Thursday, March 31, 2011

Much money wasted collecting fares on public transit

Letter from Dave Olsen (Canadian free public transport advocate)

It seems that when it rains, it pours, especially with elections.

Not that any of them have improved anything for the average person for a long, long time; they have enabled the rich to get richer but I'll save you that one for another time.

The Provincial NDP have a leadership race on right now. If you're a member, you can vote for their new leader.

I was astonished when one candidate, Dana Larsen, asked me for more info about Fare-Free Transit. After our chat, he asked that we do a video together. It's short and concise and I've received very positive feedback from it.

You can view the video here:

What inspired me to write this email though, is that Dana has created two platform pledges from this work: making the Skytrain Fare-Free and then converting all of the BC Transit systems to Fare-Free.

He really seems to understand the necessity of moving our transit systems to Fare-Free:

  • we need to help people out of their cars if we are to survive as a species
  • it costs more to collect fares than to not collect fares in every community in BC, save Vancouver and possibly Victoria. Shockingly, we have no idea how much net revenue (if any) is actually generated by the farebox in either of those cities.
Don't get me wrong: the political/electoral system that is in place will make these kinds of changes next to impossible, regardless of who is elected.

But if you believe in peaceful change from within, then here's a rare opportunity for you. Fare-Free Transit has happened in many other places in the civilized world, so it could happen here, too.

For more on Dana's and the other candidate's platforms, you can read them here:

If nothing else, spread the news that a potential Premier wants to make it easier for you to take transit!

PS. In related news, the Ontario Legislature just voted to remove the right of transit workers in Toronto to strike, deeming the TTC an "essential service." This is on the eve of the Amalgamated Transit Union contract expiring at the end of this month and on the heels of Wisconsin, Michigan, and other US states' legislatures removing the right for public workers to collectively bargain.

ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear stated in response to the legislation: "If we are so essential why hasn't there been legislation to properly fund the transit system."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Traffic mayhem or common sense?

It's said a picture is worth a thousand words. Take a look at these graphs and see if you can make any sense of the government's response to oil prices rising and it's transport policy. Damned if I can. (hat tip to Auckland Transport blog and frog blog)

Traffic volumes on State Highways have not increased since 2005.

The pink line is heavy traffic, the blue line is all traffic. Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

Patronage of Public Transport in Auckland has increased since 2005

Source: ARTA

Spending on improvements to State Highways has increased dramatically since 2006, but spending on public transport and road maintenance has languished

Source: Cabinet papers.

And if you are still unconvinced about the connection between fuel prices and a recession in the New Zealand economy - take a look at the graph compiled by Marty G at The Standard

"Of the 8 quarters in which petrol has averaged over $1.77, 5 were followed by a quarter of recession and the other 3 were followed quarters with 0.1% growth. Of the 17 quarters where petrol was below $1.77, the economy shrank once in the following quarter, was flat once, and grew 15 times."

With petrol at around $2.15 a litre and rising, and leaking billions out of our economy and wallets, and with the transport trends staring us all in the face - why would a government that prides itself on good economic management be so myopic and not have a plan? Ideology trumping common sense?

Denis Tegg 22 March 2011, re-posted from his blog - oilshockhorrorprobe

Monday, March 28, 2011

A spectacular year?

Public Transport – a spectacular year?–-a-spectacular-year/

It is good that there is an overall percentage increase of public transport use of 8%.
But is it enough?

In a world where private transport is one of the leading causes of CO2 pollution and resulting climate change, to really make a difference we need percentage changes of hundreds and thousands of percent increase in public transport usage.

The present profit driven free market public transport model will never cut it.
Fare Free New Zealand points out that the way to achieve the sort of increase we need is to make all public transport fare free.

According to Wikipedia Public transport in Hasselt This Belgium city saw an increase in public transport usage by 100% in it’s first year of introducing fare free city wide public transport. Since then increases in public transport have topped 1300% ridership increase.
Apart from this phenomenal increase in public transport patronage Wikipedia lists a range of other benefits.

Operational benefits
Transport operators can benefit from faster boarding and shorter dwell times, allowing faster timetabling of services. Although some of these benefits can be achieved in other ways, such as off-vehicle ticket sales and modern types of electronic fare collection, zero-fare transport avoids equipment and personnel costs.

Passenger aggression may be reduced. In 2008 bus drivers of Société des Transports Automobiles (STA) in Essonne held strikes demanding zero-fare transport for this reason. They claim that 90% of the aggression is related to refusal to pay the fare.[2]

Commercial benefits
Some zero-fare transport services are funded by private businesses (such as the merchants in a shopping mall) in the hope that doing so will increase sales or other revenue from increased foot traffic or ease of travel. Employers often operate free shuttles as a benefit to their employees, or as part of a congestion mitigation agreement with a local government.

