TransLink Optimization – 2013

Another day, another TransLink consultation.

This time, TransLink came to New Westminster to consult on the “optimization of bus services” that will have to happen because the Mayors and the Premier got into a dick-measuring contest over Transit funding, and no-one measured up. (can you tell I am a little frustrated by this?). The region is growing, transit ridership is way up and continues to grow. Meanwhile, the regional growth strategy, shelves full of official community plans and master transportation plans from across the region, along with TransLink and Provincial policies all say we need to move towards more sustainable transportation alternatives. Regardless, we are cutting bus service across the region. It is insane: nothing short of a complete failure of leadership at every level.

The only people not to blame for this fiasco appear to be actual TransLink staff, who have proved through yet another external audit that they run a relatively lean and mean operation, moving more people for less money and fulfilling their mandate against staggering odds and silly interference in may aspects of their operations by an unaccountable Government.      …end Rant.

As a term, “Optimization” seems to have replaced “Rationalization”, although the latter is a much better word for what is happening, as it means different things based on which root word you take out of it. Some may say it is about making more “rational” decisions about how limited resources are applied to make the system more efficient. Others might suggest it means we are all getting less, so we need to “ration” out a slowly-depleting resource. A subtle, but meaningful, difference.

The changes announced for New Westminster mean a little of both.

There will be some re-alignment of the routes heading east from 22nd station. This is one of those good examples of a subtle re-alignment of the services that exist that will provide some small efficiencies at very little cost to users. It may even improve the user experience for some riders. The change is as simple as the 101 and the 154 switching routes between 22nd Street Station and Uptown. There is an added bonus that the 154 will no longer travel a block on 5th Street – which apparently generated many complaints form people who lived on that particular stretch of Queens Park. God Forbid a bus should drive by their house every once in a while. ?

Courtesy of TransLink, not like I asked. (Click to make bigger!)

?The changes for Queensborough will potentially be more significant.

The C99 will be no more. This is, apparently, the “worst performing” bus route in the entire TransLink fleet. Most busses run with one (1) passenger. So, sucks to be him/her, but in the grand scheme this seems like a minor loss.

Courtesy of TransLink, not like I asked. (Click to make bigger!)

?This does, however, raise the question of why the service is so underused. It is currently a once-an-hour service from mid-day to dinner time; hardly the type of reliable and frequent service that generates a ridership. That said, a large part of the route is redundant. On Ewan west of Howes, it essentially parallels the 410, which is part of the Frequent Bus Network, and during the times the C99 runs, there is a 410 every 10 or 15 minutes. No-one is losing meaningful service here. The part of the route that runs into the Outlet Mall at Queensborough Landing might have been missed by a few of the Outlet Mall staff, if the service had actually run at a time or with a frequency that the Outlet Mall staff could practically use.

However, it is the implications for Port Royal that is more significant. Here is a growing community full of the type of people who might choose transit to get places, if the service wasn’t as infrequent and inconvenient at is currently is. Now, the C99 with its once-an-hour part-of-the-day service isn’t really going to fix that situation. The real solution might be making the 104 more frequent or at least more predictable. So perhaps the cost savings from not running the C99 can be directed towards 104 improvements?

Digression: This is where I half-joked to TransLink staff that they should consider pitching in some money to help build the Port Royal to Quayside pedestrian bridge, to give more people access to the New Westminster Station transit node. They laughed nervously. I get a lot of nervous laughter from TransLink staff.

A final point that arose at the consultation was the introduction of the new 555 Express bus connecting a new Transit node at 200th and Highway 1 to Braid Station. This express highway coach service is part of the commitment to sustainable transportation made by the Ministry of Transportation to make the environmental assessment for the PMH1 project more plausible. Although originally planned to connect Langley with the Lougheed SkyTrain station, the HOV-only designated off-ramps at Government will apparently not be ready on time, and so Braid will be the “temporary” western terminus.

This raises the question of what options exist for the Western terminus of this service? If the purpose is to get people across the Fraser and better connected to the SkyTrain, they Braid probably makes the most sense overall, as it is the first SkyTrain Station one encounters. If passengers are planning to head deeper into Burnaby or Vancouver, then the Expo line though New Westminster is clearly the preferred route west over the underdeveloped Millennium Line through north Burnaby. This may shift as the Evergreen Line comes on line and Lougheed becomes the major transit terminus to the Northeast, but in the meantime, it seems just as useful to have the express bus stop at Braid.

Remember, the success of this route is important for New Westminster in another way: every person taking the Rapid Bus from Langley is one less person driving a car from Langley, and some percentage of those people would be driving through NewWest to get to their desination. More access to transit South of the Fraser means less through-traffic in New West.

There are several other changes happening across the region with this “Optimization”. You can see them all here. You have until December 13 to offer your suggestions about the proposed changes. If you ever wanted to make a subtle change to a bus route that no-one ever thought of, this might be your chance!

Go. Tell them what you think.

4 comments on “TransLink Optimization – 2013

  1. Nice post! What do you think of (in an ideal world) having the Queensborough pedestrian bridge built to accomodate a single bike/bus-only lane in order to run the C8 from downtown into Port Royal and Queensborough?

  2. Nice post. I feel for Translink. They’re under a lot of pressure from multiple levels of government, and the public.

    A couple of corrections, tho:

    The 154, a bus that I take all the time, does not go through Queens Park – the stretch of 5th Street between 6th Ave and 8th Ave is technically Glenbrook North.

    The residents of that neighbourhood are just powers who wish they lived on the right side of 6th Ave (interpret the word “right” as meaning either “correct”, or their political bias). They even like to call their neighbourhood “Queens Park 2” (or maybe it’s “Queens Park Too” – I can’t tell).

    As a resident of Queens Park, I don’t mind a bus through my neighbourhood – the 155 goes down 6th Ave (so technically it rides the border of Queens Park), but the C4 weaves a long, meandering route through the neighbourhood , with the wheelchair-lift at the back of the bus banging loudly at every crack in the pavement.

  3. Sorry, it is just too easy to poke fun at the existing neighbourhood-based stereotypes, and I sometimes can’t resist the opportunity for a quick joke. I was surprised to find that TransLink regularly receives complaints about the busses on that stretch of 5th (be it GN or QP).

    Heh, I never knew if QP residents liked their pavement bumpy and rough to slow traffic down – or that the City keeps them that way to show QP who’s boss: but there I go again with the stereotypes. I ride my bike through QP almost daily, and have learned to completely avoid certain roads as the old cobbles (4th Street), what is apparently corduroy road (4th ave), and large tree roots (2nd Street) makes parts of it quite challenging to enjoy. Good thing I ride a mountain bike.

    1. That Queens Park stereotype has more than a grain of truth. I know a few people who I suspect would be horrified that on the bus, you ride with strangers. Buses should be for homeless people.

      I think 5th Street is the border between commercial, and residential, and the people that live there think it should be residential. I am surprised at noise complaints, though. Maybe it’s because the bus has to come to a full stop prior to 8th – buses seem loudest when accelerating.

      I thought it interesting that the 154 is going to 8th Ave, and won’t be coming down to join the parade of cars on Sixth Avenue. Last night, buses from 22nd Street Station were running 20 minutes behind, due to traffic between 10th Street and 5th Street.

      Sixth & Sixth is already well serviced (C4, 106, 101, 154, and 155). Getting a bus off of Sixth Avenue will be a benefit and will provide a bus by the High School and Moody Park Arena (the one that’s not in Moody Park).

      My father-in-law, a long time QP resident, says bumpy pavement is to keep the traffic slow. I don’t mind it, even on my bike.

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