Public Transportation vs. Driving: What’s the Answer?

In 2008, the B.C. government announced a new Provincial Transit Plan that would invest $4.75 billion over 12 years into developing public transit infrastructure. This includes nine high-capacity bus routes, 1,500 clean energy buses, and major rail expansions for the SkyTrain, Millennium, and Canada Lines. Eight years later, and these developments are still a question mark. In fact, just recently Vancouver was ranked as the worst city in Canada for traffic congestion, and 20th worst in the world. 


Image: Evergreen Line

Reducing the number of cars on the road and increasing the number of people on transit has always been linked to personal, environmental, and societal benefits. Besides less air pollution, fewer deaths and injuries from crashes, and less stress caused by commuting, taking public transit also leads to financial gains. Costly fees such as parking, insurance, and maintenance are just a few of the costs associated with driving. According to a recent article in The Vancouver Sun, Metro Vancouver’s transportation plan will end up making 70%, or 1.75 million residents, healthier people overall.

For commercial real estate, having accessible transit has major impacts on the price per square foot, pedestrian traffic, and attractiveness to tenants. And with residential prices forcing many working professionals to move outside the city, nearly 90% of new office construction outside of Vancouver will be within 500 meters of a transit station to accommodate commuters. This further exemplifies the dramatic shift of a car culture to a transit culture, affecting the way we live, work, and develop new properties.

Yet despite the societal and economic benefits public transit is said to have, Vancouverites still voted no to the 0.5% sales-tax hike for the transit plebiscite, an increase that would help pay for $7.5 billion worth of new transportation. And according to Brian Crowley, this was the right call.

“It’s become unfashionable to become pro-car,” said Crowley. “But the truth is, the car builds the economy. Places like Ikea and Costco would not be in existence had it not been for the car.”


Crowley believes there is an incorrect assumption that urban centers have more jobs. He further states that mass transit is poorly designed and very expensive, suggesting that “we’re better off buying people cars and fixing more roads” than building another Skytrain route.

An example of how the car culture has actually led to less traffic and more efficiency is in Phoenix, Arizona, which was the 10th worst place for congestion in the U.S. Now it’s dropped 27 places, sitting at #37, all due to a major road-building program. Therefore, the future of Vancouver’s congestion lies in better road planning and driverless cars, giving residents the benefits of stress-free driving on their commute to work.

Do you agree with Crowley? Tweet @naiopvancouver and let us know!


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