Stephen Rees's blog

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

Streetcars – op ed

with 27 comments

Streetcars if necessary – but not necessarily streetcars.

Now that I have had time to think about the conference – what we heard and what I spent so much time laboriously transcribing – I am going to give you the benefit of my opinions. I do not expect any agreement. We all have our own opinions and expectations. But there is quite a lot that came out of that meeting that I think needs a response, and we also need to think much more constructively about how we advance the cause of sustainable communities in this region. Because the one thing where Patrick Condon and I are in complete accord – and Chris de Marco for that matter – is that we have to be concerned about the place we are trying to make, and the choice of transit equipment is only part of the puzzle.

I am going to start with Dale Bracewell’s assertion that the City does not want to see streetcars in Kerrisdale. My gut reaction to that was that he was wrong – but it has taken me some time to process that into a coherent critique. There is indeed good transit service there already (by Translink’s standards) – trolleybuses on Arbutus and diesel buses (running under energized but unused trolley wire) on 41st Avenue. If there is a need for increased transit supply, it ought to be straightforward to upgrade those services. If Translink was adequately funded then obviously the first thing to do is increase service frequency. We can argue in other places about which area gets service increase first, but clearly the routes where there are pass-ups now get first attention. That includes increasing frequency on parallel routes. I have been passed up on 41st by the early morning #43 to UBC and I doubt that is an isolated experience. The way to go on 41st is to put on trolleybuses – which do not get to UBC but short turn to boost local service – and thus free up existing capacity to UBC.


My second recommendation flows from that. On all routes where there is crowding and a need for longer distance travel, there should be a B line type, limited stop service overlaying the local bus. Obviously that cannot be a trolleybus: they can’t overtake (something that operators apparently need to be reminded about by painting the poles yellow, a recent innovation here). For people trying to get around the region, in the absence of good long haul services,  B Line works quite well. Artics if needed, and hybrid would be a good choice. And to avoid the need for people to have schedules, put on a clock face service where it cannot be so frequent that you never have to wait long for a bus. While the real time info display is good, much better is a service that comes at 11, 31 and 51 minutes past the hour in a reliable fashion. All day and every day. With strengthening at peaks when necessary.  You can paint that on the bus stop cheaply – you do not need an electronic display.

My third recommendation is then that bus services in Vancouver need more priority in mixed traffic. This cannot be created by adding lanes – there is no room. But there is a very good argument that says we should be reducing capacity for car traffic. Lon LaClair was highly self congratulatory  on the recent stats, but I think he and his colleagues have not done nearly enough. If you are willing to take out parking lanes for bikes, why not for buses? Why are you willing to put in a streetcar downtown but not make the most of the transit capacity we now have, by making bus services more reliable? I am not in favour of putting a lot money into any kind of transit if all that happens is it spends most of its time stuck in traffic, with bunching and pass-ups. I would suggest that Translink – once it has money to increase transit supply – refuse to do so until the city – every city not just Vancouver – gives buses a distinct advantage over the single occupant car. There are lots of ways to do this, but the one I like most is the Copenhagen commitment – a small increment of moving and parking capacity is taken from SOVs every year – for the long term. Vancouver actually needs to live up that stated priority sequence (walk, bike, bus first) – and the other municipalities have to buy into that too.  And they do not get another nickel spent on transit in their area until they start delivering bus lanes, bus signal priority and cutting on-street parking on bus routes. And reducing their own minimum parking requirements for development: they should be adopting maximum parking requirements and be doing deals with developers for  bike lockers and showers in workplaces, car co-op parking spots and memberships in condos, cut through walk access to arterials in the dendritic pattern suburbs and so on. And the other thing that goes with that is much better street furniture in general and especially at bus stops – shelters, benches etc – in return for which Translink delivers better passenger information. Not just a little bit of Main Street as a demo project but the whole system – again allocating resources first to places which show they are serious abut playing their part.

