As a student, busing is one of the few ways I can choose for transportation. Ideally, public transportation helps people save time and money, it also makes use of the limited resources. Public transit is no longer only a means of transport, but also it’s part of the city itself. A good transit system will not only bring satisfaction to its residents, but also bring revenue to the local government. A crappy public transit system will waste tons of tax money, also bring inconvenience and resentment to the people.
CBC posted an article named “Why Canada has fallen so far behind on public transit” this morning, as a response to the transit referendum in Vancouver, claiming that the reason for Canada to have crappy public transit systems is lack of funding. It said that most of the people couldn't see the future benefit of investing on public transits. It also claimed that TransLink mishandling taxpayers’ money is “a smaller” issue compared to “long-term consequences”.
I agree, as I wrote earlier, having a good transit system is vital for a city’s success. However, the problem we have in Canada with public transit systems, is not about how much fund they get from the government, but about how they manage the systems. The public transit authorities usually have more than enough funds on hands. For example, BC Transit, the government agency that operates the busing system in most of the cities in British Columbia other than Greater Vancouver, was able to install six security cameras for each bus and bulletproof glass between the driver and the passengers on some buses. But this does not benefit any of its customers nor improve its services.
For BC Transit, the buses are always late or early; it’s odd when it’s on time. Another time I was on a bus at the departing terminal, the bus driver was chatting so happily with other drivers, and was not on the bus until almost five minutes after the scheduled time. Another time, I witnessed the bus driver stopped at a bus stop for more than five minutes, because he was chatting with another bus driver that was waiting for another bus. Sometimes I would wonder about whether the bus was okay, because the whole bus just didn’t show up; I was there ten minutes early, there was no way it came that early. Similar cases happens all the time. It could take me hours to tell all the things that drive me crazy while taking BC Transit buses.
The problem is that crown corporations are in charge of public transits, and the drivers are all union workers. This makes it hard to provide good services. No matter the passengers are satisfied or not, the drivers are going to get their pay, and the government agencies are going to get their funds.
Hong Kong has a great public transit system. Independent corporations, some have the government as the biggest shareholder, operate the metro systems in Hong Kong. Here is an article about MTR, which manages the subway and bus systems on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
The ultimate answer for “Why Canada has fallen so far behind on public transit?” is not that we don’t give enough money to the crown corporations, but that we don’t have the right way to manage the public transits.