Stephen Rees's blog

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

The often repeated lie

with 5 comments

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”.


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

5 Responses

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  1. Quote: “There has been a long standing policy that says BC Transit/TransLink won’t run buses that directly compete with rapid transit.”

    Some years ago, when I was called to account by a GVRD planner over some terse letters I had written about the Evergreen Line to Tri-City papers, I began to understand why TransLink has major problems in attracting ridership.

    After the end of the meeting, the chap asked me what would be my preference for ‘rail’ transit. I replied that the Evergreen Line just did not have the ridership to warrant a metro (SkyTrain) or light rail and that a DMU Service (basically Ron Stromberg’s plan) from Coquitlam to downtown Vancouver would be a good option and a fraction the cost of either SkyTrain or LRT.

    “Oh no, no, no” was the chaps reply, “We spent $1.2 billion on the Millennium Line and we must get all Tri-Cities passengers on to it as we can.”

    Here is the problem, our transit is designed to suit bureaucrats and politicians and not the customer.

    If the premier really wants people out of their cars, he should oder TransLink into meaningful discussion with transit users. But then with Gateway, tolls and the carbon (gas) tax, I wonder if he truly wants to reduce auto use and congestion.

    D. M. Johnston

    April 10, 2009 at 8:16 am

  2. You mean Ron’s plan that wasn’t that was not SkyTrolly, that weird 30-kilometre suspended-rail transit from Coquitlam Centre which would have been as more more expensive than SkyTrain. He proposed it when LRT was the preferred option for the Evergreen Line.


    April 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm

  3. To be fair in all the towns I have gone to that have a good transit system buses and trams feed the Metro and commuter trains or buses feed the LRT and commuter trains etc. Especially in the suburbs. Of course the big difference with Vancouver is that in many towns their Metro of LRT system divides the central area of the town in somewhat equal quadrants (or they have a lot of metro lines and the bus lines run across connecting several metro lines) while in Vancouver the SkyTrain was built primarily in the East side and both lines overlap for 1/2 of their routes, leaving most of the town without rapid transit. Another proof that i twas designed by car drivers, not people who knew about transit. There are some exceptions: some bus lines in Paris follow the same path as a RER line (a RER run deeper and has less stops the metro). But then again downtown Paris, London, Tokyo etc. have so many people using their central area that they needs both buses and metros on nearly similar routes (one train + metro station in Tokyo see more people each day than there are living in Metro Vancouver). I’ll let a more patient person than me actually double check bus and metro maps of several dozen towns to see what is actually going on in each town.

    Red frog

    April 10, 2009 at 12:43 pm

  4. No, Ron’s plan in the early 90’s was for a DMU service, from Vancouver Central Station to Port Coquitlam, via the BN & SF/CN and CP tracks.

    He has gone off the rails somewhat with SkyTrolley, me thinks.

    D. M. Johnston

    April 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

  5. […] The often repeated lie [Stephen Rees] Campaign finance disclosures: Louie and DeGenova [State of Vancouver] Gang crime […]

    re:place Magazine

    April 11, 2009 at 10:02 pm

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