the City of Toronto doing to advance the other 9 to 5?”

The City of Victoria is already looking for someone, seeking to conduct a “late night economy assessment.”

This month, council in Sydney, Australia, endorsed a plan for its nighttime economy, described by the city as “some of the biggest changes to city planning in a decade.”

Other global cities, including London and Paris, have appointed people to oversee nightlife, positions often colloquially called a “night mayor” or “night liaison.”


Mirik Milan is the ‘night mayor’ of Amsterdam and an expert on the importance of the nighttime economy to a city.

Gerry Kahrmann /

PNG files

Amsterdam’s “night mayor” Mirik Milan visited Vancouver city hall last May. The nighttime economy has its own needs and requirements, he said, and his job is to make sure it isn’t merely an afterthought to what happens during the day. Amsterdam, for example, has allowed some businesses to operate any hours they want, including art galleries and live music venues as well as some nightclubs.

Following Milan’s appearance in Vancouver last May, council voted to support a series of nightlife actions, including directing staff to establish a “nightlife council” combining safety, transportation, economic development and “vibrant street life.”

Since then, the city has participated in a research report, conducted by masters of public policy students at Simon Fraser University, to assess the city’s nightlife economy, explore the city’s needs and help inform the work of a future “nightlife council,” said Lara Honrado, Vancouver’s assistant director of cultural services.

That city-commissioned report from the SFU grad students raises the possibility of a “nighttime liaison,” as someone who could “grasp the workings of nightlife spaces, identify trusted providers, and help provide information to the next generation of cultural operators.”


Granville Entertainment District in downtown Vancouver.

STEPHANIE IP /

PNG

Among the SFU report’s ideas is spreading out closing times in the Granville Entertainment District to more gradually dissipate patrons by letting some businesses, with and without liquor service, to stay open later.

The loss of cultural spaces is a constant challenge for Vancouver’s nightlife scene, which is exacerbated by the pace of development, said Yousif Samarrai, one of five SFU grad students who co-authored the report.

Today, many of Vancouver’s “most culturally interesting” nightlife events are in underground, do-it-yourself venues, Samarrai said, “but the only way they actually set up places is in spaces that are set to be demolished.”

That means, of course, that those underground cultural spaces have a very limited lifespan.

Vancouver is more of a nightlife town today than it was a decade ago, said Nate Sabine, a director of the Hospitality Vancouver Association, which advocates for businesses in the Granville Entertainment District and Davie Village.

“I don’t believe the ‘No Fun City’ tag applies to us anymore. I feel like if you’re bored in this city, then you want to be bored, you’re not looking at all,” Sabine said. “But we need to do better, we need to do more.”

“Our belief is a strong culture drives a strong economy,” Sabine said, citing the Hospitality Vancouver Association’s recent report that the Granville Entertainment District 14 liquor-primary businesses alone generate $43 million in annual revenue and 900 jobs.

The SFU report highlights one particularly long-running complaint of Vancouver’s night owls: “The first and most common transportation barrier identified was a lack of public transit service during late hours.”

The absence of SkyTrain service after venues close was identified as “particularly problematic,” the report notes, especially considering the “unreliability” of local taxis, and Vancouver’s status as North America’s largest city without ride-hailing services.

TransLink has been conducting a feasibility study over the last year, looking at different late-night transit options, including SkyTrain service, said TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drew. That report is expected this summer.

Dominato also hopes to develop the nighttime economy beyond bars and nightclubs. She previously lived in France, where she regularly saw kids out in plazas and parks with their parents late at night. Similarly, she would like to see what else the city can do to promote family-friendly, all-ages nighttime events that aren’t centred around alcohol.

The motion, if approved as written, would direct staff to being work on the nighttime economic strategy in 2020, and present a draft to council by June 2021.

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3May

TransLink launches consultation on 30-year regional transit plan

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Kevin Desmond is the CEO of Translink.


Jason Payne / PNG

For the next four months, TransLink will be asking those who live and work in Metro Vancouver for their ideas for how the region’s transportation system should be developed over the next 30 years.

It will be the largest public engagement in the transit authority’s history.

“We want to hear from people across the region, of all ages and backgrounds,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a news release.

