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How Would Russia's Squat-to-Ride Subway Ticket Machines Fare in Vancouver?

DH Vancouver Staff Dec 19, 2013 9:48 am

As Vancouver is crowned the most congested city in North America, perhaps the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 promo, Russia’s squat-to-ride subway ticket machines, could hold the key to all our transit woes.

Most of you may know by now – especially those of you unlucky enough to be stuck behind the wheel for hours on end, day-in and day-out – that last month Vancouver gained the dubious title of being named the most congested city in North America.

According to the rather innocuously named TomTom Traffic Index, as covered here on Vancity Buzz, Vancouver surpassed the dizzying heights and sobering lows of LA’s infamous gridlock for the first time ever.

In the world’s most accurate barometer of traffic congestion in 169 cities across six continents, Toronto came in an equally frightening seventh place, while Canada’s other largest city, Montreal, rounded off the list at #10.

The Amsterdam-based company uses real-time data from millions of its GPS customers to track traffic flow; comparing travel times during non-congested hours (free flow) with travel times in peak hours.

The index used real-time GPS data to evaluate traffic speeds on 1,263 kilometres of roads in Metro Vancouver and examine more than a million vehicle kilometres, and found that Vancouver’s congestion has increased 2.8 per cent since last year. In fact, the average journey time in Vancouver is 36 per cent longer during rush hour, and the delay per year for a 30 minute commute equals 93 hours, or 11.6 working days.

That’s one statistic I’m sure we all wish we could unread.

In general, it was discovered that Vancouver travel times increase by as much as 60 – 90 per cent during morning and evening rush hour, respectively. Some of the key congestion bottlenecks identified were along Cambie Street, Broadway and Terminal Avenue in Vancouver, River Road in Surrey and Delta, Taylor Way in West Vancouver and Steveston Highway in Richmond.

Now, all is not lost as the likes of Richard Walton, chair of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation, previously cautioned that the data could be seen as skewed because drivers have a greater tendency to use their navigation systems for the very reason that they’re travelling the most congested routes and are looking for a way out, to put it mildly.

For further consolation, last year well-known Reuters blogger Felix Salmon also criticized the index for flaws in its data collection; including the fact that it’s gathered from people who use its GPS devices so it may not be representative of the population as a whole, and he believes drivers are less likely to use a GPS device on routine commutes, and more compact cities are penalized in the process.

But let’s cut to the chase.

While some transportation experts put forward real-time “HOT” – or high-occupancy toll lanes that allow single-occupancy motorists access to HOV lanes for a price that rises in real time as road congestion rises (not as sexy as HOT after all) – as the solution to all our commuter problems, we may just have to take a leaf out of the book from the most unlikely of places…

The 30 Squat Challenge

It might seem like an unusual source of inspiration, especially given calls this week to boycott the games due to human rights violations, but organizers of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi may just be on to something to help quell Vancouver commuters’ daily road rage and clear our streets in one fell swoop.

The Russian Olympic committee has been creating campaigns to increase physical activity among the general public over the past several months, including an initiative that gained media attention last month for offering free subway tickets to people who could step up to the plate – literally – to perform 30 squats in less than two minutes.

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Olympic Change, which is responsible for the ticketing scheme, is collecting similar ideas, crowdsourcing different ways to get people active and amped for the games. So far, people have submitted everything from bike-powered mobile phone chargers to musical stairs, and switching the hanging handles on buses to accessible exercise bands; giving one winner announced this month the chance to bring their idea to life.

So, would you be up to the challenge, and would a quick fitness session a couple of times a day entice more people to use transit rather than wasting their lives away on our roads?

Think about it. While Vancouver enjoys one of the highest transit riderships in Canada – with nearly half of trips made by walking, cycling or transit, according to city data – we still have quite a ways to go to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Our reputation as a health-obsessed nation also makes us the butt of all jokes (a perfectly sculpted butt, mind you, thanks no doubt to all those squats) as fitness crazed, superfood-lovin’ freaks, so fitting in some leg work to get to work could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Aside from the public humiliation of the machine being able to tell if you’re cheating (or having a smug fellow commuter correct your form, or those too-cool hipsters having difficulty performing a proper butt-kicking squat in their skinny jeans), many would agree it would be worth it for a free ride on the Skytrain, as well as to soften the blow of the daily grind.

It could work for buses, too. Maybe you could even do a few “HOT” lunges, or hold a perfect plank to get the SeaBus?

Imagine the camaraderie it would inspire, with fellow passengers cheering each other on, or helping each other out. They may say we’re a “No Fun City” and that we have a tendency to be anti-social, but throw down for twenty and we’ll show them!

Nothing like a bit of healthy competition to bring people together.

Fitter travellers could even offer to “do the time” for those not physically able, while the fitness industry could get in on the action with free promotions; handing out deodorant, protein treats and even discounts. A squat in the right direction to putting an end to the obesity epidemic?

Of course, the flip side of this fitopia is that none of this would be at all inspirational were you running late. But, at least you’d be running somewhere…right?!


Rachel Healy is a Corporate Communications & Social Media Manager, and guest contributor to Vancity Buzz. Connect with Rachel at and on Twitter @RachelHealyIre

DH Vancouver Staff
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