Short Story

Metro Vancouver’s transit network is hugely popular – almost 40% of the population uses it during a normal week. It’s the greenest, safest way to get around, and offers a lifeline to people forced to live further from their work because of rising rents.

Unfortunately, for many the transit network feels like it’s bursting at the seams. Riders will tell you they’re constantly late for work because of full buses and traffic congestion.

What’s missing is a grassroots effort to elevate the voice of transit riders. Groups in other cities have shown us that when transit riders work together, we win.

We’re focused on winning better transit in Metro Vancouver, but we can’t do it without you.

Your contribution will help us secure millions of dollars worth of transit improvements.

Vancouver, Canada

Building a Movement for Better Transit in Metro Vancouver

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Denis Agar
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“I would like the 49 to be more frequent because it is often overcrowded in the mornings. There are some days where I am skipped by 4 buses in a row, and it is the only way I can get to school.”

-Rider of route 49

Seattle. Boston. Indianapolis. The stories keep coming from cities across North America of major improvements in transit service. Meanwhile, the only stories coming from Vancouver are major increases in overcrowding and buses moving slower than ever. Vancouver now has the second highest rate of transit usage per capita in Canada or the US, behind only New York City. But our capacity to accommodate these riders has essentially been frozen for years.

There are countless transit riders in this region, but we have been overlooked in the regional conversation. In other cities, riders have demonstrated that when they organize, and work together, they can win enormous improvements in the network. For example, when Toronto planned to close a rail line in Scarborough for years, TTCRiders fought for a temporary busway that would keep that neighbourhood moving quickly on transit. The City opposed it, but at the last minute, the mayor bowed to the riders and made it happen.

When riders work together, they win. Movement founder, Denis Agar, is a transit rider and a TransLink employee of 10 years. He is inspired by success stories across North America. “I kept seeing these successes in other cities,” says Denis.  “Seattle has a bus lane on almost every downtown street. These cities had rider groups that had been established for decades. Vancouver is long overdue for a transit riders’ movement.”

Why support better transit in Metro Vancouver?

  • Climate Change
    • Aside from the fossil fuel industry, personal vehicles are the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia. In other sectors, climate measures can be a struggle to get support for. By contrast, with transit, so many people are trying to ride that we have overcrowding. When we make transit faster, more frequent, and more reliable, we acknowledge those that are trying to ride and attract even more riders to the system.
  • Access to Opportunity
    • Academic research shows that transportation is one of the most important ways of enabling people to escape poverty. When transit gets better, workers can get to more potential employers, giving workers more bargaining power and more flexibility.
  • Social Justice
    • The neighbourhoods with the highest levels of residents from traditionally excluded groups also have the highest levels of transit usage. As housing costs get more prohibitive, and so does the cost of owning a car, we find that some of the most expensive housing is in places with the best transit access. With simple measures like transit priority and increased service, transit access can rapidly be improved to more affordable neighbourhoods.
  • Growing the Economy
    • We expect many people to move to Metro Vancouver in the coming century. Some cities, like Houston and Los Angeles, have tried to accommodate rapid growth with massive freeways. We know that in our region this would cost enormous sums of money, and result in the destruction of billions of dollars worth of homes and businesses. Transit, on the other hand, is much more space efficient, allowing us to grow without destroying major pieces of our economic engine. And TransLink’s ridership numbers show that people are already trying to make the shift, we just need to make room for them on the bus.
  • Safety

What we’re fighting for:

  • Faster, more reliable buses
    • There are so many ways we can re-design our streets to make buses faster and more reliable. TransLink says that traffic congestion costs them an extra $80 million worth of bus service each year, and that cost is  growing. Cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, and Boston are rapidly rolling out bus lanes that save riders time and require less buses. Those spare buses can be used to address overcrowding and expand service. One of the few bus lane projects in Vancouver saved enough buses to break even in 0.4 years (p.58 of PDF). The reason we don’t have more projects like this is because city staff fear a huge backlash to removing parking or traffic lanes. Let’s show them that the supporters outweigh the opponents.
  • More buses
    • TransLink has identified that Metro Vancouver needs at least double the amount of bus service it has today. We say that’s just the beginning! In the next 25 years, our region is projected to grow by one million people, and we need almost all those new residents to have a good alternative to driving if we’re ever going to meet our climate goals. Thus far, no government has stepped up to actually fund this doubling of bus service. If we don’t build support for this essential expansion, it may never happen.
  • More rail
    • SkyTrain has really been the secret to Metro Vancouver’s transit success. Expanding the network is a huge investment, and it’s also totally worth it. We want to ensure the region invests in better buses urgently, so that we have enough riders to justify more SkyTrain in the future.


Help us empower riders to fight for better transit in Metro Vancouver – donate today!


In partnership with Movement.









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