Stephen Rees's blog

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

Translink’s Surrey consultation

with 4 comments

This morning I attended a meeting with Translink – I think the first time they have invited me (personally) to anything in six years. They want to get the word out on line about their current consultation exercise and to do that they also invited Raul Pacheco, Rebecca Bollwit, Karen Quinn Fung and Carrie Saxifrage from the Vancouver Observer .

Curiously, someone organised a kids event today downtown. The Canada Line at 07:30 is already crowded: adding an additional load of 12 year olds – who also seemed to be highly caffeinated – made for an interesting ride.

The process, we learned, is already under way with the first workshop last night in Langley. Apparently 60 people came out and sat through a 3 hour process – open house, presentation and break out into tables – that simply looks at the scope of the possible projects to be evaluated. Translink does not want people to make a choice yet. They simply want confirmation that the range of routes and technologies is reasonable. They also think that people need to be educated about the differences between bus, BRT, LRT and what they now call “Rail Rapid Transit” but we know as SkyTrain. Or, as Malcolm would have it, mini-metro.

My first reaction is that getting 60 people out to a hotel in Langley to talk about transit is a considerable achievement. I shows how much has changed in the last fifteen years. That was the first time I had to run an open house in Langley for what was then BC Transit (I think). We mostly talked among ourselves then. I think in the course of three hours perhaps half a dozen people looked in – none stayed longer than 5 minutes. There is a great appetite now for transit in the South of the Fraser area that there was not then. To some extent promises of SkyTrain – and interest around the interurban – have played their part. As has a growing awareness that business is not going to be as usual in the future.

Of course regular readers of this blog will need no education on these topics. And have probably already been to the Translink web page to check out the information on line. Basically what they have are a variety of “hub and spoke” routes for higher quality transit and a range of four transit technologies. Oddly, “best bus” is illustrated with a #9 trolleybus – which fails to meet my definition of rapid transit. The illustration of BRT was also notably not a BLine – not even the former #98 (short length of) exclusive right of way on No 3 Road. There is also an “underlay” on the maps of bus routes – I think (but someone will doubtless correct me) the planned “frequent bus network”. I am not of the opinion that 15 minutes headway is necessarily the same thing as “frequent”  – but if it were clock face it might allow for what Translink wants – a service you do not need a schedule for. It does not show that these routes do not really form a grid – as they do in Vancouver  – but wander around looking for passengers to haul to a hub. Indeed, even “best bus” does not mean a grid service. So in terms of meeting the “many to many” origin/destination pattern of Surrey, no-one is suggesting Vancouver quality of service for Surrey.

The routes they are evaluating did not come out of thin air but previous exercises, notably the South of Fraser Transit Plan. So no surprises there. Do not look for any details like ridership or cost. Those, together with capacity data and environmental impacts will all be available “early 2011” when Translink presents its multiple account evaluation. That is when you get to state your preference. All they want to know now is have they got enough route and technology choices.

They are doing a concurrent study of the Broadway corridor and expect both to be ready for route and technology choice around the same time. That will then give them a chance to ask about priorities. They think they can also credibly ask if both should happen at once. I don’t.

I was a bit reluctant, I will admit, to go to this meeting, but it was nice to be asked. I am not sure that there is a great deal of value in the exercise, since the final choice of which route is chosen, and the technology will be made – as usual – by the Premier. Whoever that happens to be at the time. And, of course, Gordon Campbell is on record recently stating to UBCM that it will be SkyTrain extension to Langley. In reality of course, he may not still be premier by then. And even if he is, I would not believe that he can deliver both rapid transit to UBC and Langley at the same time. They said they would deliver the Evergreen Line and the Canada Line simultaneously too – and didn’t. But the folks at Translink – all new since my days – are fresh and full of enthusiasm, and happy to listen. So do go to a meeting near you if you have three hours with nothing better to do. Just don’t expect that it will make a lot of difference to the outcome. Whoever is in power in Victoria next time.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. The problem I have with all the TransLink consultations is that they’re illogical.

