Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for January 8th, 2009

Warning sounded over Olympic bus plan

with 8 comments

Jeff Nagel continues to do a good job keeping an eye on Translink. But the continued barrage of complaint from Jim Houlahan about the shortage of buses does not get any clearer. The union leader continues to talk about  “the less than 1,100 standard buses in TransLink’s fleet” as though the artics, community shuttle and express buses don’t count. 1,400 vehicles is the actual number though, as I have said before, I think we need to talk about FEU (forty foor equivalent units) just as they do with containers.

What is significant is that Salt Lake City added 1,000 buses for the 2002 winter Olympics. Translink plans to have 180 extra – mainly by keeping old clunkers running for longer. That is not actually a very good way of ensuring reliable service. The US solution  was to call for spare capacity from other cities that see heavier peak loads in the summer than the winter and could thus afford to lend equipment and crews for the two week sports festival. Just working from first principles it seems that we will be 800 buses down on Salt Lake games. And the fact that we have SkyTrain and the Canada Line will be small comfort at many of the Olympic sites. The nearest Canada Line station to the speed skating  Oval is about a mile away. And the Pacific Coliseum is similarly not served by rapid transit.

TransLink spokesperson Judy Rudin said the Olympic plan is still subject to review.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said. …

There are no plans to lease extra buses to bolster the transit system just for the period of the Games.

I think this is short sighted.

Recently the speed skating Oval was opened in Richmond. Extra buses were added to two routes in Richmond (#401 and #407) as parking was going to be at a premium at the uncompleted facility. Trouble is neither of those two routes actually serves the facility – the nearest stop is actually not very far way, but it is also far from a straightforward walk. Nobody used the extra buses.

If transit is to be an attractive, useful alternative to driving then Translink has to get much better at understanding how to make routes easy  and convenient to use. The biggest block to transit use in this region is lack of service frequency and the planners at CMBC and Translink are both way out of line on what they feel is a “frequent” service. It does not mean ‘more buses than we had last year’. It means that people do not get passed up at stops – and do not have to wait for interminable periods of time due to chronic unreliability. It is not just how many buses you have, but how you use them and how much priority the bus gets in congested traffic. In my travels recently I have been been frequently struck by how easy it is to use buses elsewhere – and how frustrating it is to be stuck at a bus stop here not having the slightest idea of when – or if – the next bus will arrive. And while I am at it why not have a look at this bus driver’s blog which is where I got the graph which compares the percentage of service at ten minute or better headways here and the other two largest Canadian cities.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 8, 2009 at 11:42 am

Posted in Olympics, transit

Two-lane Burrard Bridge trial finds support

with 6 comments

Georgia Straight

It has been what they call in the trade a “slow news day”. I look for things to blog about but find little worthy of comment. The Burrard Bridge should not be controversial any longer because the people who made it an issue (the NPA) are no longer in power at City Hall. Converting two lanes from cars to bikes should not be an issue since that has always been consistent with stated city priorities. And, most important but apparently always forgotten, does not actually reduce car carrying capacity of the local network. Because the volumes across the bridge are controlled by signalised intersections at each end of the bridge.

So when Todd Litman (a man I greatly admire) says

“In the past, we said, ‘Oh, we like walking and we like bicycling, and we’ll fit them in where we can, where it doesn’t impair or require a tradeoff with automobile travel.’ ”

I can smile at the generalisation as accurate, even if it doesn’t apply to this bridge in particular. But when I read that Matt Burrows decided to call George Puil for a comment (why, Matt, why?) I see red

“I really don’t believe that shutting off any lane on Burrard Street Bridge is going to endear people to the electorate,” Puil told the Straight by phone. “The Granville Bridge, for example, is not an ingress into the city anymore because of the mall and the restricted automobile access [on Granville Street]. So, really, from the West Side the only access you’ve really got is the Burrard Bridge—certainly from Point Grey and from further south.”

Granville Bridge is still the major “ingress” to downtown. In fact it is the only 8 lane bridge – and all those 8 lanes flow quite well. The section of Granville Street at the north end of the bridge is not closed to traffic for several blocks and traffic does readily use those lanes for access to cross streets. And of course the Howe-Seymour couplet of one way streets provides significant capacity – or would if one or more lanes were not almost permanently closed to traffic due to construction and those trucks and buses always parked outside the Orpheum. And that film crews that seem to dominate much of Howe.

George is apparently incapable of doing a simple windshield survey. If he had driven across Granville Bridge any time in the past few years he would have seen that it flows freely nearly all the time  – just as Burrard does. The queues form at the lights. The statement destroys any credibility that he might have retained from his disastrous tenure of the Chair of Translink (a term which resulted in frustrated citizens dumping horse manure on his front garden).

I can only assume that Matt was stuck in trying to find an NPA spokesperson – there being only NPA Councillor left.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 8, 2009 at 11:15 am

Posted in cycling

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