Community benefits
Zero-fare transport can make the system more accessible and fair for low-income residents.[citation needed] Other benefits are the same as those attributed to public transport generally:

Road traffic can benefit from decreased congestion and faster average road speeds, fewer traffic accidents, easier parking, savings from reduced wear and tear on roads
Environmental and public health benefits including decreased air pollution and noise pollution from road traffic
Global benefits
Global benefits of zero-fare transport are also the same as those attributed to public transport generally. If use of personal cars is discouraged, zero-fare public transport could mitigate the problems of global warming and oil depletion.

Interestingly one of the other major benefits of a fare free public transport system is that it actually may work out as cheaper.
Are free buses the answer to Bristol City’s transport problems

A spokesman for Free Bus said: “Bristol City Council subsidises the bus network for £4.7 million per year, whilst entirely free public transport in Hasselt, Belgium, costs £4.2 million per year. The cost of a fully loaded short-hop bus journey is 23p per passenger.”
When you think about the £2 or £3 fares you currently pay for a bus journey in the city and the profits they must be making you wonder why we haven’t aleady pursued this Free Bus initiative.


27 March 2011 - a response to posting on NZ blog: the Standard entitled: 'Steven Joyce [Transport Minister] still living in the 20th century.'

Friday, March 25, 2011

Telecom Partners with Auckland Transport: reduces congestion

Friday 25 March

Telecom partners with Auckland Transport to reduce congestion

Auckland Transport has teamed with Telecom to develop a plan of sustainable transport measures to implement at their new Telecom Place building on Victoria Street, Auckland.

Telecom aims to educate staff on their travel options and challenge their current choices of commute to and from work. Employees are being encouraged to use peddle power, pound the pavement, car pool or simply use public transport as a more environmentally friendly and cheaper way of getting to work.

As part of the partnership Auckland Transport is offering staff free travel on all bus and train services in April to entice staff out of their cars. It is also offering Telecom the use of their Rideshare software to help staff find a carpool match.

Auckland Transport’s Matthew Rednall applauds Telecom on developing a travel plan.

“Telecom has more than 2400 staff working at Victoria Street. Potentially there is a large number of staff that will accept the travel passes, give public transport a go and hopefully continue with it long after the trial period.

“If people can leave their cars at homes it not only helps reduce congestion and pollution associated with heavy traffic but offers wide-ranging health benefits to employees themselves – not to mention cost savings,” says Mr Rednall.

Free travel passes are offered to all organisations developing a Travel Plan to help facilitate change in commuter behaviour.

Telecom’s Corporate Communications Consultant, Stephanie Fergusson says that a company survey conducted in June 2010 showed that a large number of staff would be willing to change how they travel to work if public transport was accessible and affordable.

“As we have significantly decreased the number of car parks in our new building to comply with our Five Star Green rating, it is excellent to see that people are willing to use public transport and carpool, and it is very heartening to have Auckland Transport’s support on this.

“We also encourage active transport to work, by providing 22 showers with ironing facilities and more than 200 lockers and cycling facilities on-site at Telecom Place,” says Ms Fergusson.

On Wednesday 16 March, Telecom launched its first initiative, a public transport clinic.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eureka moment came while stuck in a traffic jam

...So what do we do? It came to me while sitting in a traffic jam: why not make public transit free while providing a whole lot more of it?
Before you stop reading or call the guys in the white coats to come get me, hear me out.
The more people who currently drive that we can get out of their cars and into buses and trains, the easier it will be to get around our roads for those of us who choose to keep driving (or have no other choice but to drive). Fiddling around with a few extra bus routes or a new train line is not going to make a big enough difference. We need radical change or those traffic jams will just get worse and worse and worse.
The first step is to send a strong signal to people by making hopping on a bus or train absolutely free. Cost is not a deciding factor for a lot of people, but it is for some and, more importantly, anything that makes it easier and more attractive to take transit should be adopted....

Read on... SurreyBeacon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Welcome news" - costly Hutt Valley road building plan scrapped

The Hutt News,
Feature letter, 15 March 2011.

News that the proposed Cross Valley Link road has been scrapped is surely welcome for Hutt residents.
Even more welcome would be signs that the Council is ready to look at the alternative solutions needed to solve our city's transport woes.
VAN - Valley Action Network led grassroots opposition to the Cross Valley Link from 2007.
We didn't oppose it just because of the cost to ratepayers, who would have borne much of the $76 million price-tag.
Building more roads also fuels the growth of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
It ties us to cars for our transport, just as the world's cheap oil supplies are running out. Who can afford the price of petrol now?
Construction of the Link would have impacted on scores of properties and on the ecology of the Hutt River, Te Awa Kairangi.
True, the congested Petone Esplanade does need relief. It carries 30,000 vehicles per day.
Around 3,000 are trucks carrying freight from Seaview and Gracefield. Freight could go by train, with less impact on our climate too, if the Gacefield rail line was re-opened as the Petone Community Board suggests.
Many of the other 28,000 vehicles carry commuters. Commuters sick of being stung at the pump would happily switch to public transport if it was made frequent and free.
Past Mayors and Councillors battled for decades for the Cross Valley Link. If the current and future Councils put similar energy into the ecologically sound solutions which serve the people, we can succeed.

