Stephen Rees's blog

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

High gas prices taxing public transit system

with 16 comments


Department of the Obvious. Gas prices go up, more people want to use transit. But our transit system here has been under supplied – or over capacity – same thing – for many years.

Every time TransLink adds new buses and SkyTrain cars, Hardie said, they fill up with passengers.

That is also not news. It was as true in 1998 as 2008!

But we have a provincial government that prefers to build highways. Abandon the useless Gateway project and start spending money on buying more buses, building more depots and hiring more operators. And do not wait – get on with it now. And pay for it with the increased royalties you are getting from oil and gas.

The so called “transit plan” should be jettisoned. It was simply posturing for effect. It was unfunded, pie in the sky, jam tomorrow. We need more transit now. More bus lanes. More buses. And note that simply increasing frequencies on existing bus routes will of itself stimulate further increases in demand as the improvement in service quality will be noticed by all. This is one of those beneficent spirals that we should have got onto back in the 1970s when the first oil shock hit. The years since then have been characterised in North America and the UK by a strange ability to ignore the inevitable. Cheap oil is over and its not coming back. Cars and urbanity do not mix. You cannot build your way out of congestion.

Get on the bus!

Translink P3355 Braid Stn New Westminster 2007_1220

And yes Malcolm I know you think we should buy trams too – but we do not have time now for that argument to distract us. We need to see a significant hike in capacity at the next sheet change – and that requires some creativity and “thinking outside the box”. I am not talking about strategic plans, I am talking about getting ready for the inevitable crunch in September

Written by Stephen Rees

June 10, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in transit

16 Responses

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  1. Then why does the #620 (except for weekends) runs almost empty articulated buses from Richmond to the ferry and why does the little ‘spam cans on wheels’ community buses run almost empty all year long.

    I don’t think the lack of busses is the issue, rather the inept way Translink provides service. They do not provide enough buses on high ridership routes.

    The real problem is that TransLink operates its buses as a social service, rather than a consumer product and it tells. If one has a car, one will use it, even at $1.50/litre prices. Just wait till TransLink up fares again to compensate for higher fuel prices and RAV costs, they the cost of driving will become more palatable.

    Sorry Stephen, but just where have buses attracted the motorist from the car? This is not a flip question, but a very serious one that transit planners have wrestled with for years. Any transit planner that can design a workable bus only system, that will attract the motorist from the car, has the world in his palm!

    D. M. Johnston

    June 10, 2008 at 8:52 am

  2. The times I have seen the #620 it seems to load well. BC Ferries fares have deterred a lot of drivers in recent years, and usually foot passengers get on when cars are left behind. Obviously the bus runs empty to and from the Richmond operating centre – though it need not. One quick and easy way to increase supply is to convert all those “sorry not in service” runs to revenue earners. They are going anyway – and in the case of trolleybuses cannot move any faster than the loaded bus in front – so they might as well ease the crush.

    Buses have increased ridership significantly in London – especially inside the congestion charge zone. Railways and the UndergrounD are packed and not much use for short trips. Ken bought lots more buses and paved the bus lanes with red tarmac. The improvement in service has been very well used. In many cities in Britain bus ridership rose after deregulation as service frequencies on popular routes increased dramatically as new providers fought each other for customers. Of course the same argument was used there to denigrate community services which the county councils usually refused to subsidize, creating a whole new problem called “social isolation”.

    Furthermore, every system needs feeders and distributors as well as mainline and trunk routes. That is how most networks function. Cut off these capillaries and the system dies as there is less traffic in the arteries! If you doubt me, check what Dr Beeching managed to do to British Railways.

    Stephen Rees

    June 10, 2008 at 9:22 am

  3. The PORT MANN—What a shame people have to wait half a decade or more to get transit over that bridge, Falcon claims it has to be twinned first,what a bad joke!

    I heard it here on MR.REES SITE–Just dedicate a bus lane (with strict enforcement) all the way to burnaby transit hubs, yes it will slow the REMAINING lanes down to a crawl but,wait and watch people flock to the rapid bus when they see it zoom by them full of workers reading and snoozing and LAUGHING

    Its at that point when the light bulb will go off in peoples heads “wow look at all the money and time and frustration I can save by getting on that rapid bus”

    Yet it seems (regardless of MR.REES sensible plans) that the FALONATOR and the DECIDER have other plans that have nothing to do with congestion solutions.

    grant g

    June 10, 2008 at 10:02 am

  4. I have ridden the 620 when it has been full of passengers but maybe that was just on the weekends.

    I have been told that Zurich, Switzerland is a good example of a city where many car owners use public transit for regular commuting.


