February 4, 2023 (Sat) is Transit Equity Day. How about it, Metro Vancouver?

 A core message of transportation equity, referenced in Litman (2023). Source: Ryan “Equity and Mobility” in Transportation Talk by Ryan Martinson

Jan. 28, 2023

Looking ahead a week to February 4, 2023, we’d like to draw attention to “Transit Equity Day.”

According to avid transit commentator and analyst Nathan Davidowicz, Transit Equity Day has never been celebrated in Vancouver or British Columbia.

It seems he’s right. Searching around the web, we see some reports and talk of “transit equity” in the local context of Metro Vancouver, but could not find any evidence of mobilization or events organized to mark Transit Equity Day, past or present. The time is in 2023.

This is short notice, but perhaps someone could organize something over the next few days to get a humble start of what could be something that could do a lot of good for the world.

Below we share some excerpts Nathan shared with CityHallWatch (sister site to MetroVanWatch), then eleven key points he wishes to emphasize, and then more web links for further reading and research. These are great resources for further reading.


What is “transit equity”?

“Transit equity is acknowledging that everyone deserves safe, reliable and affordable transportation options… Whether traveling to school, work or the beach, everyone deserves to be able to get around our county. We need to invest in building a more reliable and frequent transportation service.”
Faina Segal, Friends of the Rail and Trail, Santa Cruz.

Across Canada, transportation agencies address social equity concerns in a plethora of diverse ways. However, there is little consensus on how equity should be measured, whether achieving equity through transport policy is a priority, or how equity measures can be incorporated into existing transport evaluation tools such as costs/benefits analysis.

Source: Planning for Transit Equity in the GTHA:
Quantifying the Accessibility-Activity Participation Relationship
for Low-Income Households, report for Metrolinx, by Dr. Steven Farber and Jeff Allen, 29-May-2019.

Transportation equity is a way to frame distributive justice concerns in relation to how social, economic and government institutions shape the distribution of transportation benefits and burdens in society. It focuses on the evaluative standards used to judge the outcomes of policies and plans, asking who benefits from and is burdened by them and to what extent.” 

Source: 2021 International Encyclopedia of Transportation.

“It’s that time of year! Transit Equity Day “season,” where unions, transit rider organizers and climate and environmental justice groups come together to plan actions to take place on February 4, Rosa Park’s birthday, and to declare transit equity as a civil right.”

Source: Web page with map of actions across the United States


Here are some key points from Nathan Davidowicz.  

Translink’s Transport 2050 plan (link) is not equitable and would further widen inequity in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of B.C.

In Metro Vancouver, transit operations and governance are different from any other place in Canada. While we do not have a racial divide to the extent seen in the United States we do have many equity problems that should be dealt with.

Eleven points:

1. Streamline the operation and governance of TransLink so it is transparent to all citizens. Provide proper appeal mechanisms.

2. Our statistics per capita are way off by a factor of two compared to big cities in Ontario and Quebec. Per capita we are not spending enough money on transit and active transportation.

3. Bus route statistics should be more transparent to allow comparison. Service in Vancouver was better in the 1970s and 80s, when buses on most routes ran every ten minutes or better during the busy hours of 6 am to 9 pm. If we really want more riders, we need to return to the better, more frequent service, and provide a network of express buses like in Toronto.

4. Our Stations are way less accessible and smaller than in other cities.

5. We need a bench and/or a shelter at every bus stop.

6. We need to have bus stops that are placed properly so that everyone is within a short walk (5 minutes or less) of a bus stop.

7. Our 1984-era three-zone fare system is unfair, especially for Vancouver riders. We need a system that provides discounts and exemptions (i.e., FREE Transit) for low-income users, students and seniors.

8. Our HandyDART system for seniors and disabled passengers has been grossly underfunded since Translink took it over from BC Transit in 1999. We need to better accommodate people with disabilities and other special needs.

9. Our Intercity Transit in Canada has been cut back many times by both provincial and federal governments. (More reading: https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/ford-short-sighted-governments-have-allowed-our-transportation-options-to-dwindle?)

10. We need to change our thinking about transit and treat it like any other municipal service.

11. Planning decisions should reflect a community’s equity needs and values, so it is important to incorporate public engagement that involves all stakeholders, particularly disadvantaged groups.

And now, we finish up with recommended further reading.

Nathan says we are lucky in British Columbia to have Todd Litman who writes excellent papers on transportation. Two example:

Evaluating Transportation Equity: Guidance for Incorporating Distributional Impacts in Transport Planning, Todd Litman, April 2022, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI), 7 pages,  https://vtpi.org/Litman_ITEJ_Equity_Apr2022.pdf


Evaluating Transportation Equity: Guidance for Incorporating Distributional Impacts in Transport Planning, Todd Litman, VTPI, 25-Jan-2023, 77 pages,  https://www.vtpi.org/equity.pdf

More links

Link: https://www.labor4sustainability.org/articles/transit-equity-day/
Link: https://equitytransit.org/transit-equity-day-2022/
Link: https://www.atucanada.ca/calendar-events/transit-equity-day
Link: https://uttri.utoronto.ca/files/2019/06/Planning-for-Transit-Equity-in-the-GTHA-Report-May-29-2019.pdf

Link: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2683302031
Link: https://transportation.libguides.com/Transportation-Equity/What-Is-Equity
Montreal Qc, Link: https://tram.mcgill.ca/Research/Publications/Transit_plan_equity.pdf

Transportation Equity, Rafael H. M. Pereira, Alex Karner, 7 pages, link – https://www.urbandemographics.org/files/2021_Pereira-Karner_transportation_equity2.pdf

Community events slated for Transit Equity Week (Santa Cruz), Jan. 27, 2023. To bolster awareness around issues of transit equity and honor the iconic civil rights advocate Rosa Parks, local nonprofit Equity Transit will celebrate National Transit Equity Day on Saturday with a week of free community events. Mass Transit Magazine. https://www.masstransitmag.com/management/news/21293816/ca-community-events-slated-for-transit-equity-week


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