Grant Brookes
VAN - Valley Action Network

Hutt Valley network advocates free transit

Free and frequent public transport
- it makes climate sense and serves the people

World oil resources are growing increasingly scarce. The reserves that remain are getting harder and riskier to retrieve, leading to disasters like the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico – a disaster which could be repeated off the North Island's East Coast if similar deep-water drilling goes ahead there.
Meanwhile, transport accounts for 36 percent of Greater Wellington's climate-changing carbon emissions.

VAN believes that free and frequent public transport is needed if we're going to make efficient use of these limited and increasingly expensive resources, decrease our carbon emissions and reduce congestion on our roads – benefiting everyone.

A third of Hutt City residents commute outside the Hutt for work, so transport is a big issue in our city.
Many residents are all-too-familiar with sitting gridlocked in traffic on the Esplanade during rush hour, wishing there was a quicker way to get out and around the city. Investing in free and frequent public transport would make buses and trains an attractive option, taking cars off the road. Yet on October 1, instead of decreasing fares, public transport operators will raise fares once again – partly due to pressure from central government. There is no incentive to use public transport if it costs just as much to drive.

VAN believes that Hutt City Council should support resistance against fare rises imposed by central government.

Earlier this year, our council sat silently as other city and regional councils made submissions against transport minister Steven Joyce’s plans to make public transport users pay more for services. He singled out Hutt Valley train users as a group who should pay more. The submissions had some effect in watering down this policy.

VAN will stand up to central government against fare increases for Hutt Valley residents. VAN also believes that public transport should be more frequent and reliable. We will advocate for increases in rail services, because trains run largely on renewable energy, and more frequent feeder buses to train stations.
We would advocate for bus lanes which would keep buses running to schedule, and cycleways that would increase safety and promote this emission-free mode of transport. Another issue with public transport currently is that bus companies are privately owned, but get around half of their income from public funds. It makes sense for bus services to be publicly run, because without the profit motive the focus can be on providing quality public transport.

Councils know that free public transport decreases traffic congestion. Many cities overseas have already introduced it. New Zealand cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Invercargill run some free public transport services. Trains will be free in Wellington on Rugby World Cup quarter final day. Wellington Regional Councillor Paul Bruce has called for free inner-city buses in Wellington on weekends.
But at the moment, the council and central government's main focus is on building expensive new roads.
Hutt City Council supports spending over a billion dollars on a single new motorway through Transmission Gully. They also want a $76 million Cross Valley Link road and a Grenada-Petone link worth $250 million more, which will destroy the Korokoro Reserve in Belmont Regional Park. Building more roads will encourage residents into cars, burning more fossil fuels and increasing carbon emissions. In the long term, this will not reduce congestion.

Recent official analysis has concluded that the Cross Valley Link has a low cost benefit ratio, meaning the government is unlikely to fund it. Hutt City residents will be left to bear the cost. So far $18 million has been set aside by the council for the Cross Valley Link. VAN will push to divert a small portion of the massive roading budget for the region towards public transport, and make it frequent and free.

If elected, we will:

• Advocate for public transport over more road-building in all public forums
• Scrap plans to waste millions of ratepayer dollars on a new Cross Valley Link
• Press the Greater Wellington Regional Council to increase the frequency of rail services on the Hutt Valley line
• Advocate for more bus and cycle lanes in the Hutt Valley
• Support other authorities and campaigners in the region to lobby the government for more money for public transport
• Oppose any government moves to privatise Tranz Metro or the rail network
• Investigate plans for local councils to directly run bus services, and then move to reduce fares towards zero.

From VAN - Valley Action Network website:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Freeway or free way

North Coastal columnist
, Del Mar Times, San Diego USA.

The proposed widening of Interstate 5 has triggered renewed discussion of how to expand the use of public transportation so as to reduce the need for ever-more freeway lanes.

Such discussion often revolves around three variables – convenience, frequency, and cost. More people would use public transit (1) if transit stops were nearer to people’s homes and workplaces, (2) if buses and trains ran more frequently, and (3) if fares for public transit were lowered. Also, it would be nice if you could take a bus or a train to the airport.

