Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for November 7th, 2008

COPE will run a Free Bus

with one comment

Free Bus

Free Bus

COPE will be launching a Free Bus tomorrow (Saturday November 8) at 10 AM to highlight the party’s transit policies and to provide a little relief to transit users.

The basic plan is to host a send-off at the COPE campaign office (585 East Broadway) at 10 AM tomorrow morning. The free bus will run a loop linking the Broadway corridor with downtown (see map) and will have 14 stops (see below). After Saturday COPE will operate the bus from 10-1 on Wed, Thurs and Fri next week. It will be used from 1-3 for other COPE events.


Written by Stephen Rees

November 7, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Posted in politics, transit

Tagged with

Lots of Good Stuff in the Straight today

with 6 comments

Well actually I picked up a hard copy last night and was going to blog about it earlier but got distracted.

To start with there is a very positive piece on young Paul Hillsdon. Dr Fred Bass, who devised the original trial of bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge is categorical about the one lane plan. “It won’t work.” As usual the key fact about junction capacity at each of the bridge determining traffic flow is missed.

There’s a bit about Vancouver bloggers which picks up Raul Pacheco ( and Sean Orr but not most of my other favourites (see the blogroll over to the right there)

There’s also a letter from Nancy Forham which initially made me cheer, but then I had a second thought. There actually has been an increase in the number of buses and hours of service – just not nearly enough. And the problem is that when Translink talks about this it tries to conceal what is really happening. Because absolute numbers (thousands of service hours) or even n% more than x years ago really do not tell you much. Because the region has been growing. There are more people and they are making more trips, more often and they are taking longer. And the key statistic – transit mode share – has hardly changed at all. Keep this in mind when you hear a Translink spokesperson telling you how much more service they will be adding at the next sheet change. The mode share for all trips ten years ago was 11%. It still is now. That is the problem. And in the meantime much more time and effort has gone into road and bridge projects than just buying more buses. And the biggest spend on transit has been on the Canada Line which will make transit service worse for some of the region’s longest distance and most loyal customers. Because instead of a one seat bus ride they will be forced to stand for the last section of their journey. And that cannot get any better, since the stations are too short (so trains cannot get longer) and the line has long sections of single track (so frequency cannot be increased) – and the initial order for trains was cut very early on to stay within the fixed price.

Oh and the new marketing gimmick for those much worse bus services from South of the Fraser? Rapid Bus BC. Yes, almost the same name the NDP were going to use for bus rapid transit in Richmond before it got cut back beyond all recognition and crawled out of the box as the catchily named 98 B Line. A short queue jumper lane is going in on Highway #99 between Westminster Highway and Bridgeport Road (it says here but stretches the truth as there is no space at the southern limit due to overpasses at the #91 interchange). So the yellow highway bus will be able to get in and out of the station quicker, which is what happens when you design service for the benefit of the operator and not the passenger.

Orion V southbound on Highway #99 approaching Massey Tunnel

Orion V southbound on Highway #99 approaching Massey Tunnel

Written by Stephen Rees

November 7, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Posted in politics, transit

Far too much on Fare Evasion

with 10 comments

The right wing press never lets go of a bone. Though to be fair they are also giving the NPA a beating on the False Creek loan too. But Gregor’s fine is getting lots more ink this morning in the Sun.

It would really help if they actually did some sums. For instance, there is this in the op ed bit under the heading “TransLink must stop the leakage from fare evasion”

cost to the agency of $6 million to $7 million a year in lost revenue.

Estimates of retrofitting SkyTrain stations with turnstiles ranged from $90 million to $120 million.

So add in the cost of capital (interest payments on money they don’t have) and some figure drawn from the ether for operating costs – say $10m a year (turnstiles mean that there have to be people at every station for when they go wrong, or people with wheelchairs, strollers or luggage show up – oh and bikes too) and the pay back looks like what 20 years? Actually a lot more, once inflation starts to bite again. Of course, the Expo Line stations are all being rebuilt anyway to take longer trains, so the extra emergency exits that would be needed to meet evacuation requirements can be smuggled into that project. After all when you are spending $3bn, a few hundred million here or there will not be noticed. If you had to add those costs to the gates then they would never pay for themselves, which is why they haven’t been installed so far. And of course, bus operators will still be allowing anyone to board and simply “advising” them of the fare, for reasons of personal safety, and I don’t blame them one bit.

And gates do not eliminate fare evasion either. But then Daphne Bramham also gets a long opinion piece out of it as well.

Robertson contends he made an honest mistake, riding one stop beyond the one-zone line. I believe him.

Any occasional SkyTrain rider knows how hard it can be to figure out what you need to pay. And, heaven help all of the visitors and people whose first language isn’t English. Even people who ride SkyTrain frequently or some who work in the system marvel at the seemingly capricious determination of where one zone ends and another starts.

Not exactly “capricious”. Mostly it is large water bodies – the Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River (both arms below New West). Hard to miss really. On the peninsula it is the municipal boundaries. You know when you leave Vancouver and go into Burnaby because you cross Boundary Road. The Burnaby/Coquitlam boundary is a bit mor complicated, I grant, but the maps are everyhwere, and always at the places where you buy tickets. We only have three zones. Here’s a map of London’s six zones and that is just on a tube diagram. It looks even worse on a bus map (warning large pdf file).

And of the 82 people ticketed every day, only one in 10 pays the $173 fine.

A recent survey suggests that one in four people doesn’t pay the fare. But the official TransLink estimate is that it’s only 54 out of every 1,000 SkyTrain riders who don’t pay or don’t pay enough.

Even Mr. Highways-and-Bridges Falcon has called that estimate ridiculously low, suggesting that it’s more likely that eight to 10 of every 100 riders don’t pay, which translates into an annual loss of about $40 million from the cash-starved transit system.

But, of course, he has absolutely no evidence at all to back that up, and is simply trying  to divert attention to the failure of the provincial government to actually do something about a court system that simply cannot cope with all the stresses on it. Because for the AG there are a lot tougher issues than worrying about collecting outstanding fines for fare evasion, and Translink gets not one red cent from the fines. So the incentive to collect just isn’t there.

Then Ms Bramham starts to compare our system to Hong Kong and Beijing. Which is alll very multi-cultural and pacific oriented, but fails to acknowledge both the difference of scale and money available for transit investment. Which is also true of London which uses the same Oyster farecard system that Hong Kong does and is now looking for something else. Which, they say, they would have done anyway due to its unreliability (a number of “look up tables” turned out to be flaky the last time they put the fares up) and nothing whatever to do with the fact that hackers have cracked into the system and can produce free travel quite easily.

It is amazing how these “experts” suddenly appear every so often banging on about what is wrong with our transit system.

Frankly, the comment I wanted to see that was not made is that $120m would get you a lot more buses – which is what the system desparately needs. Not gates and not more armed police, but more service!

Written by Stephen Rees

November 7, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Posted in transit