“Regardless of how you get around, we want to hear from drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. With Metro Vancouver experiencing rapid growth, the impacts of climate change, new technologies, and shifting demographics over the next 30 years, we want input from the broadest cross-section of people possible.”

The 30-year strategy, called Transport 2050, will lay out the region’s transportation vision, strategies and priorities. Previous regional strategies were adopted in 2013, 2008 and 1993.

The outreach campaign will involve soliciting feedback from those living in the 23 jurisdictions in Metro Vancouver and adjoining regions; meeting with First Nations, students, multicultural communities and new Canadians; and roundtables with elected officials, businesses, accessibility groups and the goods movement sector.

There will also be exhibits at public events and social media campaigns.

People will be asked about their values, concerns and priorities, ideas about the future of transportation, key issues affecting the region, and opinions on new modes of transportation.

“Transport 2050 is a great opportunity for people to have their say on decisions that will help shape communities and the Metro Vancouver region for many years to come,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson in a news release.

The public engagement will last until September, after which staff will evaluate the ideas and, in late 2020, create the final plan.

Take the survey at Transport2050.ca.

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20Feb

B.C. Budget 2019: Discounted transit fares, HandyDART funding absent

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Two initiatives that could make transit Metro Vancouver more accessible and affordable were missing from Tuesday’s provincial budget.

The region’s mayors have been advocating for funding for HandyDART, the door-to-door shared-ride service for people with disabilities, and a break on transit fares for people with low incomes and youths.

“We would have liked to have seen those programs included in this year’s budget,” said New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who chairs the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

For the past couple of years, both the council and TransLink, the regional transportation authority, have argued that the provincial government should help pay for HandyDART.

TransLink has invested money in expanding HandyDART service as part of its 10-year regional transportation plan, and made some changes following a review to improve the quality of service.

However, Coté said the majority of HandyDART trips are related to health services, such as dialysis or specialist appointments, and seeing some investment from the Ministry of Health would make sense.


Viveca Ellis, a leadership development coordinator of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition and All On Board campaign coordinator, wants free transit for youth and reduced fares for others.

PNG

“We think there is an argument to be made that there should be better support through the provincial government, just like the provincial government mainly funds those services throughout other parts of the province,” he said.

“That’s been a longstanding issue that the Mayors’ Council and TransLink have advocated for better support there.”

The budget did include some extra money for transit — and HandyDART — improvements, but for communities outside Metro Vancouver. It adds $21 million over three years for B.C. Transit to expand bus services in 30 urban and rural communities and make improvements to help seniors and people with disabilities.


LISTEN: This week on the In The House podcast, Mike Smyth and Rob Shaw discuss the 2019 BC NDP government budget – was it a prudent NDP spending plan or a missed opportunity to get its agenda done?

We also discuss the CleanBC plan, BC Green leader Andrew Weaver’s budget response and the BC Liberals struggling to define themselves within the budget debate.


A spokesperson for the HandyDART Riders Alliance could not be reached for comment, but on social media shortly after the budget was released on Tuesday, the group called the lack of specific funding for HandyDART “disappointing.”

Coté said he hopes increasing demand for HandyDART service will prompt more serious conversations with the province about a long-term, sustainable funding model so that TransLink can continue to provide the service.

Providing discounted transit passes for people with low incomes and free transit for youths under the age of 18 has been discussed around the Mayors’ Council table, Coté said, and such initiatives have been adopted in other major cities.

“I think the Mayors’ Council is very interested in the idea, but it’s something we strongly feel would be most appropriately funded through a provincial poverty reduction strategy,” Coté said.

Such a strategy was outlined in the budget, but details about the specific programs therein were not released. It’s expected that the public will hear more in the coming weeks.

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Viveca Ellis, campaign organizer for #AllOnBoard, has been lobbying for a regional plan and provincial funding for making transit affordable and accessible for all people in the region.

“In the budget documents and the information that we have right now, we didn’t see anything specifically related to transit affordability and accessibility to transit for low-income people in the TransLink service region or any other region,” Ellis said.

“We’re looking forward to the release of the poverty reduction plan and seeing what will be addressed there in terms of affordable transit.”

Coté said the Mayors’ Council will move forward by formalizing their position on reducing transit fees for low-income earners and youths this spring.

“We do expect continued discussions on that regard there and hopefully future inclusion in budgets in coming years,” he said.