And note too that I include walk and bike in all this – they are the essential feeders to transit but also the canary in the coal mine that shows if the city is working properly. I ignore people who complain that the bike lanes are empty when its raining. What I do notice is that the city came to life for two weeks last February – and that we are rapidly letting that progress slip through our fingers. Putting back the parking on Granville Island – something I heard at the meeting which made my heart sink – being just one example.  But in the longer term we need to have a place where human powered transportation is the norm not the exception. And for a sustainable, vital city we need spaces between the buildings where people want to linger, where they are encouraged to loiter. And to achieve that we have to recognize that through movement needs to be accommodated in other ways. When San Francisco took down its elevated freeways, traffic movement actually improved. The same thing happened in New York when bits of Broadway were closed. These are important lessons.

So to return to Kerrisdale, does a streetcar on the old CP (and prior to that BCER Interurban) tracks actually make much improvement over the #16 trolleybus? No, not really. But that does not mean we abandon the idea of re-opening that line for passenger service. “Corridors” or rights of way through a city are difficult to provide once they have developed and matured. So you cannot let any of them go unused – and you should never, ever build over them. You have to take a good hard look at your future needs – and if you cannot do something grand at first, at least keep it going at some level. I am a bit reluctant to advocate rails to trails since rails are hardly ever put back – but the current state of the line is a disgrace.

CP signs Arbutus at 33rd 2006_0417

The “No Trespassing” signs are – thankfully – cheerfully ignored. And you do see lots of people walking and cycling. Sometimes not easily. But in this case, the route was ignored for rapid transit in favour of a tunnel under Cambie. Pointless now to revisit that decision but we can note that the obsession with P3s at any price meant that the Canada Line is going to be exceedingly expensive to expand. It might be cheaper – it will certainly have a better rate of return – that after the third cars have been inserted and the 2 minute headway on the combined part of the route reached  then Arbutus will have to be looked at. So keep it available for the future, but in all seriousness look at buying some modern trams and hooking that into the Olympic Line. NOW.  You can do that now quite cheaply – you do not have to wait until armageddon hits. Yes the creme de la creme will whine, but that does not mean they get to make the decisions for the rest of us. And the service on those tracks is NOT a streetcar. It is more like bringing back the interurban. Because if it stops infrequently (like the B Lines) and gets signal pre-emption at crossings (something trains always get but buses seldom if ever do) than travel times are attractive. And you can put on services to Richmond and New Westminster on existing tracks. Which can be augmented incrementally. You do not have to go to build out from day 1 – you design the system to allow for graceful expansion.   What they call “scalability” in software.

Which brings me nicely to thing we didn’t talk about nearly enough on Wednesday but ought to have done. The next million people who are going to come to this region are going to be living mostly south of the Fraser. While I appreciate Chris de Marco’s pitch for putting them on the Burrard Peninsula the only way we can do that is to increase density. That isn’t going to be easy, and I appreciate Patrick’s notion that “mid rise” density along arterials (for which zoning is already in place) is going to be an easier sell than high rises at stations – and is actually a “better” solution. I would like to think that Chris is right and that the new regional strategy will be followed (especially where industrial land is concerned). But experience has not been good – and what we still really need is a regional land use (and transportation) planning authority with teeth. And we have a sub-region SoF which is freeway dependant now and that is being strengthened. Once again, we cannot afford to let existing rights of way go under utilized. The former interurban line is needed now – and so are the mainline railways.We only use a small part of the CP mainline and not much of the CN and BNSF for passenger trains. No, these tracks are far from ideal in many respects, and the CP deal with West Coast Express is not a model to follow. But we still need to do something far sighted with these assets.

The Premier is quite wrong to say that we will extend SkyTrain to Langley. That is the wrong technology – and it costs a fortune. We have made that mistake more than once too often. Translink cannot afford to build it and keep a bus system going. And without a bus system at the sort of densities we see in much of Langley and Surrey, SkyTrain will not work. BUT there are places in those cities now which have comparable densities to Vancouver and which might even become walkable, with a bit of imagination and good community consultation. A few design charrettes no doubt. But those people are going to have to be persuaded that the transit that is going to be provided will be a whole order of magnitude improvement over what is there today and comparable to what is now in Vancouver, New Westminster and Burnaby. BRT is going to be part of the mix – just because you can do that quicker than any rails – but once again has to have priority over SOVs. Passenger trains on existing freight railways – something GO Transit has been doing for years on busier lines – also have to happen. I do not think that anywhere outside of North America accepts the concept of “commuter rail” (one way peak hours only service). Even here train bus is run to provide something off peak even if not counter peak (though why not when the bus has to dead head anyway beats me.) GO Transit runs a lot of buses too.  And, as Chris noted with respect to Melbourne, just having good railways does not control sprawl – in fact, the suburban train services created it and facilitate it.

