We know that public transit works.
We know that transit gets us cleaner air, safer streets, and more freedom to move around. More transit means healthier people, more choice in jobs and housing, and stronger regions.
Transit does all this for us at a lower overall cost than other ways of getting around. It can be efficient, fast-to-deploy, and responsive to the risks and opportunities of our changing planet.
Since it works so well, let’s offer more transit for more people. Let's get more transit everywhere, fast.
Transit technologies are mature and the business case for fast deployment is strong. As a public utility, transit can bring freedom, security, and choice to us and our neighbours by taking us more places, more affordably, than we could otherwise. Transit makes living together easier and improves civic life.
Yes. Abundant transit is possible in British Columbia: fast and high-quality mobility options, owned by us, that get us around and between the places we all live. Thankfully, we live in a relatively strong democracy with a prosperous economy. Voters can change how our elected officials make decisions about using land, spending money, and regulating our transportation systems.
Making up for lost time
In the past, our governments failed to build enough transit. In the last century, new communities formed and established ones grew more populous, productive, and congested. Our leaders didn’t develop the urban transit systems needed to keep up. Nor did they expand or maintain inter-city and regional rail connections.
Today, we understand their mistake. Congestion, affordability, and climate change mean we can’t go slow anymore. We can learn from those mistakes and act boldly, urgently, today.
If we choose and do the work, British Columbians can have abundant transit.
Abundant transit means readily-available and affordable options that give a freedom of mobility that can never come from relying on your own private vehicle. It means doing what we say when it comes to implementing transit plans and making intelligent and responsible decisions about our region’s independence, security, and health.
People with abundant transit will have more choice about where to live, work, and enjoy life. Abundant transit means families can stay better connected and save money to see and care for one another. Having widespread and affordable alternatives means working people can avoid the risk and cost of a private vehicle.
Yet, communities in North America still rarely make the transit investments that the public wants, as quickly as they need.
The culprit for this delay, here and elsewhere, is electoral politics.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a transit rider. Many of your friends, family, and co-workers likely use transit as their primary means of getting around. But even though we seem numerous we still can’t get the decisions we need from our politicians in Victoria, Ottawa, and our city halls. Transit investment seems so sensible and popular, yet, transit voters are not finding success.
One reason is that the votes or transit users typically don’t count as much and our voices are dismissed by media and party officials. Zoning and the layout of voting districts mean the political power of transit riders is diluted, while the political power of those who don’t use transit is amplified. The people who currently benefit from the way land is used and roads are allocated will fight hard to keep the rules the way they are.
We see this reactionary response in the struggle for housing, too, and can learn lessons from recent victories and failures there. Often, it doesn’t manifest as outright opposition, but as predatory delay. “You can have more transit, but not yet.”
So what do we do?
BC's Confidence and Supply Agreement
Thankfully, we in British Columbia have a relatively well-functioning democracy. Our new government was formed under the assurance of a Confidence and Supply Agreement between the NDP and the Greens. As a condition of support from the Greens, the NDP government said it would “act immediately to improve transit and transportation infrastructure.”
“Act immediately,” they agreed.
If we organize, we can sustain that sense of urgency and push our provincial government to be even bolder and faster in funding transit than they would be otherwise.
Local elections in October 2018
Closer to home, our cities and towns can restore land covered by parking and overbuilt roads to better uses like transit, housing, and workplaces for complete, zero-carbon communities. Businesses and networks across the Pacific Northwest can strengthen the case for low-emission, high-speed intercity rail. Voters, everywhere, can elect decision-makers ready to put abundant transit at the top of their local agenda.
The path back to power will not be an easy one. The political and cultural interests that prioritize lone drivers and car ownership are long entrenched. We will need to work together to build the organized political power to make the massive, overdue investments in transit that we need.
We have decades of work to do
We don’t need new ideas for transit projects. We have decades of work to do already laid out, if only we had the political will to fund it.
That’s why I’m working with Abundant Transit BC. Alone, one person can only accomplish so much by voting, tweeting, or speaking up to government. I know that I want to see more transit, but our government just isn’t ambitious enough. They won’t be more ambitious unless we make them. By working together with other people across BC, we can build the courage and the political power we need to build more transit, fast.
In October 2018, voters will be electing new local governments across our province. Already, campaigning is underway. We’re organizing right now to make the case for abundant transit to voters and candidates.
Sign up here to start organizing in your local community for more transit, fast. We already know what we need, so let’s get the job done.
Mike is a member of Abundant Transit BC, a new citizen not-for-profit organizing for more high-quality public transit options everywhere in British Columbia.