review of the Phase 2 consultation: loop and connectivity issues

This review is eventually done in light of previous ideas exposed in those posts

Bus 17 and C23

The new route alignment are the same as the one suggested in our previous posts, so we obviously consider them as good. In order to avoid Cambie (a street targeted for aggressive pedestrianization by the City), a byzantine alternative proposal (B2) is proposed: it induces operating costs 5 time higher than the more straightforward Cambie routing [2].

    That should be enough to rule out this alternative…and the closure of Cambie

Bus 4,7 and 3,8

The improvement is obvious for route 4 and 7. For route 3 and 8, there is an issue. Thought the consolidation of the both service directions on Pender (avoiding the 30km/h Hasting speed limit) improves the legibility of the routes in the DTES, it is done at the expense of the network connectivity:

downtownbusTranslinkC1

the proposed rerouting of bus 3 and 8 Via Pender (instead of Hasting and Cordova), introduces a gap for the South East trip

  • lost of direct Transfer with the Hasting buses
  • bus 4,7 (and 200′s) East Bound, are also 2 block away of Pender, making the transfer poorer than today

We are of the opinion that e Main#Hasting is a major transfer point between bus 3,8 and Hasting buses (#14,#16,#20,#135), and for this reason we have some reservations on the 3 and 8 proposal.

The Robson and Davie loop

About the loop

The loop desire has been expressed in the phase 1 [4]: here is what reads Human Transit on loops [1]:

    Loop touch things deep in the human psyche. When community leaders are asked in a meeting to talk about their transit needs. it’s not uncommon for one of them to say, usually with circular hand gestures, that they need some kind of loop [...]. Straight lines can seem aggressive, whereas loops offer a sense of closure [...].

    If your agenda in life is to to enjoy every moment and never worry about a destination, then the appeal of loops is undeniable [...].

    But however much we may savor every moment of life, most of us still have jobs and families. so sometimes we just need to get there. We are at point A and need to be at point B as soon as possible. The shape of that desire is not a loop. It’s a straight line.

Loops also creates some operating challenges: a disturbance (delay in Transit) introduced in a loop never disappear unless the loop is opened (think Larsen effect). What is usually done is that loops are either open (London Circle line) or operated in segment (Tram T3 in Paris). Bus loops are much more prone to disturbance that segregated railway loop.

  • That is the reason of the lay-over at Davie and Denman, and all Translink loop proposals involve a second layover on Cambie
    • Those layovers undermine significantly the attractiveness of a loop for the transit user whose has either the choice to:

    • Stay in the bus if the driver allow that during his break
    • Transfer to a bus ahead in the queue at the layover

The Davie route

All options extend the Davie bus to Yaletown, then loop it back with the Robson bus via Cambie:
This shouldn’t be controversial, and respect some good Transit principles:

  • We have a single bus route serving the entire Corridor
  • And the route is anchored at Yaletown station

The Robson route

The L shape option

It is built up on the existing route 5, but instead to loop on itself via Richard, branch into the Davie bus via Cambie to make a “downtown loop”:

the L loop left Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

the L loop lefts Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

As such, beside a greater legibility (bus running both direction on all served street), this route mainly carry the same advantage/drawback of the current route:

  • The route, is not serving Robson east of Granville, (hence not serving Yaletown when it is natural to extend the Robson route eastward)
    • As we have seen before, it doesn’t make for a grid oriented network improving legibility and general accessibility

The option avoiding Robson square, is mainly the current seasonal routing. Beside the resolving of Hook at Burrard and Robson, it doesn’t address most of its current shortcoming already denounced many times [5]:

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

  • The route is disconnected of the Granville bus corridor, and offer a back-ward connection with the Canada line
  • All trip toward South Vancouver or Yaletwon are penalized

  • The disconnection between Yaletwon and the Robson Strasse is even greater

The Rectangular Loop

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the "outside world"

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the “outside world”

The drawback of this option? The loop is pretty insulated of the rest of the network:

  • No reasonable connection with the Expo line is offered
  • No reasonable connection is offered with the Hasting buses too

But, the option has its advantages on the L shape loop:

  • It covers all Robson street

…and more generally it offer good foundations based on sound Transit principle (a grid oriented network with one bus route per corridor), from which we can elaborate to cover the connectivities weakness of the option:

That is what we have done in our previous post:

What we have proposed for routes 5 and 6

See our previous post for further explanation and interaction with other routes

the Rectangular loop is "open" at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the "outside world"

the Rectangular loop is “open” at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the “outside world”

We hook the Rectangular loop to Stadium Station, offering connection with the Expo line. From there, the question is:

  • Where the bus turn back and make their lay-over

As we have seen before, we extend the route up to Hasting#Main (lay over on Gore), to connect the downtown routes with the Hasting and Main route.

A consequence of this proposal, is that it introduces bus services redundancies with the Translink option C1 (routes #3 and #8 on Pender): it provides a reason to short turn those bus at the north end of Main.