The budget did follow through on promised funding for major transportation infrastructure projects, including the Broadway subway line, for which $1.12 billion has been allocated over the next three years. The total cost of that project is $2.83 billion.

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15Feb

TransLink mayors’ council votes “yes” on SkyTrain to UBC

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Buses and riders at the UBC bus exchange on January 30 2019.


Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

The TransLink Mayors’ Council has endorsed SkyTrain as the technology for the transit extension to the University of British Columbia.

At a meeting Friday morning, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation voted in favour of moving ahead with planning for SkyTrain, with only two mayors opposed. The decision was in line with a recommendation made by TransLink staff in late January.

Ahead of the decision, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said that in the interest of acting “collaboratively” on a regional decision, he would not be calling for a weighted vote.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told the council he’d heard from UBC students and employees in his city who were looking forward to getting to campus by rapid transit.

“We’re certainly fully supportive of it,” he said.

Several mayors said they supported transit to UBC, but had concerns about the cost of the line and its priority over other transportation projects.

“It is not the only important transit project in the region,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan, adding “we need to look at the long-term needs of the region.”

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker worried the council seemed to be “rushing headlong into something several years out,” without really knowing what future growth of the region would look like.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart had questions about SNC-Lavalin and its involvement in future SkyTrain projects.

A staff report included in the meeting’s agenda said staff believe “an extension of the SkyTrain Millennium Line is the only technology option that can provide sufficient capacity to meet demand beyond 2045.”

The report also noted other potentially lower-cost alternatives, including light rail transit (LRT), had been “thoroughly explored and eliminated because of capacity limitations and deliverability challenges.”

Ridership for a new rapid transit line from Arbutus to UBC is projected to exceed 118,000 in 2045, which is more than the current Millennium Line corridor.

During the meeting, the mayor’s council also heard from several people who work at UBC and supported the line. Some spoke about their difficulties getting to and from campus on existing transit.

A representative of UBC’s Alma Mater Society said the line would promote “accessibility and equity of education and employment.”

Engineering student Kevin Wong told the council he commutes for two to three hours each day, some days leaving home at 6 a.m. and not returning until 11 p.m.

“SkyTrain to UBC would cut my commute in half,” he said.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been a strong advocate of extending rapid transit to UBC.

In late January, Vancouver city council voted nine-to-two to endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus Street to UBC, and to direct staff to “advance the design development including public consultation to determine station locations, vertical and horizontal alignment.”

Procurement has begun for the Millennium Line extension from VCC-Clark Station to Arbutus through a bored tunnel under Broadway. It’s estimated that the project will cost $2.83 billion and be completed in 2025.

The second phase of the 10-year transportation plan for the region set aside $3 million to develop concept designs and undertake pre-business-case work for the line to UBC. The last evaluation of options for the line was done in 2012, so last year TransLink hired a consultant to do a study to consider technology, operating assumptions, demand forecasts and costs.

Four options had been considered: optimized B-Line bus service, light rail from Arbutus to UBC, light rail from Main Street-Science World to UBC and SkyTrain from Arbutus to UBC.

The updated study found that by 2030 the B-Line and parallel corridors would be overcrowded. By 2045, both light-rail routes would be near or over-capacity, and parallel corridors would be crowded. SkyTrain would also be nearing capacity, however, it could be doubled with higher frequency and longer trains.

A preliminary cost estimate, in 2018 dollars, for a fully tunnelled SkyTrain extension would be $3.3 billion-$3.8 billion. However, the report notes inflation would push the cost to $4.1 billion-$4.8 billion if procurement begins in 2025 and the project is completed in 2030.

With files by Jennifer Saltman

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14Jan

Free transit for youths pitch to be made to Vancouver council

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Coun. Jean Swanson wants the City of Vancouver to support free transit for children and youths up to 18 years of age.

Council members will consider her motion Tuesday to draft a letter to regional officials in support of more equitable transit fares including a sliding scale for low-income residents.

Swanson said Monday that her No. 1 reason for supporting a campaign started by #AllOnBoard last year is to increase safety for youths and adults.

She said people can sometimes get stuck if they don’t have bus fare and have to walk home or take “rides with people they don’t know. That’s not safe.”

