Stephen Rees's blog

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

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

10 Responses

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  1. […] Proposed bus route changes receive mixed reaction from Richmond transit users [Stephen Rees] […]

    re:place Magazine

    February 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

  2. I know I beaten this bush enough, but there is another TransLink problem that comes into play and that TransLink firmly believes SkyTrain and/or metro will attract more ridership than light rail.

    What is true is that ‘rail’ mode doesn’t make much of a difference. TransLink firmly believes that if a transit route say attracts only 3,000 pphpd for LRT, by building SkyTrain may attract three times the ridership. TransLink’s planners delude themselves with higher ridership figures for metro and to pretend that the metro is doing a wonderful job, cascade every bus rider they can onto the metro. 80% of SkyTrain’s customers first take a bus to the metro.

    The real question that will not be answered until RAV opens is the South Fraser Transit customer and “will he or she revert to the car if he or she is forced to make a transfer to RAV?”

    My wife is a perfect example; she uses the 602 series of express buses to commute to a job on Granville St. but when RAV opens, she will be forced to transfer 2 times and she will not do it and will take the car instead.

    Another large lot of ridership may disappear as well and that is the private school pupils, which now have direct service via the B-Line/400 series & 600 series and 300 series of buses to the numerous private schools along Granville St. I do not think that parents are willing to let their children take a bus, transfer to a subway and transfer again and for many again!

    What I have learned from transit types in the past few years is that a successful transit system listens to its customers and provides service to cater to the customers needs. TransLink doesn’t listen to customers and provides transit for political needs.

    If we have any hope in having a good public transit system, we must change how and why we provide transit and I don’t see this happening.

    D.M. Johnston

    February 2, 2009 at 10:43 am

  3. Stephen,

    Your description of the fallout from the 98 introduction gives me hope that the commuter services will be reinstated very quickly. If they do in fact reintroduce them, do you think it would be useful to have them stop at Bridgeport?


    February 2, 2009 at 11:19 am

  4. I’m having a difficult time reading this and figuring out whether you support the Canada Line or not.

    Just talking about northbound – The “winners” here are obviously the 98 users that want to get to downtown, while the “losers” are the ones that take the 98 to get to Broadway and Granville (which from memory was the second significant destination of 98 users). The other huge winner is the Cambie corridor (although if you owned a business there from 2006 to 2009 you’d have differing opinions!). Just imagine if you were a Richmond resident that worked in Vancouver City Hall…

    The 25 minute journey to downtown is faster than by car. Alternatives can’t compete against the speed of this service, which is why I’m puzzled why you talk about “service losses” – are you talking about the implied reduction of the direct service to Broadway + Granville from Richmond?


    February 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm

  5. Many people here are opposed to the Canada Line or anything that is not light rail. On the one hand they say the Canada Line will be a miserable failure and nobody will ride it and on the other they say it will be so impossibly crowded nobody will want to use it.

    People quickly forget how unreliable the express buses can be as soon as there is any sort of traffic hiccup on the Oak or Arthur Laing Bridges. Properly scheduling those buses out of Downtown is nearly impossible due to the heavy traffic they experience getting into town and utter unreliability of the road network. The Canada Line will provide much greater reliability to get people as far as Richmond at least. After that the buses are at the mercy of the traffic in the tunnel.

    It doesn’t matter though. To listen to the people on the list here, TransLink provides the worst service in North America, all who work for it are complete idiots and light rail can be implemented for a fraction of the cost and cure all problems.

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Don’t people ever get tired of hearing that?


    February 2, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  6. How will Cambie St win with the Canada Line? Cambie St. bus service will be reduced and the subway stations are too far apart to be of any real use, unless one lives in about 300 metres of one. Subways do not improve businesses along the route, unlike light rail.

    What the Canada Line is – is a truncated subway/metro line, which as built has less capacity than if much cheaper LRT were to have been built. what is more, the Canada Line is not compatible with the existing SkyTrain , which makes very important ‘through’ service impossible. Grossly over built for what it will achieve, the RAV/Canada line will drive up transit fares and further reduce service.

    Sadly, except for current bus riders, RAV offers absolutely no incentive to use it. It very poor transit planning at its best and I’m very much afraid that the region just will not recover from this perverse metro planning. Especially if this recession last a whole lot longer than the ‘powers that be’ state. We just do not have the money to keep building hugely expensive metros on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain them.


    “It doesn’t’t matter though. To listen to the people on the list here, TransLink provides the worst service in North America, all who work for it are complete idiots and light rail can be implemented for a fraction of the cost and cure all problems.”

    Sadly light-rail is not a panacea but the statistics point to the fact that our transit system just doesn’t attract the motorist from the car, which begs the question; “why keep building expensive metros that only give bus riders a more inconvenient , maybe slightly faster, trip?”

    Malcolm J.

    February 2, 2009 at 3:40 pm

  7. Sacha and John

    You address your remarks to “many people here”. But this is my blog – and many of my readers tell me that they do not read the comments.

    I do not intend to defend the statements of unnamed others – but the simple dicohotomy “Do you support the Canada Line or not?” is a silly question. The thing is nearly completed so we have to make the best use of what is there.

    My concern at present is the same as it has always been. How do we get a bigger market share for transit? Current policies in this region have seen large investments in fixed rail grade separated systems – and no change in overall mode share. I do not see that changing any time soon as long as we continue on this path.

    The Canada Line bus integration plan has some winners and losers among existing transit users. It seems to me that we would do better to try and keep the riders who use transit now and at the same time try to get some more people who currently drive to use transit. Doing a lot to just stand still seems to me to be the definition of pointlessness.

    The other point that needs to be borne in mind is that Translink’s cash crunch is still unresolved – and they are seriously considering service cuts to balance the budget. So all of this discussion will soon be moot.

    Stephen Rees

    February 2, 2009 at 5:56 pm

  8. Charleroi, a metro built but never used in Belgium.

    This my fear of the result of over priced and over built metro systems built in the Metro region.

    Malcolm J.

    February 2, 2009 at 9:44 pm

  9. Stephen and Malcolm are right. The problem we have in Vancouver (since the day they opened the Skytrain) is that this type of transit is for towns with a population of 1 million max, with the suburbs. Actually Lille and Toulouse, 2 towns in France that are around that figure, are finding that the trains are overcrowded for too many hours a day. For towns with a population over 2 millions subways are the solution for the main lines with either Skytrain type or LRT or both for secondary lines. The MAJOR problem is that no politicians in BC, liberal or NDP, has any clue about transit. Falcon demonstrated it by raving about London’s turnstiles when all he had to do is go to Toronto to see a real transit system, not a toy! (yes many people in Toronto find their transit substandard but really…) By the way Stephen, I ALWAYS read comments

    Red frog

    February 3, 2009 at 9:58 am

  10. Red – the point I was trying to make is that if the comment thread is being used to conduct a conversation with someone else (i.e. not me) then that person’s name needs to be at the top of the reply

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2009 at 11:40 am

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