Short turning of the bus 3 is something which has been done in 2008, but Translink has reverted this in face of public hostility at a time it was not as actively as now looking for better operation efficiency. In 2014, the short turning of artics bus #3 and #8

  • pay the extension of standard bus #5 and #6 on Pender
    • That makes those route otherwise very short, also more useful for many able to circulate in an downtwon extended to the neck without transferring [3]
  • lost of direct route route between Fraser and Hasting, is also compensated by better access to Westend via route #5 and #6
  • A short turning at the north end of Main preserves a good connection with the Hasting corridor

Conclusion

At the exception of the proposal B2 (route #17 avoidng Cambie), the Translink option are generally a step in the good direction. Some ideas discussed in our previous post still fit and could be still valid with whatever option is proposed.

We notice, that in despite of many efforts, not only no good Transit solution has been found to accommodate a potential closure of Robson square, but all proposed alternative trying to accommodate such a closure end up to be tremendously expensive ($300k to $400K additional operating expense [2]…that can buy 2 community shuttle route).

    Who is willing to pay for it?

What the Downtown Transit review has demonstrated is that

  • Closure of Cambie should be forgotten
  • Closure of Robson square to Transit is simply unreasonable and irresponsible

The city council should accept that a good surface transit is a necessity, and that pedestrianization of streets should be done to complement it and not to impede it, as we have said many times before.


[1] Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives, Jarret Walker, Island Press, 2011

[2] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 2 Technical Summary City of Vancouver and Translink, 2014

[3] See also Jordan’s comment at the buzzer blog

[4] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 1 Consultation Summary Report City of Vancouver and Translink, 2013

[5] See also the PriceTag’s circling-the-square serie as an example where a critic of the proposed seasonal route is proposed.

The below work is built upon our previous post on the regional view. However, more important that the exact route alignments are the principles driving them: Many of those principles have already been spelled [1], among them:

  • Direct Routing
  • (1) Don’t divert routes to serve specific needs: Diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travelers
    (2) Use secondary services connecting to main ones, to serve “out of the way” area (rather than divert main routes)
    Minimize unnecessary transfers
    (3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers
    Minimal walking distance to final destinations
    (4) Go Straight thru the “center of gravity” of an area, and not its periphery, which increases the total walking distance by half.

Coverage

As we have seen before, the most efficient coverage is achieved by 3 bus corridors.

The yellow strip represent the most efficient bus coverage of Downtown. red arrow represents necessary connectivity between bus corriior


Those bus corridors are Robson (#5), Davie (#6) and Pender (#19).

With the development of Yaletown, and more generally the Eastern side of the Downtown peninsula, it is only natural to extend both routes (5) and (6) on the eastern side of their natural corridor (resp. Robson and Davie).

Connection with the City and regional network: The waterfront station issue
From the above, it appears relatively clearly it is not possible to get both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

Furthermore, especially for the Davie bus, it is not possible to get both

  • A good connection with The Canada Line (Yaletown)
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

We also observe that:

  • Most of the connecting ridership is generated by the Expo and Canada line
  • The potential Broadway subway will enhance this trend

  • The actual connection between the Seabus and route 5 and 6 can be considered as poor
  • -360 meters between the bus 5 stop on Hasting and the Seabus deck (versus ~200 meters between thr Expo line and the Seabus)

  • It takes 4 mn to reach Davie by the Canada line, vs ~10mn per bus

Due to all of the above, we prefer put emphasis on both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with the rail rapid transit

An emphasis on the quality of the Transfer with the Expo line

short walking connection with the expo line at Stadium station are privileged:
bus 5 uses Beatty street, bus 6 uses the couplet Expo/Pacific

To improve the connectivity of the bus 5 and 6 with the rest of the network:

  • both route 5, and 6 are extended to the north end of Denman, to connect with bus 19, and the North shore buses
4busDavie

A critical gap between the North shore and Pender buses is adressed by the extension of the bus 5 and 6 on the north end of Denman: It also allows a relocation of the Denman#Davie layover to the city owned parking lot at the North end of Denman

  • Both route 5 and 6 are extended to Main#Hasting, to connect with the Hasting and Main street buses (bus #3 and #8 being short turned at the North end of Main street).
  • The bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

This proposal has some inconveniences:

  • There is dispersion of service on Beatty and Cambie
  • There is no good connectivity between the local route 5 and 6 in the Yaletown area
  • There is no good connection between bus 17 and bus 6 either (bus 17 is on the Cambie bridge above the Pacific bld)

The one way service on Expo and Pacific is also a drawback, but one can expect some change correcting that in the area with the re purposing of the viaducts

An emphasis on the Routes corridors

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity  on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Local routes are consolidated (instead to be dispersed).

  • Hasting corridor is used for City/Regional transit, while Pender street is used for local service (similarly to georgia vs Robson)
    • Different stop intervals could be used to speed up city service while still offering good accessibility on the Pender street
  • Eastern connection is done using Cambie preventing bus dispersion, and enhancing the attractiveness of the Cambie bus corridor
  • To increase the legibility of the bus network, The Pacific Boulevard is served from one end to another by a single bus line (actually served by C21 West of Yaletown, and C23 East of Yaletown)

      Placing ourselves in a “post viaduct world”, the natural extension of this route is Prior: For this reason we keep this bus On Keefer (as close as Pacific Boulevevard), bus still allowing it to connect with the Skytrain

The Gastown coverage

Nowadays, it is done by the bus 50. The proposed route doesn’t cover gastown anymore, but it could…as well as bus #5 or #6.

