My free transit ride on B.C. Day didn't correspond to what I was hearing on the radio

Earlier today, I heard the usual anti-TransLink rants from Mike Smyth, who's filling in on CKNW Radio for the recently retired Bill Good.

Smyth and a CKNW staffer were listing some of the problems with today's free transit day.

I learned that the lot was empty at the park n' ride at Scott Road Station.

I also discovered that monthly passholders were upset that they didn't receive a discount after the SkyTrain had electrical problems last month.

The implication was that all anyone received was crappy free transit on B.C. Day when nobody works.

Smyth then chimed in with a chippy remark about the upcoming transit referendum.

At the risk of going against the grain, I'm here to say that I enjoyed my free bus ride downtown today. And it appeared that my fellow passengers on the Hastings bus also liked not having to stuff the farebox with coins.

Moreover, the driver was in a cheerful mood, welcoming everyone onboard knowing that he didn't have to ferret out any transit cheats.

I noticed an absence of vehicles on the road and arrived at my destination sooner than I expected.

This occurred even though the bus travelled down the normally gridlocked Seymour Street.

That made me wonder if there were fewer people driving because of free transit, which is good news for air quality.

That's because on hot days like this, sunlight bombards car exhaust, creating smoglike conditions. Fewer motor vehicles spells good news for kids with asthma.

On the bus, I thought about how Vancouver has made great strides in holding car-free days.

I then wondered if we could somehow engineer more free-transit days, particularly in the summer.

There's always going to be grumbling about transit, especially on radio stations that compete for listeners on the thoroughness of their traffic reports. Drivers have car radios; transit passengers don't.

TransLink is everyone's favourite punching bag, after all.

But today, I'd say that our regional transportation authority got it right, notwithstanding the bellyaching you might be hearing in other media outlets.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we celebrated B.C. Day every year with free transit in the Lower Mainland?

I'm curious to know if it could be financed if the board decided that no TransLink executive would earn more than $200,000 per year and no Transit Police constable would earn more than $100,000 a year.

That's not an unreasonable demand, given that transit is a public service. Transit revenue on B.C. Day is probably pretty low to begin with.

If we had a TransLink board with local politicians, perhaps it could become an election issue.

But alas, the B.C. Liberals decided a long time ago to squeeze the democracy out of TransLink by removing local politicians from the board. 

Of course, this means that free transit on B.C. Day is likely never to be repeated.

So enjoy it while it's available.

Comments (12) Add New Comment
Chris A
Now watch the Skytrain system have the same problems again like before,knowing our luck in the Lower Mainland
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Jay cee
Funny Charlie how you don't mention the extreme dalys at the Seabus Stations....there were long waits everywhere & over crowded buses....but then Charlie you know more than we do, because we all just plain dumb, unlike you.
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Bruce
I think Charlie there are fewer people driving because it's a holiday Monday. It's always like that on a holiday Monday!
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Fed up commuter.
I'd love to boycott and protest the outrageous prices for all the (constant) shitty service, on the busiest day at the busiest hour. 1st day of back to school would be great. I'm sick of being late for or having to miss work, important appointment and social events, because Translink can't keep it's shit together !.
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For Crying Out Loud
It was a sunny long weekend in August. People are out of town. If not for the free transit, downtown would have been a ghost town.
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Jimmy
Ride a bike when and where you can.
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Beg To Differ
Transit-free days and car-free days are counter productive in that they add a layer of inconvenience to those of us who ALWAYS live car-free and regularly financially support the transit system. I have purchased monthly Farecards every month for more that 3 decades. Unlike many whiners I think we have a rather good transit system and I take it all over the Lower Mainland. Commute times and routes have often been improved over the years but the system is much more overcrowded than 35 years ago when even at rush hour you could get a seat on a bus. I wasn't on the Skytrain when it broke down so as far as I'm concerned, Translink doesn't owe me anything, but making transit free for a day was of absolutely no benefit to me. It meant my bus was overcrowded and left me standing at the bus stop so I ended up walking to my destination. Great, thanks a heap, Translink. Car free days are invariably held on major transit streets, eliminating transit for the day or shuffling the buses so badly off-route that they are useless. Meanwhile the regular car users DRIVE to the car-free event and park a couple of blocks away. What exactly does that achieve?
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Ryan W
It really seems as if any point of view which does not agree with the happy times on transit story don't make it far in the comments section.
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Let's Try It
Whidbey Island has had fare-free transit since 1987. It sounds like this works quite nicely for everyone especially car commuters who would otherwise be frustrated by traffic jams.

Why not try out fare-free transit just for one month?
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AKG
@Let's Try It:
Island Transit is funded by fuel taxes and vehicle levies rather than fares. It also has a grand total of 18 routes (along with paratransit, etc.) and according to Wikipedia, "Island Transit operates from 3:45am to 8:30pm, Monday through Friday, and from 7am to 7pm on Saturday. The buses do not operate on Sundays or major holidays including New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day."

Consider how much it would cost to fund TransLink operations in the hours that our region currently runs, and how much we already give TransLink in taxes, and I don't think that would be a very feasible operation.
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Holly Moses
It could of been that Charlie Smith got his own private bus, provided by Translink.
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Charlie Smith
Holly Moses,

Touché.

Actually, I hopped on the Hastings bus just like everyone else.

I rode the bus home, too, after writing this article. That one was more crowded and a bit less pleasant.
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