Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Union demands more buses

with 5 comments

Georgia Straight

I am pleased to able to endorse the union’s sentiments. The trouble is that new buses cost a lot of money and take newly two years from the date of the order to the date of delivery. And they need operators. I understand that CMBC is not only short of operators, but is having trouble recruiting more. And these additional buses are needed right now.

Buying second hand buses from the States (where transit systems get new ones every twelve years) might work, if you are picky about where you buy them from (smaller systems like Everett look after them better than big ones like Seattle – or rather keep up the maintenance as they near the end of their service life). You might be able to rent a few from other systems – though I suspect that most Canadian cities see transit ridership increase in the winter as cycling and walking is less attractive in cold weather. Dave Stumpo (former President of CMBC) once bought back a load of scrapped trolleybuses, thinking they could be put back into service. They weren’t.

How about hiring some coaches? I imagine that the private sector has quite a few standing around underutilised from the tourist season. Very high floors and narrow entrances on most of them, so they are not exactly suitable for inner city service, but they might free up some city buses by using them on longer, suburban routes. Of course, the union might have something to say about that too. And no fareboxes on them of course.

Could BC Transit help? Does transit use decline in Victoria off season? Probably not, but maybe transfer some in from other places?

Are we scrapping buses being taken out of service as the replacements arrive? Can some of the better examples be cannibalised to keep some in service a bit longer? Can we step up deliveries of community shuttles to get bigger buses off low ridership routes?

I have the feeling that both CMBC and Translink would dismiss all these ideas out of hand. But something must be done, and soon. And I have little faith in either organisation suddenly becoming creative. Except in coming up with excuses about why nothing will be done any time soon.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 23, 2006 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Transportation

5 Responses

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  1. Saw on the news last night that a couple of semi-tractor trailers hauling a couple of the new trolley buses were involved in accidents on the snow covered Coquihalla yesterday. The story didn’t mention if the trolleys were damaged or not.


    November 23, 2006 at 4:31 pm

  2. Why such a long lead time on new busses? Can’t you order them off the shelf?


    November 24, 2006 at 9:24 am

  3. Lead times are shorter in other parts of the world. BC Transit was most recently buying buses from Dennis in England, partly for that reason, but also because their double deckers and midibuses better met specific needs.

    There are only a few suppliers of buses in North America, and they produce vehicles that meet the specifications dictated by Washington for transit vehicles that qualify for federal funding. There is no such program in Canada, and bus procurement tends to proceed in fits and starts. So Canadian cities cannot place orders well in advance to ensure regular replacements arrive on time. When they do have funds, they have to take their turn behind the regular customers. We also tend to buy Canadian – which means New Flyer (Winnipeg) Orion, MCI (both Ontario somewhere – I’ve lost track of what used to be GM) and Nova (Quebec). And, as far as I can tell, while they all look pretty much the same but each city goes to great lengths in producing its own spec. Not quite custom built but might as well be.

    Stephen Rees

    November 24, 2006 at 9:52 am

  4. Coming across the Arthur Laing Bridge at around 4:30pm yesterday I glanced into the bus garage – the yard had lots of buses. I did not have time to count of course, and some spares and some undergoing routine maintenance one might expect. But at that time of day – the peak of the afternoon peak – shouldn’t as many as possible be out on the streets? Or is the shortage of staff mean that they cannot turn out the planned service? Or is the planned bus usage deliberately below capacity?

    Stephen Rees

    December 5, 2006 at 3:21 pm

  5. Pictures of the two tractor trailers loaded with trolleybuses on the Coquihalla were posted to The buses appeared to be well strapped down but I doubt the trailers will be usable again.

    Stephen Rees

    December 8, 2006 at 9:45 am

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