A few weeks, I posted a tweet about The Atlantic Cities article on why Germans ride five times more transit than Americans, and I’m sure, more transit than Canadians too. Then a friend responded back and said that he’s encountered a lot of people locally “who refuse to take transit because they feel it’s beneath them.”
I started to wonder about that statement and wonder why it would happen in Vancouver. For the most part, TransLink has been the victim of its own success. So there is the start of transit culture in Vancouver. Ridership has really grown in the past few years.
Drew Reed wrote about transit culture in the United States on This Big City:
For example, in a typical office in the United States, it’s common for workers to stop and chat about their commutes, complain about traffic, and exchange tips on short cuts that in actuality will probably make commutes even longer. It’s far less common for anyone to talk about their day on the bus or train, and the net effect of having a car-only office environment is that everyone is left with the desire to always commute by car.
So Drew uses water cooler talk to illustrate the lack of transit culture in America. Then he compares that experience in the US to his experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina where everyone seems to know the bus system well.
Absent are the perplexed looks when you tell a stranger you need to take a bus, and the occasional inquiry of, “You mean you don’t have a car?”
I don’t think it’s so bad here in Vancouver. Quite a few of us at work know our local bus routes and we share our stories of SkyTrain crowding, B-Line pass ups and alternative bus routes to avoid problems. I do also here the stories of traffic through the tunnel and along Highway 1.
At least in my workplace, there isn’t a feeling that “transit is beneath them.” Those who can take transit, do take transit and those who can’t, don’t take transit. That just depends on where you live in relation to work. However, there will always be those “who refuse to take transit because they feel it’s beneath them.”