So to turn to land use again, what worries me more than anything is the ease with which our urban containment boundary is being nibbled away. The ALR is disappearing before our eyes. The green zone is going to be the next target. The purpose of the Sea to Sky widening had nothing whatever to do with the Olympics but everything to do with blasting a hole in the Squamish Lillooet regional growth strategy. It will not be enough to finally get around to providing a viable alternative to car use. We also have to get down to some real land use control. Part of that is providing municipalities with a new source of revenue. Much of the pressure that developers can exert comes from the desperate need for money to provide municipal facilities and services. Just as the private sector is now dictating what we get in terms of health care: the donors put in the MRI machines, but the Health Authority cuts staffing to run them. As long as City Hall is on the pockets of the developers, the broader public interest is not going to be well served. The profit of a few overrules the needs of the many. Which is also why I do not think it should matter if there are private sector developers who want to fund streetcars. I really do not care how much they are willing to spend. I want to be able to look at projects and proposals with Mike Shiffer’s MAE framework. Which I will bet Mr Campbell had never even heard of let alone used for his decision making on rapid transit.

The truth in this region is that projects are picked on political criteria – and any analysis done is to shine up a decision that has already been reached. Any public consultation is window dressing. I think that MUST change. Without a credible process, no-one is going to believe that we are serious about sustainability or any other fine policy objective. I also do not think that what has worked in some US cities is a good model for Vancouver and its hinterland. We simply do not have the same frameworks and support systems as they do. It should be a source of shame in Canada that US cities can now do better than we do in providing affordable and socially necessary housing. (Not that they do that very well either, but it’s still more than we do, which is now nearly nothing.)

When you look at what I am talking about here, it becomes clear that the choice of transit technology is not actually all that difficult. Its really a technical issue of horses for courses. There are some real hurdles but they are political and administrative, and they are rooted in the need to change from business as usual. If we continue to think that we need more businesslike decision making, then we should not be surprised when only profit matters. Business is not allowed to think much beyond its bottom line as it has a duty of care, not to the community, but to its shareholders. We also have some pretty shabby politics here. Low turn out at the polls. Short term thinking. Spin not truth. Sound bites not careful, objective analysis.

And the last point is the possibly the hardest in terms of the conference, but actually quite straightforward if you think regionally. Vancouver is doing pretty well. Compared to the rest of the region its need for improved transit does not, in my reckoning, put it at the head of the queue. It is already mostly built out. The downtown streetcar never seemed to make a lot of sense to me – and it still doesn’t. Of course it would be nice – but the development of Coal Harbour and False Creek is mostly complete. And this year we seemed to manage without the DHR (the nearest thing we have to the proposal – even though as I keep on repeating it isn’t a streetcar). The stats are pointing in the right direction. Vancouver could do better – and if I had to fight the entrenched motordom of this city, I would draw a deep breath before proposing bus lanes and signal priority too. But most of the rest of the region and the outlying exurbia beyond it is going to hell in handbasket. We are repeating all the mistakes made in the 1950s, but with slightly better mpg stats.  And one or two streetcars here or there makes no difference to that at all. I don’t think Vancouver does get any rail rapid transit along Broadway for a while. It can do a lot for itself with good traffic management (for instance, regulating traffic by using value of time instead of vehicle flow) and must get on with that until we can free up some good funding for transit for the region in general. The Evergreen Line, the SFU cable car and passenger services on as many of the existing railways that we can all come to the top of my priority list. And lots more transit everywhere. I actually do not care what sort of wheels it has under it. It has to be frequent, comfortable and easy to use for everybody: and it goes first when the lights change. The car drivers can sit and watch as the bus/tram/train whizzes by.

Now, when we have got transit figured out, we are going to have to deal with much tougher questions.  Decent housing for all at affordable prices. Protection of our natural resources. Good urban design standards. Better health through prevention. Representative and responsible government. Real democracy. Some future for the human race on this planet. Some future, come to that, for life as we know it – all species seem to be at risk from our nasty habits, not just us.

