If this is your first time reading this blog I recommend you start with the first one .
** Disclaimer – I’m probably a lot crazier than most people as I tend to walk/bike all over the place and distances don’t really phase me. As such, many things I find common and easy to do could very likely be tough and inconvenient for others. This is clearly not a “how to” for going car-less but rather “how I” manage to do it .**
This Christmas I headed west to celebrate the holiday with my girlfriend’s family. This being my first time to Vancouver, I was looking forward to taking in all of the sights. With less than a week to run around, it was going to be a full plate of events and I was hoping to carry on my car free habits on this trip. My girlfriend already knows of my adventures and she’s just as active as me, so we were both prepared for lots of walking and bussing. Her family lives in the suburbs of Vancouver so it works out to be a 30-45 minute drive into town or similar by transit (faster if rush hour). Our first day there we were heading to the aquarium and our first adventure in big city transit.
Now just to give an overview, Vancouver has busses and sky-trains as their main public transportation. They cover such as large area, you can buy passes that allow you to continuously transfer without paying another fare at each new transit. It breaks down into a 1 zone, 2 zone or 3 zone pass (transit areas are broken into geographical zones). The 2 zone passes we required lasted 90 minutes and allowed us to get where we were going, but there are stories that transit from some sections of town exceeds the 90 minutes and you have to buy a new pass.
The first thing I noticed was the transit ticket system is far more advanced than in Thunder Bay and in a good way. The tickets are digitally stamped each time you use them and there are booths to buy tickets at every major stop. Entering a bus or sky-train is as easy as swiping your ticket. Transit also seemed widely used, especially the sky-train. The sky-train caters to commuters who wish to park in the suburbs and take transit into the City thus avoiding traffic and parking issues. It’s a great idea and one I’ve seen in southern Ontario with GO transit. One thing that was slightly shocking was that all of the sky-trains were computer controlled. There were no human pilots, which had me hesitate a bit, as I have a few misgivings about trusting someone’s computer “code”. But I quickly sucked it up and got on board.
When we arrived downtown, I soon found that not knowing the bus routes quickly turned into “let’s walk! It’s just down the next block”. Not that I minded but honestly I bet we walked 15 km a few days with our criss-crossing around town. That’s not exactly the most time efficient way to travel but being on vacation allows for these time sinks. Add to this the constant rain (aka green Christmas) and I got really good at holding an umbrella over two people as we navigated the City. I also noticed that leaving home with an umbrella was as natural as bringing your house keys and wallet.
One thing I disliked about the transit system was the lack of transit maps. We arrived at a major bus station only to find there were no maps on the walls or pamphlets to grab. There were no transit staff monitoring the ticket booth (as it was a holiday) and we were running out of options to figure out what bus to take. If it wasn’t for a phone call to my girlfriend’s transit savvy father we’d probably still be standing at the bus station trying to figure out which bus to take.
Overall, I think the system in Vancouver is very impressive. I think the ticket system would be an improvement for Thunder Bay but I don’t believe we’re big enough to bring in the sky-train option. It would also be nice if Thunder Bay had an express bus route across town (which imitates the sky-train). As it stands now you’re stuck taking bus routes that do the stop and go adding commuting time which makes the system less attractive.
But overall, I do have to say I am glad to be home as everything seems that much closer. It is also very comforting knowing which bus goes where and at what time. Ah Thunder Bay :)
Stay tuned for my next post as I am going to rant about Thunder Bay taxi prices!
Until next time!
Posted By Gillian on 1/4/2011 10:49:49 PM
I wonder if I came to Thunder Bay if I could find my way around on the bus system....I bet i would have to call someone. Did you hear about our B-line express buses from Skytrain to UBC?? only limited stops.
Re: Vancouver transit
Page last updated on Wednesday, March 02, 2011