Transit and the Big Picture


Here is one area that our community has struggled with; why pay if it doesn't work? Would it work better if we paid more? Maybe we don't pay for service? Maybe we don't need a service?

Some interesting ideas were floated this week by Councillor Patricia Heintzman in her blog and then opened for discussion on the ever growing Squamish Speaks. What really caught my eye the idea of a fareless system, that transit can be so much more then just moving people around. The idea that our approach needs to consider the larger implications in the community - the cost of carbon, the cost of road and parking infrastructure to sustain a car centric community, cost, cost, cost...  

Now, I chewed on this one; on one hand, transit is heavily subsidized, so the increase in spending to cover fares is not that severe at these service levels. On the other hand, what is the motivation to be efficient and responsive as a transit service?

Which direction would be in the best interest of our community?

Thankfully, Squamish has an incredible regional transit advocate in Murray Gamble who pointed out a very important fact: The District has already bought and paid for a comprehensive transit plan!

Real data, real analysis, and no gut feel.

This plan demonstrates the needs of tour transit system going forward, and places a spotlight on 2 glaring issues:

1. Squamish is under serviced by transit.

2. Transit is under serviced by Squamish.

So the solution should be easy - throw money at it? Not so fast...

I think that these recommendations are a great place to start, and should form the minimum standard for the transit service in Squamish proper, but I don’t think we have properly explored the impact transit could have on both the revitalization of downtown, and the economic development of our entire community.

When designing a transit system, we must consider how transit design can move commerce, and give people places to travel on our system.

Downtown should be the urban centre of our community, with transit options supporting evening shopping, arts, dining, and nightlife. Our citizens need to be able to access our urban core from all areas, with predictable scheduling and efficient routes.

Our growing education sector needs to be properly served so they can fully engage in our community fabric.

Our recreation needs to be connected to our accommodation.

The list could go on, but the point is:

Transit is central to the success of our community as a whole, and needs to be approached as infrastructure, no different than the other municipal services.

Instead of costs alone, we should consider the value of transit for building and supporting our whole community, making it accessible for everyone, and driving commerce.

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