Free Bus Loop Shouldn't Get Anywhere

Of the many ideas floated during the last Vancouver civic election, one that got my attention was COPE's plan to create a free bus loop between downtown, Main St, and Burrard St.

While I can see why it might sound like a good idea, it struck me at the time as more of a gimmick than anything else. Now that there are a few COPE councilors in power, I'm hoping the idea doesn't gain traction. Here's why:

  • the routes that would be augmented by the free bus loop are some of the best moneymaking routes in the city, and this route would cannibalize them
  • the trips that could be taken on the bus are so short, I doubt the loop would be taking people out of cars
  • the city would have to create their own parallel bus system, as they don't have the authority over Translink to compel them to create this loop, which would be very expensive
  • While I suppose if there was money all over the place, free transit everywhere would be great, but I felt the resources would be better directed into improving services along routes in this area.

    I've found a few articles on the subject around this week, and they conveniently back up my earlier thoughts. Stephen Rees, previously a Translink planner, felt pretty much the same, and brought a few more ideas to the argument.

    "If you ask car drivers why they do not take transit, you will get replies about speed and convenience. They won’t mention fares unless they are prompted to. People who have cars do not do so because they think transit is too expensive....if you want to serve existing transit users better, then provide them with more service. They are already willing to pay for poor service, so any extra funds Translink has should go to making it better - more frequent is the first priority."

    He also mentioned, as reported by Ian King in 24hours, that the most likely source of new riders for such short routes would be the people that would normally walk instead. So the service could discourage pedestrian activity, which doesn't make any sense as that activity is great for cities in general.

    I'd like to see the energy directed into this idea redirected into improving service in the area instead - the buses in this area are still a mess for several hours a day, as I found out again yesterday. Walking was indeed the fastest way from Main & 2nd to Fraser & 15th. And if it wasn't, I was much happier to be walking.