These pages recently carried a story about the current boom of apartment, townhouse and condominium
construction in Richmond. The boom will lower as many as 3000 housing units into the core area in the
next two years, and will swell the area's population by at least 6000 consumers.
All good news for local businessmen, especially the car dealers.
Three thousand more housing units means at least 3000 more carports and parking stalls, plus a thousand or two visitor's parking spaces. These all must be filled, if Richmond is to continue to be known as the Hubcap of Vancouver. There is a reputation at stake here, and it is up to those car dealers to fill those stalls.
And they will be filled, if the Urban Transit Authority has nothing to do with it, as the authority proposes.
The story noted the UTA, the ride-by-day operation that runs the bus system, such as it is, in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, was informed of the building boom by the municipal planners, to allow it "to plan more routes for the area, but. . . it intends to wait until the projects are completed before acting."
Perhaps they are going to wait until the carports are filled, before acting. That would obviate the need to act, and fits with the put-the-car-before-the-bus attitude that prevails in the planning department of the UTA.
They are planning to miss the bus, again.
It is a pity they are dragging their wheels. Such an influx of people is a perfect opportunity to market the bus as a good, cheap alternative to the car.
The UTA offers the last bona fide bargain in this corner of the world. The last time I bothered to add up the payments, the insurance, the depreciation, the maintenance and the fuel and oil bilis, I found my car costs over fifteen dollars for a round trip. The same round trip on the bus costs $1.20, or less, if you play your cards or transfers right. Transfers are now good for a period of two hours on any bus.
The UTA also has a high-profile product. The only thing with a higher
profile than a bus is an omnibus.
A good deal, and a high profile. This is the stuff of an advertising campaign. The UTA should get out and hard-sell it, and show those car-dealers a thing or two.
Radio advertising during the daily crawl hour would help. Soft, female voices purring "come for a ride with us, on the bus," would perk up the ears of any cursing, seething motorist as he crawls through traffic. The sight of an express bus hurtling down the buses-only lane, allowing the stalled motorist a glimpse of riders reading newspapers, playing cards, or watching the movie would surely drive the point home.
The motorist would trade in his fair car for a fare card the next day.
The UTA could announce plans to dress up its service. Taking cues from the airlines, they could plan to offer first and second class fares, reserved seating on the Monday morning eye-opener special, and to bring in stewardesses to serve coffee and bring newspapers to riders on long hauls, or to serve a glass of bubbly on the Friday afternoon runs. Subway riders in New York are greeted by a beer trolley when they board so why not treat bus riders in Richmond the same way? Make those freshly-converted riders feel like kings of the road after a hard week's work, and they will never drive to work again.
For the short hauls about town, the UTA could talk about designing special buses for shoppers, with ample room for shopping carts and bundle buggies. Buses with bicycle carriers for cyclists with fear of bridges, buses with extra leg room, buses with smoking lounges and fleets of roving buses wandering around picking up whoever flags them down. The UTA should be planning all these things, and talking loudly about them.
Whether they come to pass is beside the point. Making the noise, hyping the service, doing the old hard-sell is what it is all about.
And, if a few car dealers lose their jobs because people are switching over to the bus, they can always get jobs driving buses.
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Last updated: Sunday, 15-Feb-2009 02:45:18 EST