Late Night Debate

This week on CTV News they’ve been investigating an ongoing problem in Vancouver around the new drinking and driving laws and alternative methods for getting home safely.

The worry to get home after a night out isn’t a new one. If you’ve known me long enough you’d know this is something I’ve been complaining about since my younger days when nightclubs appealed to me and I was stuck in the suburbs. If you’re not so lucky to have known me quite so long you’d still probably know about my constant problems with finding a way home late at night either through out Twitter page or through this post on the blog.  This isn’t just my problem, but a problem for everyone who likes to go out at night and stay out beyond 1am.

With recent changes to the drinking and driving laws it has become more of a public concern. If you’re unaware of the changes that came into effect on September 20,2010 the new laws say that a person driving cannot have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 or higher.

Police in B.C. can now issue an immediate roadside prohibition to an impaired driver with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .05 or higher. (The BAC is based on a breath sample into a roadside screening device.)

The vehicle the person is driving can also be immediately taken off the road and impounded for three to 30 days.

Costs related to these offences can add up to an estimated $600 to $4,060—even if it’s the first time a driver is caught. (source)

0.05 BAC is not a lot, so under the new laws they’re saying that even one drink could land you in trouble with the law. Let me state right now that I’m not debating the law. I have no problem with the law and think anything to take drunk drivers off the road is a good thing. My problem is the with the lack of options given to people who decide to drink and do not want to drive home. I know this is a blog dedicated to Translink, but I want look at all the options and how they’re just inadequate in handling these new driving laws. Fear not, because while many areas need to pick up the slack, I think Translink has a huge role to play in keeping drunk drivers off the road.

One of the best options to get home safe would be the designated driver (DD). This option is of course only good if you or your friends had cars, but for those of us who don’t have cars the onus can sadly fall on one friend. Believe me when I say that one friend isn’t going to be your friend for long. Back in my suburban days I was the one friend with a car and I spent countless nights watching my friends get drunk while I was the ride home. Guess what, after awhile it’s not so fun driving your drunk friends home and you tend to make excuses to miss the next big night out.

Your next option is the taxi. This is the option that lawmakers and transit defenders like to throw out at you. In principle it is a good idea, in practice not so much. First off the lack of taxi’s is a huge problem, and apparently even worse since these laws came into play.  CTV ran a story about it Wednesday night that you can find here that outlines the dilemma.  The basic problem is that there are simply not enough cabs for the amount of people. Another problem lies in the fact that some people just can’t afford taxi’s. I’ve paid $30 to get from downtown to my house in East Vancouver, at that time of night it’s only a 15 minute drive so I can only imagine the price to pay to the suburbs. Back in the early 2000’s I was paying about $60 for a ride to Surrey, please adjust that for inflation. With these prices and on my budget I don’t have the money to afford the cab ride home and a night out with friends.  My final problem with the cab is that as a single woman I often don’t feel safe alone in the cab, it’s nothing against the driver, it’s just that being alone with a strange man will make me feel that way no matter the situation.

In order to avoid high taxi fares and drunk driving the best option is the transit system, if only it ran that late.  Unfortunately the skytrain closes before 1:30 so not only is that option not available to us after a night drinking, but I’ve found myself stranded behind the closed skytrain gates after a late movie.  Translink also runs a night bus system, but those buses only run every 30 minutes until 3am and only travel the major routes. They don’t run towards cities like Coquitlam or Maple Ridge. As CTV also pointed out, the routes nowadays are too packed to carry all the people waiting. Translink’s official word is that at night they are doing maintenance on the tracks and cannot run the trains, while this is completely understandable that maintenance is needed I fail to see it possible that it’s being done every night of the week. Can’t they forgo it on Friday and Saturday nights, or do it after they run the trains until 3:30 or 4am?

I’m not so naive to think that this isn’t going to cost money. Running trains longer, licensing more taxi drivers, transit police… these things all cost money. But so does running road blocks, paying those officers cost money too, but there are fines coming in (I know, I know not enough to pay these prices). It’s going to cost money towards the government as well as to Translink, and I’m not against charging the bars more (they make enough off the alcohol mark up). One bar has even found their own way to stop patrons from driving drunk. The money could come from a plethora of places, Hornby street bike lanes anyone? Take money from there! The point is if they’re going to make the laws stricter, they have to provide options.

As for other options being thrown around? Drinking closer to home so you’re within stumbling distance to your front door seems like a great idea until you realize that not everyone has this luxury. I don’t have very many drinking establishments near me. And what about those who have friends spread out across the city? Downtown, Commercial Drive, Main and Kits are the biggest drinking spots, they have the most people and the most bars and therefore are the biggest places requiring the need for services. People don’t want to stay close to home, they want to go out and meet people out of their zone. Not to mention the fact that while we think that the drinking business isn’t going to be hurting from this, in the long run they just might. Already restaurants have already had to deal with loss of business due to HST, the new regulations could just push smaller businesses out of business. Just ask A Kettle of Fish.

