New deluxe bus business targets Vancouver-area mobile workers

Pacific Commuter will ferry workers from Langley to downtown Vancouver on a three month pilot. They offer free wireless, a kitchen and bathroom, and bike storage in a lavish coach bus.

Gillian Shaw interviewed the founders for the Vancouver Sun:

Chris Geoghegan and Darian Kovacs, founders of Pacific Commuter, were inspired to create the deluxe commuting club by the Google bus – Google’s own shuttle service to its Mountain View headquarters ferries 3,500 employees to work every day in leather-seated, wirelessly connected comfort.[]

Rather than jostling for a seat on crowded transit trains or buses, or driving in traffic, the commuters will cruise along in reclining leather seats, sipping lattes and working on desktops that flip down in front of each seat. The bathroom counter is marble-topped, there are 11 screens for movie viewing, a kitchenette and a quiet area for making phone calls.

The bus leaves Vancouver just after 5 p.m., reaching its last stop in Langley close to 6: 30. Commuters can bring their bikes with them and the commuter club’s annual fee includes a Car2Go membership and a 30-minute credit in the short-hop car-sharing service.

At $395/month with an annual membership, this is a cost-competitive commuting option for workers who live outside of the City of Vancouver that delivers benefits driving a private vehicle cannot.

Working with Car2Go is a good partnership, though I’d like to see the incentive be expanded and matched with other complementary regional services.

Innovation in mobility services is urgently needed in the fast-growing region. Commuting in single-occupant motor vehicles is expensive and dangerous for society and road infrastructure is over-used, expensive to maintain, and inefficient. Hopefully this new business encourages Transink and the provincial government to improve public transit service outside of Vancouver and further support alternatives to driving.

While it is a welcome alternative, this model risks the rise of dual transit systems – a constrained and poorly-funded public system and an un-restrained private luxury service.

Transport researcher Todd Litman points to ways public transit systems can encourage ridership, through amenities like wireless internet and more comfortable vehicles. The underground data coverage on Vancouver’s Canada Line rapid transit has spoiled me and its absence is a frustration when underground on the older Skytrain lines in downtown Vancouver.

In summary: We should make public transit more comfortable, rather than making comfortable transit more private.