Providing more routes, more stops, and more frequent buses, however desirable, is enormously expensive. And governments are broke. And we are unsure if we would ever recoup the public investment in more stations, stops, drivers, and rolling stock. So let’s consider the third variable, lowering the cost of transit use.

Since 2002 Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has enjoyed free public transit on all fixed-route bus service and EZ-Rider service for the elderly and disabled.
The University of North Carolina, faced with the enormous cost of building and maintaining parking lots and parking structures, formed a partnership with the cities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to provide free bus service. The buses are fare-free for all area residents and visitors, not only for the 40,000 UNC students, faculty, and staff. Ridership has more than doubled in the nine years since the fare-free policy was adopted.

What if UCSD, SDSU, the VA Hospital, the Navy, and the Marines formed a consortium to subsidize free public transit for San Diego County?
What if they were joined by large private-sector employers such as Qualcomm, Sempra, Solar, General Dynamics, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Callaway Golf, SeaWorld, Cox Communications, Wells Fargo, Jack in the Box, NASSCO, SAIC, AT&T, BAE, SBC, UPS, XYZ, ETC? You know who you are.

Other partners might include city, county, state, and federal governments, colleges and universities, community colleges, school districts, the Postal Service, the zoo, the big hospitals, the Indian casinos, the major shopping centers, Hotel Del Coronado, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Collectively, these entities employ or serve hundreds of thousands of people every day – most driving solo to their destinations. Collectively, these entities spend untold millions of dollars every year on parking facilities and services.

If buses and trains were fare-free, many more people would ride them. And traffic, congestion, pollution, and new freeway construction would be reduced.

Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pennsylvania city may go fare free

Future Centre County bus riders may have the option of showing identification instead of fumbling for change each time they board the bus.
CDT/Christopher Weddle: A rider boards a CATA bus along College Avenue.
A state-funded study set to start later this year will analyze the universal access concept, which allows mass transit users to ride without paying a fare at that time.
While the “U-pass” system often targets student populations, the study also will analyze a scenario for broader Centre Area Transportation Authority bus riders.
Penn State Altoona uses the system with the city’s Amtran bus service. Students ride free with their student IDs and riders older than 65 can ride free with a special Amtran ID card.
Greg Kausch, CATA and Centre Region Council of Governments planner, presented the plan for the study to COG’s Transportation and Land Use Committee on Monday, and has done so elsewhere to collect feedback and answer questions.
The study, which Kausch said he expects to begin in late summer or early fall, will last about 20 months. CATA received a $100,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Community Transportation Initiative to pay for it.
L. Eric Bernier, CATA’s service development manager, attended the meeting Monday and said universal access is not new, but the time is right. Kausch added the study works well with Penn State’s Intermodal Transportation Concept, which seeks to make the University Park campus more pedestrian-friendly, with fewer vehicles and better mass transit.
“We hear this referred to as free transit, and it’s certainly not free,” Kausch said.
“It still involves a very large investment in the transit system, and that has to come from somewhere.”
Committee Chairman Jeff Luck, of Patton Township, expressed concern about losing revenue from visitors to the area who ride the bus, though he said he supports the concept.
Luck also raised the issue of losing revenue from the “mini-universal access” system already in place between CATA and apartment complexes, which pay CATA for bus passes, then provide them to their mostly-student tenants.
Bernier said CATA receives $1 million in revenue from apartment agreements annually and there are 6,000 to 6,500 bedrooms under contract, typically with one person in each.
“That’s probably held back efforts to universal access,” he said. “I can’t imagine any scenario where that would go away and the municipalities would pick it up.”
Kausch said students have questioned whether university fees would increase to pay for a universal access plan. While other university communities have done that, the funding question is “tricky” and the study will analyze options, he said.
“The majority of ‘fare-free’ systems in the U.S. do utilize some sort of enhanced funding from a local university, whether that comes from student fees or some other source,” he said. “Others employ a transportation-dedicated sales tax.”
Penn State Altoona spokeswoman Shari Routch said the program with Amtran, about a decade old, is funded in part through the bus company, the campus and the student activities fee.
“I do know ridership has increased every year that the program has been in place,” she said, noting recent increased course offerings in downtown Altoona. “The students have really embraced the concept of taking the bus from one campus to another.”
The local study also will consider how the system could benefit CATA.
“Moving into the more abstract, universal access would result in increased operational efficiency and decreased fare collection costs,” Kausch said. “Some of these savings could be put back into operating service.” --CentreDaily

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Billionaire oilmen secretly fund the climate-change denial machine

- Greenpeace USA

Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine | Greenpeace USA: "Explore Koch's Web of Dirty Money and Influence
Billionaire oilman David Koch likes to joke that Koch Industries is 'the biggest company you've never heard of.' But the nearly $50 million that David Koch and his brother Charles have quietly funneled to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter."