Living off of Vancouver's Public Transit
If you are like me, you are probably too broke to own your own vehicle, and probably had no other viable option but to rely on the good old bus to get to places. Growing up in Richmond, throughout my years as a teenager, I have had to make use of the public transit system to go and hang out with friends, go to my extracurricular activities, etc. and over the years I began to learn more and more about navigating the system. Today, I am still unfortunately too broke to afford my own car, and while I do have a driver’s license, I don’t always have access to a car. Therefore, I am forced to live off public transit yet again. It takes me between 90 minutes to 2 hours to commute from Richmond to SFU, and right now I have to do this 4 days a week. However, at this point, I have learned how to navigate the system effectively, and safely. Of course, it would certainly be nice to get a car ride home sometimes when it is late at night, but sometimes transit is the only option on the table (unless you're going to end up grabbing an uber or taxi).
Taking public transit, and navigating through it, can sometimes be tedious, confusing, frustrating, and just simply a pain in the rear end, especially if you are new to the city. Why? Well, most of the time it does take longer to get to where you need to go, compared to driving. In addition, during rush hour, you are likely to end up cramming together with other passengers on board who are also trying to get to where they need to be. To top it off there are always those frustrating moments, like when a bus leaves right under your nose and you have to wait for 5, 10, 15 minutes or so for the next one.
On the other hand, it is way cheaper to take the bus than to pay for things such as gas (which I don’t have to mention is at an all-time high right now), ICBC’s auto insurance rates, car maintenance, and damage claims if you end up hitting someone on the road. Plus, getting through Vancouver’s traffic jams is a massive hassle, and good luck trying to find parking in areas like the Downtown Core. Using Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain system, for example, it can actually be faster to get to places as you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Even though taking public transit might take a bit longer overall, the vast network will get you to countless different places. On top of that, it can also help reduce your carbon footprint, thereby helping protect our environment.
I do sometimes encourage others to take the bus if it is feasible for them to do so. However, understandably, sometimes they would prefer to stick to other methods of transportation, such as driving, for many of the reasons I mentioned earlier; it can be slow, it can be confusing to navigate. Not only that, one significant concern that many people raise from taking public transit is regarding safety and security. Personally, I would consider public transit to be a much safer method of transportation compared to driving. However, I think whether or not public transit is considered to be safe depends entirely on who you ask. I would sometimes hear about friends of mine reporting suspicious encounters with random individuals to the point where it would be warranted to contact the Police. Assaults against passengers and operators, passengers being groped by random individuals, property crime, and people using illicit drugs on the bus, these things are unfortunately not new on public transit, especially in certain areas like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, for example. I myself have almost had to contact law enforcement on a couple of occasions. Because of this, whenever some of my friends are trying to get home via transit during nighttime, for example, I would sometimes accompany them to ensure that they get home without incident.
If you are new to Metro Vancouver, or have lived here but do not use public transit regularly, allow me to provide some travel tips that I have learned through personal experience…
1. Digital maps are your friends.
Google Maps, Apple Maps, or any kind of digital map that you could get on your phone, will probably save your life if you ever end up getting lost. On top of that, if you have cellular data, or are connected to nearby wifi, you can track in real-time when your next bus will show up.
2. If possible, go with a friend.
Better to get lost with a friend than alone. In addition, it might give you a better sense of safety & security when you’re with someone that you know.
3. Plan ahead of time
If you plan on traveling long distances, and/or at a certain time of day, it would be a good idea to plan your trip ahead of time that way you know how long it will approximately take, and which route would be more optimal to take.
4. Get a compass card
Using a compass card to get around would save you money compared to paying with cash or with a credit card.
5. Get familiar with some of the safety measures in place.
Safety is of the utmost importance. If there is a threat to your, or someone else’s, safety or security, there are a number of options you can take in order to call for assistance. If you want to report something, such as suspicious behaviour, but want to be discreet about it, you can send a TEXT to 87-77-77, and you will get in touch with the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, and they will be able to send help to wherever you are.
In summary, it is not always easy to live off of public transit. However, Vancouver has one of the most advanced public transit systems on the planet, so at the end of the day, I am grateful that I am able to get around conveniently and efficiently for less money. Do I still prefer to drive though? Sometimes…
Transit Police: https://transitpolice.ca/advice-info/
- TEXT: 87-77-77
- NON-EMERGENCY: (604) 515-8300
- EMERGENCY: 911