All I’m saying is that if the government is going to change laws, then other things need to change to in order to make people comply with said laws. It’s about finding affordable, safe and accessible ways to get people home, whether they’ve had a one or two drinks or if they’re passing out on the train home. People are going to drink, it’s just a matter of getting them and the other people on the roads home safely.

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About Jen S

The purpose of life is to find humorous blog material
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5 Responses to Late Night Debate

  1. Good article, and I completely take on board the fact that you grew up in the suburbs and as such had fewer options than you do now. However what you write is based on a fallacious assumption in my opinion: that Translink owes it to the drunken public to open as late as the bars – and indeed the movie theatres – do. There are several points I’d like to address here and will attempt to remain reasonably coherent while doing so.

    I used to live on Commercial Drive. I was attracted to the area by its plentiful shops and restaurants, good vibe and what I considered reasonable rent. I’ve enjoyed many a good night out where I’ve taken the last Skytrain home at the weekend at around 1am. If I got to a downtown bar at 10pm (a relatively late entry time, I’d venture) that’s three quality hours of socialising I could do before my least expensive transport option expired. After that, if I chose to stay out later, I knew that the price of doing so would go up to around $15 or so for a taxi home. Of course extra expenses would also have been incurred drinking for those extra few hours after the last Skytrain, not to mention feeding the inevitable hunger that shows up after a few beverages.

    The key point here is choice. I chose to live on Commercial Drive. I chose to go to a downtown bar on a weekend. I also chose whether or not I’d get the Skytrain home for $2.50, or stump up the extra for a taxi. The power of choice is in my hands.

    Who’s going to pay for additional transit? The already heavily-taxed public? Translink is already tapped out in its fundraising efforts and has hosted three recent public pow-wows to gauge public opinion on yet more taxation (in the form of higher property taxes and a new per-vehicle tax on all vehicles in the Lower Mainland) to fund their Evergreen Line expansion to Coquitlam and a host of other improvements and additions to the Translink setup. Don’t expect Translink to find any money down the side fo the couch. This means they need help for any pipe dream of further transport to happen.

    It’s not just Translink that would have things to pay for, either. Later Skytrain opening and more night buses would mean a significant increase in the policing presence necessary to safeguard those on the way home. Having that many inebriated people packed together in the one place is asking for more trouble; people’s emotions heightened, their inhibitions lifted, their civility dulled – it’s all going to need more minders with hip-pieces involved. Who’s going to pay for the extra police?

    The last people you need to worry about making money are those in the drinks industry. They are not in this to feed their families. I’ve been in a lot of places on this planet of ours, and not once have I ever heard of a bar closing down for lack of business. Indeed, the city is extending opening hours for many bars outside of downtown (Commercial Drive, Main St, Kitsilano) to the new weekend closing time of 2am. Does the fact that the bars applied for these extensions in the first place suggest that they care whether their patrons have transport options at that time? You do the math.

    At least part of the funding for anything like this should come from a tax on drinking in establishments which choose to stay open past a certain hour, and also from an increase in the licensing costs for same. These places choose to stay open to serve you who choose to go and stay out later. You – and they – must ultimately pay for the decisions you make.

  2. Jen S says:

    Well argued, I agree with a lot of what you say. Of course, I didn’t say that Translink was the only party responsible for change. I believe that something needs to be done by all of these services, sadly that will cost more money but if they’re going to enact harsher laws and penalties then changes must be made as well. As for making the choice to get out and get home before the skytrains close, well I have an arsenal of stories that could argue that I do try to get there before they close, but sadly depending on buses to get me there on time (I’m obsessive about getting to the stops early when I know it’s the last bus) doesn’t always work.

    Well you (and sometimes I) are responsible and get to the translink on time, I’m even willing to get a cab, there are so many others out there not thinking ahead like that, or want to stay out past 1. Those people are then often turning to their cars, taking the side roads hoping to avoid road blocks. But they’re still driving drunk. Drunk drivers= dead bodies. I don’t know about you but raised taxes are a price to pay to save lives.

    You make some good points about the bars as well, but yes some of them are in the business to feed their family. The businesses off in the beaten path do close down due to lack of business… lack of business from people unwilling to go out due to the new laws. Abbotsford, Langley, Maple Ridge, their bars and restaurants are suffering due to lack of transport (buses as well as cabs) options. I know people in the industry, I’m not pulling these ideas out of nowhere.

    I too have been to many places in this world, and you can go out until the wee hours of the morning and get safe, affordable rides home. If this city wants to continue parading itself around that it’s a “World Class City” it needs to start acting like one.

  3. Lauren W says:

    Longest comments ever. Well done friends. :)

  4. Pingback: Little Piece of Heaven | Tales of translink

  5. Nobody is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to drink are they?

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