She also supports free transit to increase accessibility to the city’s amenities. She estimated it would cost a family of five in east Vancouver $20 bus fare to ride to beaches on the west side of the city.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said.

“It means a huge proportion of people in our city just can’t enjoy parts of the city that other people that have more money can enjoy.”

Swanson also believes that lower bus fares and improved transit service means fewer trips by car which will help reduce global warming.

Swanson said she’s had nothing but “positive feedback” about her motion.

Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson.


Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson.

Nick Procaylo /

PNG files

She doesn’t have any estimate on costs, she said, because this is a first step in figuring out how to create a more equitable transit system.

“It is to ask the regional bodies in control of this to come up with a plan and source of funding,” she said.

“Some of the technical details still have to be worked out.”

The #AllOnBoard campaign by the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition has already been endorsed by Port Moody and New Westminster.

Jill Drews, senior issues management advisor for TransLink, said the organization is working with government officials to explore what it might mean to bring in free fares for younger riders.

TransLink doesn’t know how many riders under 18 it has because it doesn’t track ridership by age, she said.

“What we have seen in other jurisdictions that have opened up fare free transit for youths, they’ve had a big increase in ridership,” Drews said.

Drews said the cost of introducing free fares for youths “would be in the tens of millions a year” but had no specific details on the amount.

“We’re doing some modelling and looking at how we can quantify that better,” she said.

‘We’re expecting the provincial government to step up and provide the financial support’ for a free transit plan for youth, says #AllOnBoard campaign coordinator Viveca Ellis.


‘We’re expecting the provincial government to step up and provide the financial support’ for a free transit plan for youth, says #AllOnBoard campaign coordinator Viveca Ellis.

Mike Bell /

PNG

Viveca Ellis, who is coordinating the #AllOnBoard campaign, said transit should have much more public funding so access is as equitable as health care and education.

“Given our provincial commitment to reducing poverty, we need the mayors’ council and Metro Vancouver to discover the impact of mobility and lack of affordability on all citizens,” said Ellis, leadership development coordinator for the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition.

“We’re expecting the provincial government to step up and provide the financial support to make it happen to implement these necessary measures.”

In Metro Vancouver, a maximum of four children under five can ride on TransLink for free when accompanied by a passenger with proof of payment; children aged five to 18 pay $1.90 concession or $1.85 with a Compass Card in one zone.

Last year, Seattle city council voted to spend $7 million ($9.1 million Cdn.) to provide free bus service to 16,000 high school students. Seattle is now the largest city in the U.S. to provide free, year-round transit for high school students.

In Toronto, students 12 and under ride for free.

Calgary Transit addresses poverty in its sliding-scale fares based on income. A low-income monthly pass ranges from $5.30 for a single person household earning $12,699 or less to $53 a month for a household of seven people earning $56,997 to $67,055.

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6Dec

Public washrooms coming to Metro Vancouver transit system

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Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, outside TransLink headquarters. The board approved a policy that will see washrooms added to stations along the transit system.


Jennifer Saltman / PNG

TransLink customers looking for public restrooms on Metro Vancouver’s transit system could soon find relief.

The transit authority’s board of directors on Thursday approved a recommendation from management to increase the number of washrooms available for public use.

“This is a very big change from where we’ve been in the past, and I’m really pleased to see us moving in this direction,” said board member Larry Beasley.

Public washrooms have been a hot-button topic over the years, and TransLink did not previously have a policy. The new one was developed during 2018.

In the past, TransLink has cited the high cost of maintenance, and passenger safety and security as reasons to avoid adding washrooms on transit.

Currently, the only public washrooms are found at both SeaBus terminals and on West Coast Express trains, and they are required by federal transportation regulations.

A survey conducted as part of the review asked more than 2,000 people about washroom availability, and 72 per cent said that more washrooms would improve their transit experience. About 25 per cent said they would use transit more often if there were more washrooms.

“We do see this as an important ridership growth, ridership development objective,” said Andrew McCurran, TransLink’s director of strategic planning and policy.

Laura Mackenrot, the former vice-chair of the City of Vancouver’s persons with disabilities advisory committee, said four city committees had appealed to TransLink to add more washrooms to the transit system.

“How can you deny people the ability to do a basic human need every day?” Mackenrot asked the board. “This is not just a disability issue, it’s an accessibility issue that affects us all — all ages and all abilities.”

