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

Archive for February 2nd, 2009

Proposed bus route changes receive mixed reaction from Richmond transit users

with 10 comments

The Vancouver Sun attended one open house in Richmond and it finds that most people are repeating what has been written on this blog for some time.

The use of the word “mixed” is odd. Most of the reported comments are negative and one of the positive comments (“It will definitely cut down on my travel time,”) is directly contradicted by Translink itself (“It will be close to even travel time”)

This of course simply ignores what has been known about rider behaviour for many years and is even represented in the regional transportation model. People value time waiting for transit at roughly double the time in vehicle. There is also a transfer penalty – as the simple fact of the transfer is inconvenient even if it is into a waiting vehicle. It is also very odd indeed that anyone would authorise spending billions on grade separated “rapid transit” that apparently cannot beat a bus operating in mixed traffic with almost no priority measures.

Someone calling himself “Jake” added a comment to the on line version

Don’t want to surprise anyone here, but holding these information sessions to get public input is just one of the procedures to do. All decisions are already made! Rarely do staff make changes that make a difference. Holding these public meetings is there just to say there was public consultation when it is all said and done. They hope that blame and anger will be lessened. Sorry folks take it from someone with inside scoop!

Changes can and do happen – but usually only after experience on the street. The #98 B-Line got a very similar reaction from commuters who objected to the forced transfer – and at the next sheet change (3 months after introduction) direct bus service at peak periods was re-introduced – albeit with slightly different numbers and routes. The planners heard the public’s comments but were unable to persuade management to act – until the ridership showed that the B-Line was mainly cannibalising the trolleybus route and there was no space on it for Richmond passengers to board in downtown in the evening peak.

The Canada Line is incapable of responding if the assumptions they have used are shown to be false. Long stretches of single track, short platforms and a reduced number of trains purchased – all to stay within budget but below specification –  conspire to mean that there is no capability of increasing service in the short term. And even in the longer term will be hugely expensive and thus difficult to finance.

What Translink also fails to acknowledge is that there will be a lot fewer seats on the Canada Line than on the buses now. So for the Richmond to downtown section of the journey the majority of passengers will have to stand – and in trains that will get increasingly crowded as the journey proceeds. This is not at all as good as the current experience of people who get seats on express buses which do not pick up passengers once they leave Richmond.

Quality of service is as important to transit riders as journey time – and in competitive environments that has also been demonstrated very convincingly. It is not an issue that seems to have had any impact on transit planners here.  And the competition here is not a competing transit operator but a population with a very high rate of car ownership and a distinct preference for driving – and one which Translink has notably failed to change in its now near ten years of existence.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2009 at 7:03 am

Posted in transit