Stephen Rees's blog

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

Southwest Area Transport Plan

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Translink bus in Steveston

Translink bus in Steveston

I had a call today from Graeme Wood who writes for the Richmond News. He wanted to talk about Translink’s Southwest Area Transport Plan. He wanted me to predict what sort of changes people in Richmond might want to see in the transport system in the future. I’m afraid I wasn’t very helpful as it does not seem to me to be very important. First of all because the way to plan for a future system is to do some really good data collection on how they travel right now, and why, and then come up with some realistic proposals on how that could change based on what we know about things like population growth, land use plans and technology changes. Just asking people what they might like is a bit pointless. Secondly holding open houses and inviting people to fill in a web based survey form means you only get the opinions of a self selected (i.e. unrepresentative) group.

But it’s worse than that here now – and here is where I went off on a rant which I somehow doubt will appear in his newspaper, but you never know. They might be desperate to fill the space.

Here’s what the Translink web page has to say

In June 2014 the Mayors’ Council developed the Transportation and Transit Plan which identified investment priorities across the Metro Vancouver region. These priorities identified the need for types of services, but not the specific routes or specific areas that would benefit. An Area Transport Plan will establish a blueprint for the unique transit and transportation needs of the Southwest sub-region. Once funding is available, we will have a solid foundation for implementing the priorities that meet the needs of the community now and in the future.

I have added the emphasis: if you think funding is going to be available, and you live in Delta or Richmond, then you might like to wander along to one of their open houses or fill in the survey. Don’t let me stop you, or the thought that it is very unlikely indeed that much is going to change any time soon. Unless the stupid bridge actually gets built, in which case, forget it and buy a car. And if that is not a practical choice for you then you might have to take Jean Chretien’s advice and consider moving.

There is no funding for more and better transit or very much for walking and cycling – which anyway gets decided by the municipality not Translink. And, given the present ineptitude of our provincial government, that is not going to change any time soon. I think the two immediate, pressing needs for transit would be to restore the annual pass for people with disabilities and – having taken handyDART back in house – make a considerable investment in making door to door trips for people who cannot drive or use conventional transit a daily possibility rather than a very rare treat. The way that a society treats its most vulnerable citizens tells you a lot about what sort of society we are and want to be. The way this segment of our population has been treated in this province is a disgrace. And that has been true for at least the last twenty years to my certain knowledge and actually much longer than that. I think that if there are to be more funds available that ought to be the first priority simply as a matter of social justice. Even Hillary Clinton has recognized that transportation is a civil rights issue.

Whatever detail Translink puts on top of its 2014 Plan matters naught, if it cannot get any more funds to match the needs for an increase in its operations and maintenance budget – let alone the very desirable and lengthy list of transit improvements listed in that plan. The Mayors identified very real problems in the present funding model, not the least of which is the decline in revenues from the gas tax and the pressures of population growth. Of course we are in a stare down over the potential for increases in property tax: don’t expect that to end either.

Already Kirk LaPointe has decided that the Broadway Subway is not going to happen.

Our viability and livability depend on better public transit – not in a decade, but today, because we have waited a decade. Trouble is, the line has taken only one teensy step forward and some significant steps back since it was identified as one of several core projects in the Mayors’ Council report on transportation in 2014.

Yup, he got that right. Oddly he also seems to think that streetcars might be the solution as though they could be implemented faster than the subway. Actually any transit solution is going to be very expensive, very unpopular with at least one loud and influential segment of the population  and will take far too long to implement to satisfy the existing users of the 99 B Line. It is about as likely as the Massey Bridge – or the Port Mann – will see LRT running across it in my lifetime: or along the Arbutus Corridor come to that. While the province always likes to say that their new bridges could carry more transit in the future, that is simply the old “jam tomorrow, never jam today” promise.  There has never been a real intention to implement those plans.

People in Richmond or Delta who go to these open houses and outline the sorts of improvements they would like to see in the bus routes of their area are simply demonstrating the triumph of hope over experience. Good luck with that, folks. Let me know how that works out for you.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

7 Responses

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  1. there is lot of things Translink can do to improve the Richmond Transit network, and a lot can be accomplished at constant budget.

    On the topic my old posts are still valid:
    (normally it should be a link on my other post on the topic too).

    On my blog, I am frequently arguing that fiscal constraint is a good time to rationalize the transit network, so I have been pleased by the direction of the last Transit review operation, which has been largely recognized by the observers as an improvement: the emblematic case of the 49 is tale telling (in 2014 the medias were painting it as a bus cut).