But that is all beyond the scope of this particular op ed.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Posted in transit

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27 Responses

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  1. Why a B-line type service be a trolley bus? It works quite well in other cities and even used to work well in Vancouver with the second set of wires on Hastings (and a 5th wire which used to be in place for the “super express”).

    If we’re going to be investing in new services, bus or streetcar, they MUST be electric. It’s the sustainable choice both with peak oil and with our existing hydro electric supply.

    The old solution, two sets of wires, is sometimes the best solution.


    October 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

  2. Matt – because the overhead line work is ridiculously expensive. It used to be $1m per km when I was at work – must be more now, given the price of copper. The extra lines on Hastings were for a service that did not do intermediate stops – and is not now used even for PNE service. How do you get the B line into the curb and get the local trolley past it? Yet more, even more pricey “special work”! Or special centre of the road B Line stations. I want solutions to our current difficulties that are easy and cheap – not necessarily the best possible.

    Stephen Rees

    October 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

  3. On your 3rd recommendation, I just wish two particular “innovations” from Main Street were rolled out everywhere: bulges and traffic light control.

    I traveled from City Hall to UBC this morning and it was bizarre to feel the 99 stop at all the traffic lights, and weave in and out of parked cars. Why isn’t this bus travelling in a straight line and only stopping at bus stops? That surely costs pennies to implement (the ‘bulges’ could just be non-parking spaces with zebras or somesuch initially if need be).

    And cut the bloody headway: we waited about 15 minutes. 7 tops please.


    October 3, 2010 at 6:03 pm

  4. I agree with most of the points you’ve raised here.

    I question the desire to do things cheaply, though. Look to benefit/cost or MAE instead of dollars. $1m/km is not a big number compared to building a tramway or roadway. The trolley wires should be extended to UBC.

    I agree that local bus service should be improved and prioritized through spot improvements. Many of these changes could come in the form of simplifying routes, which costs almost nothing or reduce operating costs. Someone should make a list of specific, easy spot improvements. I’d start with letting the #17 Oak turn left from Granville SB to Broadway EB instead of the slow, congested, circuitous route on 4th and Hemlock.

    I agree we need to avoid commuter trains – the land use implications are questionable. It needs to be frequent and bidirectional all day everyday for it focus development. To do that, it needs its own tracks at least 20 hours a day. The southern railway alignment from Scott Road to Langley City would be a good route without the few freight trains in Surrey and if it was separated from the mainline section along highway 10. The CN mainline isn’t a good route and it’s too busy with freight anyway.


    October 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm

  5. On second thought, this spot improvement list should start with the #49 between Kerr and Tyne. It’s even easier to fix.


    October 3, 2010 at 11:26 pm

  6. […] consultant analyzes mistakes and raises questions for Olympic village [State of Vancouver] Streetcars – op ed [Stephen Rees's […]

    re:place Magazine

    October 4, 2010 at 8:13 am

  7. Many of the major cities that I have visited in Europe and Japan DO NOT allow parking along their main streets and avenues. Yet the stores, restaurants, movies houses etc. on these streets get lots of customers even though there is no parking available right there.

    Having no parking on major arteries would go a long way in allowing buses to run faster.

    Why are we so fixated in Vancouver about having parking near every business…especially when it is practically impossible to find a parking spot when and where we need one and, after going round a couple of times, end up parking a km away and walking to the business?

    In many places residential streets only allow parking on one side of the street..

    Red frog

    October 4, 2010 at 1:23 pm

  8. @Red Frog – I agree, but I don’t think arguing that will get us anywhere quickly in Vancouver. Bulges seem to me to be more friendly to myopic, fearful, conservative local business associations.


    October 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

  9. I agree with Stephen the goal should be getting as much transit as possible in the shortest time frame and lowest cost.

    I want to comment directly on Mike’s “fix” for the #49.

    The 49 was routed along 54th when Champlain Mall was the major focal point of the entire SE corner of Vancouver and the SW corner of Burnaby. After the malls were built at Metrotown Champlain Mall lost its relevance and most of it was torn down and replaced with condos. Today the availability of a direct bus to points east and west is just as important as it was 30 years ago thanks to the huge increase in population.

