In this week’s issue of SFU’s paper, The Peak, I found a really great thought-provoking article by Lisa K. Freeman about transit methods. In contrast to many articles about transit and transit alternatives, the author was not a raving lunatic environmentalist but instead provided a rational, well thought out, and balanced perspective.
This article got me reflecting on my own mode of transit. In the past, I’ve been highly dependent on my car. I received it as a high school graduation gift when my dad bought his new Civic and drove it pretty much daily ever since. This was almost a necessity when I was living out in Maple Ridge, as just getting to the bus stop from my home by foot was over 30 minutes, then a 1 hour bus ride to Coquitlam Station, and a further 40 minutes up to SFU, making my school commute well over 2 hours. The drive typically took me about 50 minutes in normal traffic. Added to this the fact that I often spent long hours at school at the time, taking a bus was hardly an option (never mind a bike!).
The situation changed slightly when my family moved out to Pitt Meadows a few years ago, I had a bus stop right outside my house and the commute became a little under 2 hours by bus. However, I still spent long hours at school, and just under 2 hours is still a long time to be busing in each direction.
Then in May of 2006, I moved to Japan for a one year internship. Of course, no car there, but I lived nearly downtown and the driving there is so bad that I wouldn’t of wanted a car had I the option. Over that one year, I got really used to being car-less and had my first real taste of city life (apart from a brief stint in Vancouver one summer where I drove 15 minutes each way to work in Richmond). It was quite great, and in many ways very liberating. I never had to look for a parking spot (apart for my bicycle). I rarely missed my car, apart from when I wanted to go somewhere not accessible by transit.
Forward to the present situation. I’ve now moved out to East Vancouver and on a major bus route both east-west and north-south. The SkyTrain is a 15 minute bus ride away. My school commute is now only 40 minutes on public transit (versus nearly an hour by car!). It’s really changed the way I go about my day. The fact that most of the stores I need on a day-to-day basis are only a short walk away is a big help as well. But, I still have my car.
Originally, my plan was to get rid of my car and go transit only. However, I’ve found many situations where it’s quite useful: emergency store visits when time is short, trips, my periodic visits to the parents, or just going somewhere that takes an inconveniently long time by transit. So, I don’t think I can do completely without it just yet. However, I have cut down my car usage drastically. Where I was previously refilling my tank nearly once every five days, I now go an average of about two weeks. And that’s because I’m still not quite settled down. I think I’ll be down to a tank every three weeks in a while, apart from road trips and the like. Not too bad.
In the end, I’ve guess I’ve reached a pretty happy medium. I’m trying to use my car as little as possible, and almost always with some passengers. For everything else there’s public transit. I think I’m happy with this setup.
On a closing note: one thing I really noticed is that in the year that I’ve been gone, TransLink service has improved greatly. I’m very happy to see hat our government is expanding our mass transit infrastructure instead of only improving the roads. Better transit means more people using it, and that’s always good.
As for you, if you’re not a transit user, I suggest you give it a try, at least from time to time. As I mentioned, it’s not really suitable for quite everything, but I really believe it’s good enough most of the time. I think if you’re not a transit user yet, you’ll be surprised at how well it works in many situations.