    When choosing a product a person identifies the need, assigns a personal value to that need and then looks for solutions that fit both criteria. Comparisons are made between similar products in similar price ranges.

    When TransLink submits options for public discussion they first remove all the price tags and then line up options that differ greatly in cost and purpose as equals for consideration. I call that disingenuous at best.

    When looking at the Surrey/Langley proposals I see improvements to the entire bus network up against a SkyTrain line. If even you ignore the massive difference in price, there’s still no valid basis for comparison because they solve completely different mobility problems.

    The Broadway consultation was even worse. According to the Province the point of the project is to move people from all over the region to central Broadway and UBC, but the scope of discussion was limited to a narrow strip of land within walking distance of Broadway. You aren’t going to get a good regional solution without looking at the region as a whole.


    October 15, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  2. Thanks for the “warning” Stephen…There is something at the ex-Olympic village on Saturday. I may have a look or, at least, ride the historical tram.

    TransLink needs to first educate its staff better then the public, including reporters. An article in today’s Vancouver sun by R. Coppin (about fare gates being a waste of money). She calls fare zones a no-tech fare system (TransLink call it a low-tech one) then goes on to say that smart cards, similar to the Octopus and Oyster cards, will calculate fares by the distance etc.

    Trouble is London HAS fare zones…9 or even 11 if one wants to be picky. Paris, Berlin, Milan to name a few all have zones..
    Other cities, those in the various French regions for example, don’t bother with either fares zones or distance-based fares (except for commuter trains). They charge the same fare within their whole Metro area. Even Lyon, a big enough town, population-wise, not actual acreage.

    At any rate in most cities with smart cards the average daily user buy weekly/ monthly / yearly passes that give great discounts. Even the pay-as-you-go option often cap the daily fare to a relatively low amount.

    Red frog

    October 15, 2010 at 11:01 pm

  3. I have attended translink’s workshop both on Broadway and in Surrey:

    they are well organized on a scheme as mentioned in this post: open house, presentation and break-out session.

    they obviously need to narrow the scope to keep the workshop constructive. As an example, clearly the state of the debate on braadway, is the broadway corridor (no need to reharsh sterile discussion why this corridor…etc…), and debate can start from it.

    To be sure, the problem is lack of engagement of the riders themselves: I guess after work, they are in a hurry to get home in far suburb, and then they can be difficult to reach, so the Broadway open house reach mostly neighbor which express eventually different view and need, and pretty well organized activist group which come with more general transit idea/philosophy to map on the corridor (didn’t see that level of activist/lobby group engagement in Surrey…though that lot of people talk about interurban there).

    But what I like the most in the translink workshops are the break-out session, where conversation is engaged (vs a simple feedback exercise) not only between public and translink representative but also between public, helping every participant to understand the need and position of other, and so build a constructive debate:
    So it is overall a good form (I understand it has been imported here by Michael Shiffer from Chicago, but not sure: I saw VPSN used a similar form too).

    Sure, at the end the province will reign, but eventually it will do in a certain scope (I don’t think anyone is giving any credit to what the BC Premier mouth could say those day).

    Anyway, I saw similar things in France (Paris region was wanting regional RER E, State was wanting a showcase subway 14, in time for the 98 soccer world cup: state rule, and RERE E had to wait…it is not yet completed that new french President Sarkozy has come with a new idea: a super 8 subway in the field: People told him it was no demand for it…No problem, we gonna basically move all the universities away of the socialist Paris to justify the super 8 subway…and fissa

    At least Gordon didn’t announce at UBCM, the move of UBC or SFU to Langley to justify the sytrain there…he could have in France 😉


    October 16, 2010 at 1:16 am

  4. I linked to your (much better) writeup in my own report, Stephen. And I hope you can make it on Tuesday to the Vancouver Blogger Meetup!


    November 28, 2010 at 12:13 am

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