Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for January 13th, 2012

Changes Coming to Bus Routes to UBC?

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Mathew Laird has just tweeted

Hearing rumours the 480 is to be eliminated and the 100 extended to UBC. Direct bus from #newwest to UBC in the near future? Interesting…

The #480 is one of the heaviest loading bus routes in the region. When the Canada Line was introduced, most bus routes got shifted around so that the train would do most of the heavy lifting for traffic between Richmond and Vancouver. The UBC route was an exception, since the east west routes that link from Canada Line stations to UBC were already over capacity – especially the #99 B Line along Broadway. The articulated buses from the old #98 B Line were diverted to the #480 – and other routes like the #49, #43, #44 and so on.

Oddly enough I was recently being passed by a southbound #480 on Granville Street in Marpole. It struck me that it is the only survivor of a whole series of bus routes that used to do the somewhat circuitous routing of Granville, South West Marine, Hudson, and then 71st Ave to the Oak Street Bridge

#480 route diagram

The southern end of the #480 route diagram

What struck me then – and is quite obvious from the map – is that the current routing to Bridgeport Station actually duplicates part of the Canada Line – and that Marine Drive Station is a lot closer. Of course, at one time the #480 would take you to Richmond Centre (Brighouse) and even, on otherwise deadhead runs, all the way to Steveston and Shell (the Richmond Operating Centre). I bemoaned its loss then.

Loadings on the #100 between Marine Drive and 22nd Street stations cannot be anything like those between UBC and the Canada Line on the #480. But maybe the number gets changed if the new routing is different to the dog’s leg of the #480 (41st Ave and Granville) but took the more obviously direct routing of South West Marine Drive. That takes me back to my days working at BC Transit when I was regularly lobbied by the locals along the Drive who feared a direct bus past their doors to UBC. While there is no service bus along that route, I have seen many dead head miles run that way. So perhaps opposition these days is not as strong as it once was?

480 at UBC May 2010

480 at UBC May 2010 my photo on flickr

One thing is for sure. If there is a reworking of the #100 expect much of it to be short turns UBC to Marine Drive and not a lot of it going all the way to New Westminster!


In all fairness to the good folk of SW Marine Drive, I should make it clear that they did not so much oppose a direct bus as express the fear that we (BC Transit) would be persuaded to run a direct bus as a way for the City Engineers to then press for a widening of the Drive to four lanes. At the time I thought that showed a remarkable faith in our resources (even then buses were overcrowded and there weren’t nearly enough of them to meet demand on existing routes) and the City’s willingness to spend money on roads. While I am sure that there were some engineers who would have salivated at the thought, the City Transportation Plan was very clear in its opposition to increasing general purpose traffic capacity. And the same engineers then bitterly opposed any and all suggestions about bus priority in general and bus lanes in particular. It’s all different these days, of course.

The #100 was at that time a very long and highly unreliable route from 22nd Street to the Airport. It operated from the Port Coquitlam Operating Centre as there was simply not enough room at the Oakridge Operating Centre. Though there was no deadheading – it operated on one of the New West – PoCo routes to get to and from home base. Indeed, even now reliability of a UBC – New Westminster route via South West and South East Marine Drives would be a real issue. It does now however run past the new Vancouver Operating Centre – so a lot of revenue and non revenue miles of the present #480 would be saved.

I am not sure about the amount of space on the trains though.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 13, 2012 at 11:08 am

The Impact of Tsawwassen Mills

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The Delta Optimist story carries the headline “Proposed Tsawwassen First Nation malls to make area a ‘shopping destination'”. I first covered this development back in April last year. Since then the development of the port, the railway yards and the South Fraser Perimeter Road have all been proceeding apace. While the story notes that a decision is to be made by the TFN next week, I have little doubt that it will get approved.

While the Optimist does mention concerns about traffic being the biggest impact, there is also reference to the impact on local retailers: that concern seems to get dismissed rather too lightly

“Responding to concerns about the impact the two major malls would have on South Delta retailers, the TFN notes market research has shown developments of this size and format attract new shoppers to an area as the community becomes a shopping destination.”

What that actually means is that not only will South Delta retailers notice a loss of trade, so will a much larger area. And since this development is on the coast and just north of an international border, all that draw has to be on a much more narrowly focussed hinterland. Not 360 degrees of attraction more like 90 – nearly all those now shoppers will be coming from the north and east. I doubt many people will put their car on the ferry just to go shopping – but I could be wrong about that.

At one time I used spend my days doing shopping impact analysis for the then Greater London Council: we were concerned, back in the 1970s about the impact on our town centres. It turned out of course that we were absolutely right. Town centre vitality certainly was sapped when retail trade left for the edge of the built up area – and there are now studies under way to see what, if anything can be done about that. Closer to home, the decline of retail spending in the United States, mainly due to the credit crunch and higher than the stats show unemployment, has lead to widespread store closures and many malls looking for a new purpose. While things are not quite so tough here (yet) and we still confidently expect more people to move here, and disposable incomes to remain high there are those who are already predicting a similar “correction” to house prices here – including the IMF.

In the short term, given that real incomes have not been increasing for the last twenty years, and that despite the appearance of tax reductions, for those on average to low incomes that is more than offset by the increases in fees and charges of all kinds (things like MSP, EI and CPP and so on) the amount of disposable income – what people can spend when they go shopping – is pretty much fixed. So if you introduce a whole bunch of new retail stores into an area, that means that existing spending shifts from place to place. For instance, when the Ironwood and Coppersmith shopping plazas opened on  Steveston Highway in Richmond a few years ago, the nearest plaza on Williams Road promptly closed and has since been redeveloped as housing. Moreover, the Lower Mainland is a short drive from the US border, and thus all kinds of shopping opportunities where prices – and sales tax – are generally lower, even when the Canadian dollar is weak against the US dollar. Again, it seems to me unlikely that stores in the new “Mills” here will be dragging much business away from the outlet malls along I5.

Of course, there is no authority here that has the power to protect existing town centres. Nor, as far as I know, does anyone other than the retailers themselves have this as a concern. While there once was a regional strategy around Town Centres, I am not even sure that survived in the current regional plan – not that that has any teeth anyway.

The combination of the SFPR and a major new out of town retail centre seems ideal to keep Delta and Richmond – and probably parts of Surrey given how far the 20 minute isochrone stretches with the new road – car dependent for a very long time. And will ensure that Ladner and Tsawwassen town centres will decline as multi-purpose places and social centres.    I am also fairly confident that will be obvious in a much shorter time frame than 40 years.



Written by Stephen Rees

January 13, 2012 at 10:21 am