Thursday, July 14, 2011

Solving the public transport issue

I've done it. I figured out how to increase bus ridership in Winnipeg. Nope, it's not the much hyped rapid transit. I don't really pay attention to that since I don't generally take the bus. Near as I can tell, all that's going to do is get people to the U of M faster, which I suppose is an okay concept, don't fully understand why anyone who isn't a university student would care, but whatever.  Moving on.

So, yestertime, I had me occasion to head to The Forks (I had one of my fancy Groupon things - two smoothies from The Smoothie Bar for $5) so I rounded up the roommate (as it would have been poor form to drink them both myself) and off we went - in the car.  Now, I don't live particulary far from The Forks, and being a nice summer evening, it would have made for a nice walk, but there were other things to be done that night so time was an issue. I could have taken a bus, I think from what little I do pay attention to buses that the 38 heads there from less than a block walk from my house.

Why didn't I take the bus then? Well, for the two of us it would have been $9.40 round trip, and I already have a perfectly good car (ok, a few) that is insured and paid for and parking is free - even if parking wasn't free, for what I would spend in gas to get there + parking would still be less than taking the bus. So what is my my wild and crazy idea?

Give the registered owners (with active insurance) of vehicles a bus pass. Now, of course there are still some people who will never ever use the pass, and would probably try to sell it, so we would use our newfangled drivers licenses and their unused magnetic stripe, as the bus pass. Ideally there would also be a way to work in some sort of "buddy pass" to this system, as in order to truly maximize bus ridership it's probable that cars are shared between spouses and the like. So maybe a highly discounted bus pass for the spouse, and if they were to travel as a family maybe up to 3 others could travel all at the same time, with the primary owner "swiping them in" when they got on the bus.

So why would they do this? Well, I'm guessing that there are a number of statistics regarding the population and the number of accidents in private vehicles vs. on buses, and that the savings realized by xx% increase in bus ridership blah blah blah so Autopac might be able to chip in.  There would be some loss of revenue to the government for less gasoline purchased, although I suppose if my master plan comes to fruition, then they might need a few more buses on the road, so at least a little of that revenue would be recouped.  There would likely also be some substantial savings to be had from less wear and tear on the roads.  And just think of what development might happen when all those ugly surface parking lots are no longer needed!

Ok, so my idea might be a little far-fetched in terms of just how well it might work, but I sincerely think that it might help to change how Winnipeggers feel about using public transport.  We mostly all have cars, and we aren't going to give them up anytime soon, so how can we change how people use their cars? Maybe a twist on this could instead be that when you swipe your drivers license to get on the bus, based on the amount you take the bus in a month you would receive a discount on your insurance - maybe it could cover the cost difference between all-purpose and pleasure insurance, since the vehicle would possibly not being used to go to/from work in this scenario.

Now keeping in mind that I am a think tank fueled by Slurpee's and not the best and brightest minds from across the country that would need to be paid millions to come up with this plan (given in its most bare bones format here), but what do we think? Would you take the bus more if it was "free"? I'll admit, I would be slow to take advantage of it in its fullest, but since I came up with it, I'm pretty sure I would, and I'm a pretty die-hard car girl.

*Pats self on the back* Next: World Peace


  1. Nice! It's ideas like these -- even if they seem far-fetched -- that we need to be brainstorming. For me, taking the bus downtown or to Polo Park is super-convenient, but how often do I do it? Not as often as I should, because I almost never have change or bus tickets kicking around. I'm not commuting to work or school, so it's not like I can justify a monthly pass, but if there were just some easier, more convenient way to take the bus, I'd be all over it.

    Lots of post-secondary schools build the price of a transit pass into their tuition, and you can't opt out. They negotiate a massive group discount for signing up thousands of students in one go. I'm sure the transit authorities are losing money on it, but it's nothing compared to the various costs (financial, environmental, etc.) associated with having all of those students drive to school every day. If there was some way to sign up a huge group of potential transit users en masse - and you have made a very good suggestion - I think we could see some real change.

    I took public transit all the time when I lived on the Coast. Partly, it was because I didn't have a car, so my options were limited: walk, cab, or bus/train. But the reason I opted for the latter so often was that it was just too convenient and easy not to.

  2. Interesting idea!

    In my case, the bus effectively acts as a second car for my household. For the reasons you mentioned, it is almost never the first choice. But if all I had to do was swipe my drivers license and ride the bus at no extra cost out of my pocket, I'd be inclined to use it more often.

  3. i really like the idea of discounting insurance rates based on transit use.

    winnipeg transit will one day have to replace the antiquated payment system they're using now and the magnetic swipe card seems a rational way to go.

    incorporating driver's licences and autopac into the mix makes a lot of sense to me.

    great idea, i should drink more slurpees.

  4. so people who can already afford cars & their expenses would get a bus pass for free, meanwhile the rest of us still have to pay full price? talk about unfair. swiping the drivers license for a discount on insurance is a much more viable idea.