    Similarly to the 49, the route 410 is a a heavy route (understand very expensive to run) in deep need of care (I have already made the case on my blog for an express bus on the model of the 41/43 and financed in the same way).

    I have also noticed the complete inaction of the City of Vancouver on the transit matter: may be it is better like it, because usually when they touch transit, it is too make it worse and more expensive to run (as they want do on Robson).

    However on Broadway, quick to implement, though interim (but yes 10 years), solution exists. Our friend Eric Doherty knows them well: it is buses, more exactly longer buses on Broadway…(not necessarily bi-articulated buses, but just slightly longer and better designed buses (to facilitate circulation and maximize the bus loading…I have touched the topic here )…but you know the Vancouver City council is working at removing buses of its street, not improving them…

    On cycling, Translink owns the Knight bridge, a lot to do… but well it is another story..


    April 13, 2016 at 9:39 pm

  2. “In recent years ridership has been declining and this is a CRITICAL issue for a transit system planning expansion …. “. Doug Allen
    He also points out that spending on roads has cut the amount available for transit. I would say that the biggest single impact has been shouldering the cost of the Golden Ears Bridge, which clearly is a significant financial drain. Transit ridership is either increasing and more capacity being added or decreasing with cuts to capacity: no transit system is static. Getting back into the growth spiral is critical.

    It concerns me too that while there are always things that can be done to reallocate resources, over emphasizing this plays directly into the Jordan Bateman argument that Translink is “wasteful”. As Translink has long been pointing out, they cannot just cut their way to growth. Prioritising changes that cut low ridership routes and concentrate on improvements to busy ones also has the effect of concentrating resources on areas that already have very good transit at the expense of the low density suburbs like Richmond and Delta. This means that there is even less likelihood of increasing mode share in these municipalities and no incentive at all for transit oriented development. It is also very significant that bicycle mode share is so low in these very flat areas. I agree that Vancouver does not do enough for transit but in that respect it is hardly alone: most municipal governments provide very little on street priority for buses.

    I disagree that much can be done with bigger buses on the 99: as with every other route the key to increasing usage is better frequency and greater reliability – and that costs money and road space that the cities are reluctant to relinquish. Just look at the opposition to a bike lane on Commercial to understand why.

    Stephen Rees

    April 14, 2016 at 9:13 am

  3. You give too much credit to Jordan Bateman: He is not the one whose has ordered Translink audit to try to explain it was wasteful or unaccountable, It is not him either who has fired the Translink CEO in the mist of a campaign. He just largely echoed what the yes side has been trumpeting all the way along, but just drawn a different conclusion on the direction to vote…

    However, I understand the planning exercise, not as one of shuffling bus around, but one to address network geometry deficiencies. The Richmond network has basically not been revised sine the advent of the Canada line, you have bus route like 407 making ludicrous detour to serve ghosty 98B transfer point: There is no harm to recognize all that can be improved, and can benefit to the transit user.

    When it is time to implement bus only lanes, it is important to rationalize it be in term of road throughput or in more economic term such as aggregated time gain. It is the exercise Darren Proulx did on Georgia, and he can be commended for that (unfortunately he didn’t do the same on Commercial drive…). When that is done, one will find that bus only lanes make sense only on the busiest bus corridors which happen to be overwhelmingly in Vancouver proper.

    Few outside Vancouver could qualify, and many already get full time buses lane, Willingdon ave in Burnaby, Marine drive in West Van, or Hwy 99 (including queue Jumper at Bridgeport) in Richmond/Delta…At contrario in Vancouver where Translink spend half of its operating budget, there is no permanent bus lane as far as I know (beside the specific case of Granville Mall).
    When compared to the amount of Transit service devoted to Vancouver or # of rider impacted, Vancouver is a laggard and this by far.

    That bring us to Commercial drive.
    Readers of my blog could have noticed my ambivalence in regard of the Transit referendum: I finally preferred to not cast any vote. In addition of the reasons explored in my blog (non financed plan), the promise of a B line on Commercial drive was also a reason preventing me to vote. It has always been clear to me that Vancouver never got the intention to run a B line down Commercial drive: all signs indicate on the contrary the city is well disposed to implement a bike lane at the expense of transit.. so clearly it has never been a genuine commitment of the core city to transit, and all extra money poured on the transit system which could have overwhelmingly ended up in Vancouver, could have been literally wasted since it was also no commitment in the mayor plan to improve the efficiency/attractivity of the bus network: So I have preferred to not endorse what I was seeing as a charade.

