Stephen Rees's blog

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

Translink misses the bus

with 4 comments

Today was supposed to be the perfect storm of demand for the transit system. Except for one thing that the planners and PR people forgot. High schools do not work a full day first day back.

Actually this is just as well since Translink does not plan to carry kids to high school. Or at least not in Richmond. Sure if they get lucky they might find a service. But take the newly enlarged London-Steveston High School at Williams and Gilbert. On the ground breaking, east-west Community Shuttle C93. Just the thing to get the high schoolers from South Richmond to school. Actually this route also serves a number of other schools. Or not. The first westbound bus leaves Riverport at 0815. So for London students it will not get them to school on time. The first eastbound bus leaves Steveston at 0800 – and of course to get there it had to leave the garage (sorry, “operating centre”) at Shell Road and Steveston Highway at 0745 or thereabouts. Of course, it could have run in service along Williams, but it doesn’t. It says “Sorry Not In Service” (the most popular destination sign in the box) and runs empty along Steveston Highway instead and picks up no-one. It could be in service and pick up some fare paying passengers but that would be too much like operating a public service that meet the needs of the community.

Who do we blame for this? The service planners at Translink who specify the service or the service planners at CMBC who actually work out the operating schedules? Or maybe it is deliberate. After all,  the singular most notable feature of the Community Shuttle is the little bus – about the size of a bread van – that cannot cope with peak loadings from places like high schools at 3pm.

Community Shuttle at Steveston

I bet that with a little research, I could turn up more examples like this. Or maybe we could ask Translink to release the data of all those phone calls they get every September from people who would have liked to get the bus but found it was so badly scheduled it did not meet their needs.

At one time the policy was that every trolleybus was in service from the moment it left the operating centre. After all, there was no time to be saved as the trolleybus cannot overtake another trolleybus. But for some reason I notice that policy was abandoned a few years ago. Trolleys are now as mulishly closed to willing users as every other bus. There used to be concern about the amount of time equipment spent “deadheading” – it was the sort of problem that transport economists were supposed to help get a grip on. Well, no longer. Casual observation suggests that in recent years deadheading has increased significantly. Don’t expect Translink to publish any useful data on this or indeed any other operational issue.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 4, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Posted in transit

4 Responses

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  1. You know, I experienced something very similar. I used to go to high school out-of-catchment due to French Immersion, and I had to wake up at 7am, to arrive at 7:45. School started at 8:30, and of course the next bus didn’t arrive at my school until 9:10. Too late.

    Same situation after school. Bells rang at 2:45, but the bus has already passed through at 2:30. So everyone had to wait 45 mins till 3:30 to finally leave for home. It was completely ridiculous. I’m glad I don’t go there anymore, especially spending 3-4 hours commuting there and back again everyday when it’s nothing but a 15 minute drive.

    I’ve been pondering for a while about how school districts could partner with Translink to perhaps reduce the load of kids taking yellow school buses and put them onto public buses. It would encourage a better sense of community, although I can already hear the parents screaming murder about the safety of their kids. But then, why does Translink run some “school specials” in North Surrey?!

    Paul Hillsdon

    September 4, 2007 at 7:47 pm

  2. The reverse is happening in England. Schoolkids on public buses are regarded as a nuisance – too much noise and larking about. But the kids all watch The Simpsons, so they think the yellow school bus is “cool”, because that is what Bart uses. So yellow buses are now being used for school runs.

    For Translink, scheduling is much more concerned with designing shifts to utilize their workforce than meet passenger’s needs. I once suggested we try clock face interval schedules – which are common in Europe and very popular as they are easy to remember especially for infrequent services. You should have heard the howls of outrage – from the schedulers!

    I don’t know about North Surrey but perhaps they date from the time when Doug McCallum was Chair.

    Stephen Rees

    September 4, 2007 at 7:58 pm

  3. The trolley deadheading policy is strange; I am not sure why deadheading back to Oakridge was best done in service, but doing the same from Hudson and Marine is not worth doing. It would provide a nice little late-afternoon service boost on Granville. (I was thinking that the new policy could have been due to the Granville route being so infrequent that many trolleys would have a clear path to the garage, but there hadn’t been trolley service on 41st in years, so that would have been even more true for OTC.) The real efficiency will come when overhead is extended down Marine to Victoria.


    Many of the school specials were added when Community Shuttles replaced low-volume suburban routes in Surrey and the Tri-Cities. If you look them up on the TransLink website, you’ll notice that their numbers tend to share the last two digits of the former big-bus route — 828, 848, 855, 863 and so on.

    I would think that school boards would want to encourage more transit use if only to reduce the traffic jams at many schools. I bussed it through all of high school (which wasn’t all that long ago), as did a fair number of my classmates. We students weren’t always popular with the operators on the 112 route, though!

    Ian King

    September 4, 2007 at 11:05 pm

  4. […] the Straight has used the Freedom of Information Act to get the customer service reports.  When I wrote about that recently, I really did not know […]

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