This summer I holidayed in Vancouver and Los Angeles, albeit for one day for the latter due to a 23-hour layover, and I left leaving rather jealous of the transport options compared to my hometown of Manchester, UK.
From future-thinking public authorities to micromobility, here’s what I experienced on the West Coast.
Electric bus trial
As we were driving into downtown from our Airbnb in North Vancouver, my boyfriend and I stumbled across Vancouver’s first trial of battery-powered electric buses a few days after launch.
After a quick Google, we discovered it was a $10m 30-month pilot project by Vancouver’s transportation network TransLink, to test the technology throughout the city. The pilot will continue to look at bus performance, maintenance and customer experience.
The buses can be charged in approximately five minutes. Each bus is expected to remove 100 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and save $40,000 in fuel costs per year compared to a conventional diesel bus.
Canada’s transport in 2050
Whilst on a bus, I spotted an advert from TransLink, asking citizens about the future of Canada’s transport.
This is part of Transport 2050, a strategy for transportation in Metro Vancouver for the next 30 years.
It was the transport network’s largest ever public engagement, covering four trends reshaping transportation; automated, connected, electrified and shared.
People from across the region were asked to submit thousands of ideas for transit, walking, cycling, driving and new ways to move around the region.
Although the scenarios in the advert seemed extreme, it was good to see a public service giving a voice to residents and commuters, and encouraging future-thinking.
Phase 1 of this engagement exercise is now closed. Phase 2 will launch in spring 2020, and will involve asking the public to help TransLink consider the trade-offs between different transportation packages for the future.
These would more than likely get thrown in canals or burnt in a pile in Piccadilly Gardens if they were brought to Manchester, where vandals and thieves got the better of similar schemes. Rest in peace, Mobike.
The rows of Wheels caught my eye as we strolled along LA’s famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The electric bikes have no pedals and are used in a similar way to the many electric scooters you can rent worldwide, however scooters are currently illegal in the UK.
Renters use an app to access them, and whilst riding they can charge their phones and listen to music via a Bluetooth speaker, which is fun when it’s your own but annoying when someone ambles past with a dissimilar taste in music.
They’re much more compact than traditional bikes and don’t take up too much pavement space.
Scooters v Uber
As we were staying near Venice Beach, there were many exclusion zones for where you could use your scooter, and you’d often find yourself zooming away only to be slowed down and forced to return to another area, slogging the heavy scooter back.
I downloaded another scooter app, Lyft, to see if it had the same restrictions, and a message popped up saying they had increased the price per minute of its scooters due to competitors, of which there were many. With the multitude of Ubers, it was cheaper for us to get a taxi to our destination rather than a form of micromobility, which begs the question of what’s the point in micromobility if it isn’t as accessible and competitive, despite being better for the environment.