Our friends in Seattle look like they will adopt a mileage-based fare system rather than a zone system. I know TransLink is looking into possibly implementing a similar system here. There has been talk at different levels of government about it. However, nothing has truly come to fruition.
I know that I have found myself on one side of Boundary Road wanting to get to the other side. A 10-minute ride from East Vancouver to, say, Metrotown or Brentwood, should cost you $3.75. But a crosstown 1-hour ride to UBC could cost you a cool $2.50. That’s always been the annoying part of the zone system. In a tight urban centre like Metro Vancouver, the zone system may not work as it should. In the days where Boundary Road was the middle of nowhere, it may have made sense. However, both sides of Boundary Road are built up and people travel freely by car between East Van and Burnaby. In fact, many people would rather drive 5 minutes across Boundary than pay $3.75 for a 10-15 minute ride into Burnaby. The same can be said of those living in the Lougheed – North Road areas of Burnaby and Coquitlam. Most people would rather drive than pay and extra $1.25 just to get to the mall on the other side.
The zones seem to work okay for bridges because there is a sense that you are crossing an actual natural boundary that may seem worth the extra cost. Those in familiar with travel in Hong Kong know that if you cross the harbour via train or bus, you pay extra. If you travel by train or bus through one of the many mountain tunnels in Hong Kong’s New Territories, you pay extra. Cars pay extra for the same crossings. That seems fair to me.
So it will be interesting to see how the Seattle LRT’s new fare system will perform. It will be good to have a local example that we can follow. I would think the same mileage based fares would work well in Vancouver, as well.