Culture of Transit

In some of my recent readings, I have come across the term “a culture of transit.” It made me wonder what that meant. It was not clearly defined in my readings, so I was left to apply my own meaning to it.

I take “a culture of transit” to mean that people and society fully accept that transit is a part of daily life and is an essential part of moving from point A to point B. I am not sure if that is what those people meant.

I can’t even remember where I read the term exactly now, but I believe that the reporter was interviewing somebody in a transportation authority in either New York or London. Or perhaps Michael Geller mentioned it in his presentation that was recorded in March 2008 at SFU Harbour Centre. (Details get fuzzy when I don’t “press” an item right away).

Definitely, New York and London are places where I could imagine that there is a strong culture of transit. With a huge number of choices to move around the city, people in those cities fully utilize transit whenever possible.  Plus, there are a large number of taxis in those places which really is a more flexible form of public transportation.

Many Asian cities have a strong culture of transit. In Hong Kong, most people cannot afford to own a car because of the expense of purchasing a car, maintaining a car, and paying for two parking spots (one at home and one at work). The vast majority of people in Hong Kong take public transit of some sort. And it’s not just trains. The traffic jams along Nathan Road in Kowloon are really mostly double-decker buses mixed in with taxis and delivery vans and the odd private vehicle. Most transit fanatics know about Hong Kong’s extensive rail network, the MTR (formerly MTR and KCR, which were two separate companies), but Hong Kong’s lifeline of transportation really is it’s extensive bus network. The bus network is not really designed to be just feeder routes like they try here.  They are meant to offer a true alternative to the train and get you to parts of the territory that are not connected by train.

Downtown Toronto certainly has a culture of transit.  Toronto’s city centre is criss-crossed by streetcars and the subway serves most sections of the core.  Many live in those downtown apartments without owning a car and get to work simply by walking.  If they are tired of walking, they can hop on a streetcar.  And if they are really in a pinch, they’ll flag down a cab.

So when the first thought for travel becomes taking the bus or train, then we’ll have a true culture of transit in Vancouver.  In the meantime, we have a long ways to go.

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