    I agree that the 49 should stick to 49th, but only if a new bus is introduced to link the Champlain area with important points east and west. That would require money and TransLink doesn’t have any, especially for well-served City of Vancouver passengers.

    If money was no object I’d introduce a #54 bus running from UBC to Metrotown via the same route as the #49 at each end, but with a different middle.

    Eastbound it would follow the #49 route to Main, turn south on Main to 57th, east to Argyle where the road curves to become 54th, east as far as Tyne, north on Tyne and then re-join the #49 to Metrotown.

    The new route would improve access to a number of locations and help deal with the supply/demand imbalance on the #49.


    October 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm

  10. In a report today, Ken Hardie from Translink pointed out 4 east-west bus routes are having trouble. Of course it is no surprise to hundreds (perhaps thousands) of riders experienced pass-ups on daily basis.

    From: :
    Hardie also said that a new “mystery variable” has been affecting travelling East-West. Routes like the 49 (Metrotown-Dunbar Loop-UBC) are seeing unusual traffic patterns near Arbutus that are causing some buses to delay and bundle with others on the route. Even the 25, 43, and 84 have been affected. Hardie says that Translink is working to find the cause, but it could be related to population growth or the Canada Line.


    October 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm

  11. To be accurate, there are a few streets around the city where parking has been eliminated for at least part of the day for bus lanes:
    – Burrard Street
    – Some of Broadway
    – Seymour and Howe until the buses went back on Granville. The parking is still stripped on weekends.

    This just hasn’t, for whatever reason, been as controversial as replacement of parking with bike lanes.

    Granted, there is much more the city should do in terms of transit priority both in created effective bus lanes and signalling.

    One measure that is being used on the bike lanes that would really help speed buses on many streets is the banning of right turns at locations with high pedestrian traffic. The right-turning traffic has to wait for peds and the buses get stuck behind them. The only place where this has been done is on Broadway at Commercial.

    Another option is requiring that cars make right turns from their lane and not the bus lane. This is done in Paris and works quite well. There might be a separate signal phase for these right turns.


    October 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm

  12. Richard – that is just nit picking. I want to see permanent, all day every day bus lanes – with red tarmac – and cameras mounted on the buses to catch violators. That is what is done in London. Not an HOV or any kind of other exemption either – just buses, so there’s no argument. If we had an approach that was based on people movement, not vehicle movement, the whole place would work much better for everyone.

    Stephen Rees

    October 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm

  13. The 41st is a good choice for a B-Line, but I think it’s not the best solution for all busy routes. By separating the service in two, you’ve cut frequency by about half what it would be on each of the two services. That’s ok when both are frequent, but it can be difficult to predict if its better to keep walking to the B-Line stop or stay and wait for the local bus. In some cases, it would be better to keep just the local bus, but make it operate more like a B-Line with stops half as frequent as they are now, but twice as frequent as a B-Line. I think this is especially applicable on north-south arterials in Vancouver.

    One of the reasons that buses are pretty effective in Vancouver is that they generally fit well with our arterial street grid. The transit system mostly follows the routes we’d take in cars, so it fits our mental map of the city (mostly, at least to me). People don’t need to bring their own map. It’s also decently fast because routes go in straight lines.

    There is an alternative way of designing bus system that is possibly suited to spread out, cul-de-sac filled suburbs. In this system, buses loop around attempting to fulfill some statistic requirement to get within some distance of every home and destination. The buses take forever to get anywhere, and hardly anyone takes them. Minor centres are connected with every other minor centre. At least you don’t have to transfer.

    This type of route design is ill-suited to a city built around an arterial grid. It makes the bus significantly slower than competing modes, it confuses new riders, it pisses off impatient people and annoys everyone else. It’s a good reason to buy a car for the 90% of people who don’t want to go to some out-of-the-way strip mall. In Vancouver, it is applied on only a few routes, but we do have a jog in the #49 and loopy routes like the #26, the other route serving Champlain Mall.

    Ideally, the #26 would be the #26 Kerr, or an extension of a longer north-south route. It would run on Kerr down to Marine. It would be half as long and, consequently, twice as frequent. People could transfer to the Skytrain at Joyce or Renfrew or the the now somewhat faster, more frequent, and more direct #49 which simply runs on 49th.