    That brings us to Broadway.

    Frequency is already maxed out, bigger (and better designed) buses can carry much more people: that is already a lot, sure not a long term solution, but a fairly cheap and very quick solution addressing the problem of the day, and still valid in the long term, espeically west of Arbutus.


    April 15, 2016 at 1:16 am

  4. There are already some changes underway for Richmond/Delta – and a new to me way of displaying the results.

    And (despite one irate resident’s constant complaint to me) this does NOT include rerouting the 480 along SW Marine Drive to UBC (instead of Granville and 41st)

    Stephen Rees

    April 15, 2016 at 3:25 pm

  5. In case of, here is a discussion on the aternative routing for the 480:

    Click to access 050800_item181166.pdf

    WIth the introduction of the Canada line, I feel Richmonites will essentially board the Canada line along number 3 and then transfer using the 43 or 49, but people arriving to Bridgeport by bus, seem to appreciate the 480 offers to not only UBC, but also Marpole and Kerrisdale, since it reduces the transfer penalty (in addition of comfort issue: packed train)

    From this viewpoint the routine via SW Marine Drive seems to be inferior (…and it is unlikely Vision Vancouver could ever allow that).

    However, I believe that the bus should use Arthur Laing bridge instead of Oak bridge:
    That allows a better service along bridgeport (where lot of development are currently happening), and better connection with the local Richmond network, as eventually illustrated by the map below

    (that is from my post on the reworking of the Richmond local network)


    April 15, 2016 at 10:09 pm

  6. I’m curious about that 16 year old study of 480 routing. It shows a table of simulated travel times for the AM peak, but doesn’t mention the PM peak at all.

    I can tell you from personal experience that the PM peak on Marine Drive is an absolute disaster. The last time I tried the route it took 10 minutes to go the 1km from Salish Drive to Dunbar. I can walk faster than that. Most afternoons it’s bumper-to-bumper the whole way from Salish to Oak with a short break either side of 49th where a significant number of people turn.

    Voony is right that moving the 480 to Marine would also eliminate a number of intermediate destinations and thus reduce ridership. I believe ridership is the reason for the continued routing via Marpole Loop rather than using the more direct Laing bridge.

    I see merit in Voony’s revised Richmond routes. He has employed fairly standard planning: run in a straight line as much as possible and ensure that parallel routes cross rather than diverge. What puzzles me is that his map completely abandons a segment of the only FTN route in the entire city, the 410 along Williams and Springmont. He hasn’t even put the C93 on that segment.

    I see Voony has attached a photo of a 65-foot bus. While only 5 feet longer than our existing ones, they are currently illegal here. The law could be tweaked, of course, if there was sufficient will in the halls of power.

    Regarding the linked Transit Network Review document I’m happy to see someone acted on my feedback. The original plan for the 620 would have eliminated the bus stop that permits Tsawwassen residents to access the ferry terminal. The argument is that nobody was using that stop. Anyone with eyes can see why. The bus stops at 56th and Hwy 17 have to be some of the most unfriendly in the entire world and getting from one to another on foot is nearly impossible.

    With the opening of the mega malls the 601 and 620 will likely use the same stop making the transfer simple and safe.


    April 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm

  7. Thanks, david:

    Regarding the removing of the 410 along Springmont, the explanation is in the post :

    “South of Williams, route 410 made a detour to service the residences at Garypoint. One has to consider that the cost of this detour by the very frequent route 410 has become prohibitive in regard of the served market. Also, so doing, the route 410 avoids the recently developed and now much more populous area along Moncton street, between Railway and route Number 1. That is the reason why we prefer to keep The route 410 along Railway down to Moncton- that translates in a saving of 7hrs. A slightly less frequent bus, 403, can still serve Garypoint.”

    that said, I think the extension of the C93 is a good idea, making the change more acceptable (no suppression of bus stop).

    for the 65foot bus: yes that is the point: it is just at the stroke of a pen to allow it on the road, you just need the politcal traction which is obviously not there…

    While at 65feet it could be only 10% longer than a normal bus, but it can carry much more than 10% additional passenger for a collection of reasons explained here:

    Recently a spokeman of the IBBG (International Bus Benchmarking group) did a video with the Buzzerblog, where he was also touting the advantage of 4 door bus.


    April 21, 2016 at 11:58 pm

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