Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Translink draws idiotic conclusion from survey!

Some months after answering an online survey from Translink, I received the following in email. I think their reasoning that $637 million was lost to the economy because people chose not to take single-occupancy-vehicle trips is truly insane.

Just because people don't take trips all alone in their cars doesn't mean they don't spend the money they want to spend! One, they might be spending it closer to home instead of driving into downtown - that would be great for their neighbourhoods. Two, they might be postponing their shopping until they can do more things in one trip, maybe a trip taken with someone else in the car.

I think we should be grateful that people are not taking so many trips alone in their cars to distant locations in the city. Keeping those cars from being used in a wasteful manner should be viewed as a goal, not a tragedy! There are places to shop all over the city, we don't need people getting into cars and driving like Zombies to any particular location without reflection.

Boo to Translink's rhetoric, and yay to sensible people in the Metro Vancouver area!

The Cost of Congestion to the Environment and the Economy

Dear Panelists,

Here is what you had to say about trips you don’t take by private vehicle because it’s too difficult to get there. We’ve made a calculation of the impact of this on the economy. Being stuck in traffic also impacts the environment, which this study indicates you highly value. The link to the full report in the Members’ Library is found at the bottom of this report.

Best Regards,

The Team at TransLink Listens


Metro Vancouver residents value both a healthy economy and a healthy environment. Their responses to a February, 2009, survey indicate that a transportation network in need of investment is costing us all. Although the Canada Line and Golden Ears Bridge have been opened since the time of the research, an efficient transportation network will continue to be a challenge, in part due to the large numbers of people forecast to move to Metro Vancouver.

NRG Research Group estimates that, based on results of an online survey completed by 2,621 Metro Vancouver residents in February, 2009,10.6 million single occupant vehicle trips were not made during the preceding year, 2008, due to congestion and lack of a simple, direct route. People choose simply not to make the trip because it’s too difficult to get there.

This resulted in residents not inputting an estimated $637 million into Metro Vancouver’s economy, largely in the retail, food and entertainment sectors.

NRG state that, “regardless of the accuracy of participants’ estimates, one thing is clear: Many Metro Vancouver residents believe that traffic congestion and routing problems are seriously impacting their ability to get around in a vehicle, and their purchasing in the area. Considering the size of BC’s economy, participants’ estimates suggest that they did not contribute what could have amounted to 4% of the relevant industries’ GDPs.”

In addition to simply not making some trips, drivers are driving alone less--mainly to save money (81%), but also to save time (60%), and due to environmental concerns (47%).

People are finding the following ways to save time and money on their single occupant vehicle travel:

#1 Combining SOV trips (56%)
#2 Switching SOV to transit, cycling, ride-share (41%)
#3 Changing the time of day for SOV trips (30%)
#4 Choosing a closer destination (29%)
#5 Replacing SOV with online solutions (28%)

In addition, more than half of drivers (58%) say they are being more diligent in their vehicle maintenance.

Attitudes toward the environment were explored in the same study. Close to 9 in 10 local residents (88%) are very or somewhat concerned about the environment and global warming.

The most effective solution to global warming, according to local residents is “governments worldwide taking unified action” (88%), followed by “planting more trees” (87%), “using renewable fuels” (83%) and “educating those unaware of the impact of their activities” (81%).

Although residents point to light cars and trucks as being the #2 source of global warming, they clearly want leadership and unified action on the environment.

“People want to make sure that their own individual actions to protect the environment are not offset by the actions of others who may not know what environmental damage they are doing.” says Richard Elias, Senior Researcher at NRG, who was responsible for the analysis in this report. “We think that’s part of the reason why ‘educating others [who are] unaware of the impact of their activities’ was seen as effective by four out of five local residents completing the study”.

Dr. Adam Di Paula, Senior Vice President of NRG, added:

“We are seeing unified action on the global economy. Perhaps now is the time for unified action on the environment. Better yet, maybe we could create economic solutions that also benefit the environment.”

This study underestimates the true value of congestion costs, as it focuses on the cost of lost passenger trips only, and not the cost of delays in goods movement and the cost of delays in people getting to places.

In the 2006 Transport Canada report, the costs associated with congestion in Vancouver (2003 numbers quoted in 2002 dollars) were estimated at three different thresholds of congestion (50%, 60% and 70%) and ranged from $403 Million to $629 million. The biggest component of this -- 93% of the total costs-- was the costs associated with being delayed. Other costs included the cost (at the 70% level) of 98 million litres of fuel and 243 thousand tonnes of GHG emissions. **

While the costs cited by Transport Canada can be quite substantial, they typically do not take into account the vehicle operating costs (beyond the cost of fuel), costs associated with increased emissions, costs associated with increased noise, costs associated with freight transportation, off-peak congestion costs, and congestion caused by non-recurrent events (bad weather, accidents, blockages, etc.). **

**Transport Canada: Environmental Affairs (March 2006 – Revised July 2007) The Cost of Urban Congestion in Canada.

This report is found on TransLink’s website at http://www.translink.ca/. It is also published in the Members’ Library available to people who sign up to become on-line advisors to TransLink at http://www.translinklistens.ca/. NRG caution that it is difficult to assess the accuracy of residents’ estimates in an online survey. Actually keeping a diary of single occupant vehicle trips made and those that would have been made, if there were an easy way to get there, may be a more accurate method.

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