    October 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm

  14. At major intersection we could try what they do in Tokyo and other Japanese towns (even small Kobe for example). Red lights block all the streets at an intersection and pedestrians cross in all directions, including diagonally. It doesn’t take very long either.
    There are also pedestrian overpasses at many intersections but that wouldn’t fly here as they aren’t pretty enough..

    Red frog

    October 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm

  15. I linked to this post and wrote a bit from a UBC student perspective here:


    October 4, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  16. Redfrog, it’s called scramble intersection ( ),
    and the irony is that it has originated in North America…

    recently, Toronto, has implemented one at Yonge#Dundas,

    Where you see it fit in Vancouver?


    October 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm

  17. Now I know you people aren’t paying attention. I have mentioned the scramble intersection several times – also known as the “Barnes Dance” – including the one in Toronto – and no I am not going to give you the hyperlinks – do a search.

    Stephen Rees

    October 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm

  18. I agree Mike, many regular bus stops in Vancouver are too close together and B-Line ones are too far apart.

    Oak northbound at 41st is the worst with three stops in less than 200m. There are stops on both sides of 41st because Oakridge used to be the depot and buses needed a place to dump their passengers before going out of service. Now that buses are housed elsewhere that stop should be removed.

    But that’s just a start. 49th eastbound has stops 80m apart at Oak and Fremlin and then two more within the next 350m. There are also two stops just 80m apart northbound on Knight between King Edward and Kingsway. I know both are transfer points, but seriously… 80m?

    Then there are things that just make you scratch your head and wonder who approved the stop locations. #41 westbound between Victoria and Fraser stops at Victoria, Commercial, Fleming, Knight, Inverness, and Windsor. It’s the epitome of good Vancouver style spacing and every stop has a traffic signal to assist pedestrians crossing 41st. Then for some bizarre and unknown reason there are stops (without signals) a block west at St. Catharines and another block west at Chester. The Chester stop is a “whopping” 40m from Fraser making it another case where there are essentially two stops at the same intersection. The eastbound #41 is guilty of the same thing. It stops on both sides of Knight and then again on both sides of Victoria.

    The #33 is an example of a newer route with broader spacing. In the 3.5km stretch from Main to Kingsway there are just 10 stops. Off peak that bus flies across town, but in the afternoon much of the route is a parking lot with lineups as long as 500m to get through intersections.


    October 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

  19. @David

    I do agree that certain stops are too close together. The ones you listed along 41st and the ones on Knight between King Edward & Kingsway. One of those in each case needs to be eliminated. I live near Knight and 41st and while the Culloden one is convient. I’m quite willing to walk to the other side of Knight.

    But I would also say in some cases there is too much of a gap between stops. An example is EB on 41st after Fraser. You get Prince Albert which is fine. Then Windsor which is ok. But then you hit a long section before you get the Sherbrooke stop which is damn close to the stop at Culloden. In that case I’d actually move the one on Sherbrooke west between Ross and Sherbrooke. I would then elminate the one at Culloden.

    The B-Line stops are actually well spaced out. They stop at the major cross streets. Which for a limited stop bus is all you need. The only exception is Willow, but then it doesn’t stop at Oak either so it makes up for it.

    As for parking to me there should be 24/7 parking ban along all major streets. I would also set it so that anyone not living in an area is also banned from parking on residential side street.

    I would then make all curb lanes bus only lanes. And in a case like 41st where there really isn’t a painted curb lane. I would paint the line so the lane is there.

    Paul C

    October 5, 2010 at 4:08 am

  20. Just wanted to add

    In the case for the over crowded E-W buses. This one would raise a stink. But maybe they need to start pulling buses away from the under used routes in other parts of the region.

    Of course this just starts the old “Vancouver gets everything” complaint that you hear.

    Paul C

    October 5, 2010 at 4:17 am

  21. @Paul
    The Windsor – Sherbrooke gap makes sense when you consider that half of all passengers have to cross 41st and both Windsor and Inverness have bicycle routes with signals. It’s safer to walk an extra block than try to cross 41st on your own.