Mackenrot said she knows people who don’t use public transit because they have no access to washrooms, and urged TransLink to make sure any washrooms it adds are universally accessible and gender neutral.

According to a staff report, washrooms should be placed at major transfer or connection points for a high number of transit passengers, in places where there will be many passengers who have long journey times and evenly spaced on the system.

TransLink will look at existing spaces within stations, adding washrooms during upgrades or construction of new stations or partnering with developers, municipalities or private businesses.

An implementation strategy will be brought to the board for consideration next year, which will include potential washroom locations, costs and a timeline.

Mackenrot said after the meeting that she was very happy with the board’s decision.

“We worked really hard on this for the last couple of years and I think it’s a great first step in the right direction to be including washrooms in our stations,” she said.

One TransLink policy that won’t change is related to pets on transit.

Currently, TransLink allows pets — other than certified service animals — if they are in small, hand-held cages that fit on your lap. Transit operators can refuse a pet if there is a concern for safety or comfort of other passengers, or if there is standing room only.

It was anticipated that allowing more pets would negatively affect people travelling without pets, worsen safety and well being of passengers and staff, hurt system efficiency and increase administrative costs.

Management recommended that TransLink maintain its current policy, but continue to monitor industry trends and public sentiment to see if changes are needed in the future. The board endorsed that recommendation.

“Our current policy strikes a reasonable balance, providing an option for individuals who travel with pets without unreasonable, negative impacts to other transit riders,” said Andrew Devlin, manager of policy development.

Margaret Halsey has long advocated for allowing more dogs on transit. She said that if the board won’t consider changing the policy, then there should be a pilot project to see how it might work to have more pets on board.

“I’m certain that dogs that are allowed only at set times or on specific trains or buses would alleviate a considerable amount of challenges,” Halsey said.

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5Oct

Use of RFID fare gates will remain free for those with disabilities

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Omar Al-azawi tries the new Universal Fare Gate Access gates at the Sperling/Burnaby lake SkyTrain Station in January.



Omar Al-azawi tries the new Universal Fare Gate Access gates at the Sperling/Burnaby lake SkyTrain Station in January.


Nick Procaylo / PNG

TransLink riders unable to use their hands to tap a Compass card will continue to have free access to SkyTrain and SeaBus stations using the Universal Fare Gate Access Program.

Sam Turcott, executive director of the Disability Alliance of B.C., applauded TransLink’s commitment to making its services as accessible as possible to people with disabilities. He said the feedback the alliance had received about the fare gate access pilot program was very positive.

“It means that people with particularly significant mobility and dexterity related disabilities are able to access the transit system just like everyone else,” Turcott said. “And we’re really pleased with TransLink’s decision to continue to provide individuals with the RFID (Long-range Radio Frequency Identification) chips free access to gated areas in the TransLink system.”

The universal access program, which was soft launched in January, makes it possible for people who have limited or no use of their arms and are unable to tap Compass cards to get through the accessible fare gates at stations.

Long-range radio frequency identification sensors are installed above the accessible fare gates at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, so that the gates will simply swing open for people who have been issued universal access cards as part of the program.

Long-range radio frequency identification readers have been installed at 51 stations on the Canada, Expo and Millennium lines, as well as at both SeaBus stations. It’s expected that all SkyTrain stations in the system will be outfitted with these readers by the end of 2018.

Geoff Cross, vice-president of policy and planning for TransLink, told a board meeting on Thursday that 20 people had applied for the Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Eleven applicants were approved, five were waiting for meetings with occupational therapists and four were rejected. Those who were not approved were offered assistive devices to enable tapping at Compass fare gates.

The transit authority initially decided to give free universal access cards to eligible customers so they could use the new technology while TransLink finished installing sensors at the rest of its station and monitored the program’s reception.

On average, there have been 100 instances a month of the universal access card being used to access the gated transit system, with most users travelling infrequently.

“The take up was not significant,” Cross said. “We didn’t expect it to be — it’s a small portion of the population.”

He said the small number of customers who were eligible for the program was part of the reason the service would remain free.

The Universal Fare Gate Access Program cost $9 million to set up, with half paid for by the federal government, 33 per cent from the province and the rest from TransLink.

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