    June 10, 2008 at 10:42 am

  5. Governments + Thinking outside the box

    Does not compute.


    June 10, 2008 at 1:27 pm

  6. On weekends the #620 is full, even two buses operating (1 sometimes travels via Hwy. 17 and the other turns down 52nd. to the Ladner loop), especially in the evening, but during weekdays, there is little ridership and one wonders would not an artic. bus be better used on Broadway to ease loadings.

    I was driving along Victoria St. @ 41st. Saturday, around 5 PM and 3 artic. trolleys went by; 1 crush loaded; the 2nd; moderately loaded; and the 3rd almost empty. I thought the artic buses were supposed to stop this kind of bunching. Again it seems the buses are poorly managed and one would have thought West Coast Mountain Bus would be better at it.

    I still maintain that WCMB and TransLink are very poor managers (I am also told this by drivers) and that some but not all overcrowding on bus routes could be alleviated.

    Malcolm J.

    June 10, 2008 at 2:47 pm

  7. When I first read the headline, I thought the story would be about the high cost of diesel fuel. I was thinking we need to invest in more trolley buses and other more efficient modes such as, yes, light rail/trams.


    June 10, 2008 at 5:44 pm

  8. Streetcars in Toronto suffer from the same bunching – because they can’t pass each other to take turns at getting first to the crowds at the next stop.

    The same applies to trolley buses.

    Ron C.

    June 10, 2008 at 5:45 pm

  9. BTW Port Mann is only 2 lanes westbound and 3 lanes eastbound (the expanded lane was added eastbound because trucks exiting Pacific Reach business park cannot quickly accelerate onto the bridge, so they slow traffic).
    Dedicating a lane each way for buses would mean there’s only one lane westbound.

    In comparison the City of Vancouver refuses to reallocate one of 6 lanes on the Burrard Bridge – i.e. to reduce it to the same 5-lane width as the Port Mann – but it only serves the West Side of Vancouver, not nearly as large a population as Surrey, Langley and the valley.

    Ron C.

    June 10, 2008 at 5:51 pm

  10. Ron

    I feel sure I have written this before. No one has suggested that there needs to be dedicated bus lanes on the bridge itself. All I and other members of the LRC have asked for is a northbound queue jumper on the bridge approach using the existing hard shoulder. Ideally this should be combined with ramp meters at the last two intersections before the bridge. That way the bus avoids the queue and gets back into GP traffic to cross the bridge.

    There is no congestion on the bridge itself. The congestion occurs due to traffic trying get onto the freeway at the ramps on either side of the bridge. An arrangement like this has worked at the Massey Tunnel for years, and is also being built for the approach to the Oak Street Bridge.

    Stephen Rees

    June 10, 2008 at 8:36 pm

  11. I think that the SNC Lavalin bus lane is not for the oak St. Bridge, but rather to connect to ‘Casino Junction’. After RAV opens, no buses will use the Oak St. Bridge.

    Malcolm J.

    June 10, 2008 at 10:00 pm

  12. I was just responding to grant g’s comment on bus lanes all the way to the Burnaby transit hubs (just a chance to get a dig in at the COV).

    Ron C.

    June 11, 2008 at 11:31 am

  13. Sungsu

    June 11, 2008 at 12:15 pm

  14. Dedicated bus lanes,laugh as you may but if there were those lanes and the buses went zooming by people would want to get on them.

    Human nature,if we continue to make car traffic flow fast or as fast as transit, people won`t shift.
    If dedicating lanes for buses and taxi`s and other high priority vehicles (ambulances,fire department,mounties etc) causes other lanes to crawl like turtles,so what,thats the whole idea,to get people on transit.
    I don`t like being left behind on ferries because people have reservations,(hey I was here first) thats just the way it is.

    I know one thing for sure,making the port mann,and adjacent highways 12 lanes each way is not going to get people on transit.

    grant g

    June 11, 2008 at 12:16 pm

  15. “TransLink locks in as fuel bill soars”

    “Its first quarter financial report projects it may spend $10 million more than budgeted … because fuel costs have so far run 26.5 cents per litre higher than forecast.”


    June 11, 2008 at 3:25 pm

  16. An interesting article about the New York bus hybrid bus batteries being replaced with lithium battery packs:


    June 14, 2008 at 6:29 pm

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