    I don’t want to start the whole “Vancouver gets everything” talk again, but the fact remains that you almost never hear about full buses passing up hundreds of passengers anywhere else in Metro Vancouver. It happens every morning along Broadway and 41st and certainly was happening on 49th before they put all those articulated buses on the route.

    I don’t think the answer is to pull buses out of Langley and Tsawwassen though. Under-utilized buses may not be good for TransLink’s bottom line, but they are a public service we need to keep in place. It’s time for the level of government responsible for social welfare programs to accept that public service as their responsibility. It shouldn’t be that hard even for a BC Liberal to understand.


    October 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

  22. An excellent post, Stephen. You’ve covered it all, notably the importance of developing a land use strategy in conjunction with transit expansion, in recognizing the graduated nature of urban travel, and drawing attention once again to the funding (hence political) shortfalls of implementing transit here.


    October 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

  23. @David.

    I understand why the gap is there between Windsor and Sherbrooke. But it is just funny how you suddenly get a gap then suddenly 3 stops close together. And since they’ve put a ped activated light at Inverness. It would make it more difficult to move it.

    But I would still remove the stop at Culloden. And yes doing that would directly impact me as I do use that stop.

    Paul C

    October 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

  24. @Paul:
    Interesting to discover you’re a neighbour. My wife uses the stops between Inverness and Sherbrooke regularly.

    I’d definitely pull out Culloden and Beatrice eastbound and Chester westbound. If we moved to a system of generally wider stop spacing then St. Catharines would go too. It would also go if we adopted a strategy that says a bus stop must have a traffic signal except in places where such signals are few and far between. The walk from St. Catharines to Windsor is only one perfectly flat block.

    Under a “must have a signal” policy the stops on 41st at Gladstone, Killarney and Joyce would go. I can’t recall if there’s light at Kerr, but there should be one stop between Kingsway and Rupert.


    October 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

  25. Paul C & David – can you take this conversation off-line please. It really has very little relevance to what I posted.

    Stephen Rees

    October 5, 2010 at 4:02 pm

  26. The incremental path to tramways has to start with changes to local bus routes that make them just a little more like tramways. A streetcar’s not going to magically appear on an arterial street one day.

    The details being discussed are minor but they are good examples of steps that need to be taken to improve local transit service. Most of the necessary changes wont be any sexier. The best thing about these ones is that they nearly free and so could be done even now with little funding available.


    October 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm

  27. I remember in the early 80s the 41 did operate on the trolley wires between 41st and Crown and the [old] Joyce loop, interlined with diesel 41s that would operate between UBC loop and Nelson and Kingsway. When Skytrain was built the wires were extended to Joyce Station, not sure when and why 41st AVe trolley service was abandoned. As for extending the wires up Marine Drive, can trolleys travel at 80 kM/h? As I remember, the 5th wire between Cassiar and Renfrew ws used as a ‘siding’ forparking buses, and my nomination for the closest bus stops (if it’s not too late to play this game) is the C-23; Abbott FS of Pacific Blvd and Abbot NS of Expo Blvd; 2 stops in one block

    Stephen asks:. How do you get the B line into the curb and get the local trolley past it? Isn’t it more likely that the B-Line is going to need to pass the local Trolley? unless we string a 2nd set of wires on Broadway and 41st ( a la Hastings, which isn’t even used in revenue service anymore), the express service will have to be diesels.

    We *could* ban right turns at the side streets on Broadway or 41st, but come to think of it, outside of downtown, how many right turns at the non-arterials actually interfere with the 99 B-Line or the 43?

    Usually it’s cars waiting to make a right-on-green due to high pedestrian volume at the major arterials that slow down the buses (in my experience on S/B buses on Burrard Street in the PM rush), it’s not a popular move, but holding back pedestrians for 5 seconds to let cars make a right-on-green is probably the best way to speed up the buses, though in recent years the trend in Vancouer has been to remove pedestrian holdbacks. A shame IMO, because while few pedestrians will step off the curb on an initial solid “hand”, when you get a critical mass of pedestrians often we continue to cross on a flashing hand, (yeah, I confess I’ve done that too, but I try to practice the golden rule, and not do it when it will interfere with someone trying to make a left before the light turns)

    Dave 2

    October 8, 2010 at 12:32 am

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