It’s I Love Transit Week and we’re chatting with Nathan Pachal, a man with many different hats. He’s a broadcast engineer, urban commentator, blogger at The South of the Fraser Blog, and now is running for Langley City Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @npachal.
Why do you love transit?
For me, transit is an important part of creating accessible communities. I grew up in the small City of Vernon in the Okanagan. My mom actually never learned to drive (my dad could drive, and I got my driver license as soon as I could), so I did a lot of walking, cycling, and taking transit growing up.
Vernon was also a retirement community with a walkable downtown. Many seniors choose to live in Vernon because of its walkability.
Unlike large roads, and huge parking lots, transit actually supports walkability, giving people transportation choices.
On a personal note, transit is a great value for me. The money I save by not owning a car, paying for insurance, gas, and maintenance, can be spent on the things that I enjoy like going to a show, eating out, or travelling.
When did you first start being interested in transit?
Growing up, my family would go to Metro Vancouver at least once a year to visit family and friends. One of my aunts lived in Fraser Heights (Surrey) and the others lived along the Broadway Corridor (Vancouver). Whenever we went to Metro Vancouver, we’d just leave the car at our relatives and use transit; even in Surrey. I still remember the tiny tickets you’d get at the SkyTrain station, and the paper transfers.
As a kid, I thought that the SkyTrain was the coolest thing since sliced bread. It was really high tech, I wished we had SkyTrain in the Okanagan to get from Vernon to Kelowna.
When I left Vernon, and moved to Calgary to go to school, I really saw the value of transit. The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) subsidized transit for its students, so I was able to get pretty much anywhere in Calgary via the CTrain. Because of the cost-effectiveness of transit, I was able to work a minimum-wage job, and pay for school debt-free.
What’s your favourite mode of public transportation?
Honestly, my favourite type of transit is high-quality transit service like the new 503 and 555 Express Bus Services, West Coast Express, and SkyTrain. Since the 503 was introduced in Langley, my travel time has been cut in half from Langley Centre to the SkyTrain.
What do you do with your time while on transit?
On transit when I’m alone, I blog, play video games, watch TV shows and movies. With friends, I normally have some pretty good chats.
You write a lot about transit planning. Why is that an interesting subject matter for you?
Like I said earlier, I believe that transit plays a key role in supporting accessible communities. Maybe I played too much SimCity as a kid, but I want to live in a community where I can walk to local shops and take transit to get to destinations farther away. I find that accessible communities also have a sense of place that I enjoy. For example, it can just be fun to hang out at Douglas Park in Downtown Langley.
Auto-oriented communities don’t have that same sense of place or community to me. One of the things that I really want people to understand is the important role that transit plays in community building. Also, as I’ve travelled to pretty much every major city in Canada and the US, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I want to share that information with others, and share best practices in creating great communities.
Have you had any great experiences on transit that you’d like to share?
The best part about transit is when you run into people you know, and maybe haven’t seen in a while. If you run into someone in a car, it’s normally not a good thing, but on transit it’s an excellent time to chat.
When I run into people on transit, it makes me feel part of a community even though Vancouver is a pretty big place.
Do you have any parting thoughts about transit and your love/interest in it?
The most important thing for me is to let people know how important transit is for creating accessible communities, how good our transit system is in Metro Vancouver, and the importance of continuing to invest in improving access for people that live in Metro Vancouver today while accommodating the close to one million more people that will call our region home in the coming decades.