Sunday, April 4, 2010

Why can’t Canada get more rapid transit?

Canadian urban dwellers should be envious of SE Asian rapid transit users. Both Bangkok and Singapore have extensive mass rapid transit (MRT) systems very much like Vancouver’s SkyTrain system, with connections to their airports.

Bangkok’s SkyTrain lines connect seamlessly to interurban rail systems and bus lines. Unlike Vancouver’s gateless system, both the Bangkok Transit System and Singapore MRT users go through turnstiles on both entry and exit. Payment is by distance: plastic cards are either loaded with specific fares at ATM-like fare machines; have credit that is debited for each trip; or acts as a fixed-time pass.

In Singapore, the fare at the machines includes a SGD$1 deposit for the card, and is refunded at an SMRT station. (The lack of used ticket stub litter would be reason enough to switch to this sort of system in Vancouver.)

IMG_4832The urban landscape reflects the value of the MRTs as well. In both cities, MRT stations are hubs for shopping, high-density housing and interconnected transportation services. In Singapore, the parks tend to be situated a bit further away from hubs so urbanites can walk away from where they live and shop to enjoy common green areas.

Granted, both Bangkok and Singapore are much larger than any Canadian cities. However, as we face more and more problems with urban transportation, Canadians should pay attention to such examples of what can be done with mass transit.