As bus riders, everyday we live with the inadequacies of Vancouver’s public transit system. From the curfew that bus riders are stuck with since TransLink cut the Night Owl buses, to the high fares we have to pay just to move about our city, to the inaccessibility of much of the transit system to people with disabilities and parents with strollers, to the long waits and crowded buses that are our everyday reality -- we know that this bus system needs serious improvements:
• We need our Night Owl buses back!
• We need more buses on overcrowded routes.
• We need lower fares to make this system truly accessible to the mostly low-income people who rely on it.
• We need clean-air buses and trolley buses to improve the air quality in our neighbourhoods.
• We need wheelchair accessible trolley buses and better service for people with disabilities.
WHAT IS RAV?
The Richmond/Airport/Vancouver Rapid Transit Project is a new $2 billion Skytrain being pushed by TransLink. A Skytrain to Richmond and the Airport might sound good in theory, but remember the Millennium line, when bus riders paid with cuts to bus service and increased fares.
Like the Expo and Millennium lines, the proposed RAV line will leave TransLink with a massive debt to pay, forcing the transit authority to make bus service cuts and raise fares again! Massive debt prevents TransLink from investing in public services, like the buses that a vast majority of transit users rely on.
Worst of all, the Provincial government and TransLink are pushing for the RAV line to be a ‘Public-Private Partnership’ or ‘P3’. This means that while the public will pay almost the entire bill for the new line, private corporations will be the ones to profit -- from the lucrative design and construction contracts, right down to the operation of the line, which will be contracted to a private company with a guaranteed profit.
As is typical of public-private projects, the public provides the money and takes all the risk, while private interests profit.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR BUS RIDERS?
A billion-dollar investment in the bus system would be a real benefit not only to the over 80% of public transit users who rely on the bus exclusively, but to everyone in the region who would benefit from a cleaner environment, and a more liveable and socially just region. Unfortunately, rather than investing money in the bus system that most public transit users rely on, TransLink is looking to spend $2 billion on a Skytrain from Downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the Airport, a project which is being pushed by real estate developers, commercial property owners, the privately operated airport, Olympics boosters, and others who think they can turn a profit on the backs of bus riders.
It’s clear from their actions that the bureaucrats and politicians at TransLink don’t respect bus riders or our priorities. Bus riders need to get organized to make social justice and public health, not profit and prestige, the priority at TransLink!