Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for April 10th, 2009

The often repeated lie

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I am fairly sure that I have written about this before, but one problem with a Premier who repeats lies is that someone has to point them out. Yesterday’s Straight interview with Gordon Campbell quotes him saying

The premier claimed the new bridge upgrade will provide taxpayers with “good value”, adding that it will “reestablish a transit line for the first time in 20 years”.

and

it’s expanding transit capacity for the first time in 20 years

There has been a long standing policy that says BC Transit/Translink won’t run buses that directly compete with rapid transit. I first heard about this when instructed to prepare a “bus integration plan” for the Millennium Line. It was recognised that local service was needed where stations were widely spaced or remote from communities or facilities. But it obviously makes sense, once you have spent billions on rail transit not to run a parallel service. This is also captured by notions such as “integrated transit service” and “seamless transfers”.

There is no “policy manual” where you can look this up – but the idea recurs throughout the Board decisions that endorsed bus route changes when new lines opened. Examples include the local #19 trolleybus that runs in the same general direction as the Expo line, or the community shuttles that work between Millennium Line stations. Some Burnaby bus routes also provide more direct service than going around the loop.

It is also a policy that recognises practicality. All direct Richmond to Vancouver services ended when the #98 B-Line opened – but were put back at the next sheet change (with different numbers!) due to “operational experience” (not enough capacity on the B-Line as Vancouver users took up all the space).

Buzzer August 29 1990

Buzzer August 29 1990

The “Buzzer” for August 24, 1990 announcing service changes stated that bus route #333 Guildford – Vancouver would be “discontinued due to low ridership”. It was replaced by increased peak hour service to Scott Road on the #330.

When SkyTrain got across the Fraser, bus routes in North Surrey were re-organised, and Scott Road was the main bus interchange as well as the main park and ride lot. I first visited Vancouver around that time and I recall that Scott Road was where one had to transfer to a bus if you wanted to get out to Langley. I suspect that BC Transit kept the #333 going after Scott Road Station opened in response to user group pressures (and maybe Mayoral pressure from the Transit Commission) but then found that people did not actually use it very much.

Kevin Falcon and his supporters have often said that buses could not be operated across the Port Mann because congestion would have made them too unreliable. First observation is that has never stopped any other bus service on other congested roads – and there are plenty of them. But secondly all that has been needed is a bus queue jumper lane on the hard shoulder northbound to avoid the queues that form due to traffic entering from 152nd Street. A “one car per green” traffic light would also help – and they are installed on the next inbound junctions downstream of the bridge. Translink did plan to introduce just such a route – to provide direct service between North Surrey and Coquitlam. The commute pattern has changed significantly in recent years and suburb to suburb is now much more significant than suburb to downtown.  (Translink’s latest plan repeats that observation up front). But they were very firmly told by the MoTH to do no such thing as it would weaken the case for Gateway!

And of course there has been transit expansion in the last twenty years – just not nearly enough in Surrey because attention was diverted elsewhere by Provincial policy decisions.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 10, 2009 at 7:31 am

Posted in Gateway, transit