Gastown is in fact in the Hasting and Pender bus coverage area. A specific service to increase this coverage can be considered but is not part of the structuring network (as well as any other bus route to provide specific needs.

The bus network, and the Pedestrian street network

The City’s goal for its bus network review is to get rid of the buses on many city streets (and especially Robson Square [3]). Instead of taking the City approach; “decide which street to pedestrianize and let the bus find its way more or less clumsily to serve the rest of the city”; we take the opposite approach: “which streets spring as natural candidate for pedestrianization, to complement and enhance the attractiveness of the transit network?”

The Pedestrianization of some Gastown streets, starting with Water street, could be done at no expense of the bus network. It is obviously not the case of Cambie, or Robson. For the later one, a shared space arrangement based on a European model is a natural solution [2]. Streets making good candidate for pedestrianization are

  • Beatty street, already routinely closed to traffic for Canada Place event, and offering a much better potential than Cambie street (proposed by the City), and still providing direct access to the future AGO site
  • Hamilton and Mainland in Yaletown
  • And potentially others street in Westend like Bute

The network of bus lanes
In this probable priority order, regional route, then city corridor where bus traffic is heavy:

  • Georgia street (North shore buses) should have all times bus lanes
  • Hasting street
  • Main street
  • Burrard street
  • Potentially Cambie street

Routes #5 and #6 (as well as route #19) providing mainly a local service in downtown (short trip distance, often competing with a walk), can be considered as people movers, and as such should have relatively short bus stop interval (~250m): Bus lanes for them could be great but they are not much critical, from a customer perspective:


They could be nevertheless useful to increase the reliability of the routes (in fact one of the principle advantage of a bus lane)


[1] See more especially the the-downtown-bus-review post and the coverage of the 1975 downtown Vancouver bus service vision

[2] Transit as part of the urban fabric

[3] See a recap of the 2012 Oct 15 and 17th events on Robson Square (illustrating an unfortunate contempt of City of Vancouver for surface Transit, as we have noticed here)

Grounded on principle previously exposed, we present here some more concrete ideas of what could look an ideal transit network in downtown. In a top down approach, we naturally ensure that the regional and city transit lines are optimized: that is the main purpose of this post

The regional transit network:

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The Hasting buses (named HSB) such as bus 135 are considered as regional bus, as well as all buses heading to the North Shore (named NSB for the one using the Lions gate Bridge).

A major change is with the North shore buses.
All routes coming are extended to Main terminal:

  • The actual connection with the Granville station is preserved, but patrons will eventually find that Stadium or Main will provide better transfer: that will reduce crowding pressure at the Georgia#Granville stop
  • Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewage, is where some want hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges.

    Corwding at Georgia#Granville bus stop is reduced by the extension of the north shore buses to Main station

  • It resolves North shore bus layover issues in the downtown core: there is ample space at The Main/Terminal
  • It provides a direct connection with the Main street bus routes (3,8, and 19)
  • it provides a direct connection with the train and intercity buses station.

A potential extension to the future Broadway line station, at Great Northern Way# Fraser, could be doable too


City Bus routes:

the city bus network

the city bus network

A major change on the main street corridor:

Bus #3 and #8 are short-turned at the north end of Main. It is a result of an observation: most of the patron of those routes, transfer onto the Expo line at main terminal, leaving bus #3 and #8 wandering empty in the downtown core. It is also a follow up of a previous Translink recommendation [1].

  • The saving in term of operating cost is tremendous, and it helps to address bus congestion (mainly at bus stop) on the hasting corridor

Bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

The route 22 toward the Knight street corridor
In the context of the 2013 Bus service optimization consultation, we came up with a “counter proposal” to improve the bus 22 and C23 route (then proposed to be extended to Terminal Avenue) which has been discussed in comment section of the buzzer blog:

proposed extension of route C23 (in blue) and rerouting of bus 22 (in red) to serve the Terminal avenue area, and provide a good connection with the Expo line

The bus is permantly routed thru terminal avenue (instead of Prior and Gore).

  • it improves the connection to the expo line (for people using its East branch)
    • to avoid a left turn at Main street(preventing to have a bus stop in direct connection with the Expo line), the route 22 is routed thru Columbia and Quebec street.
  • The actual 22 use Pender street, but Hasting could be a superiori choice (direct connection with hasting bus corridor, and closer to Waterfront):
    • Toward it a section of Columbia (North of Pnder) could need to be reverted as a two-way street.

The Bus 17

It is used to provide a North south service East of Granville from Waterfront (bus termini on Cordova). Due to the street layout, Cambie street is the only reasonnable choice:

  • Beatty closer to the Staidum station end up at pender, is often closed to traffic with special event at Canada place.
  • Hamilton and all western choice, are to too far away of the Statdium station, and roverlapping too much with the Granville corridor.

The route 50 case.

This aim of this route is to provide some transit service to Granville island and on the South False Creek slope. That said, the routing of this route make it of little value for too many people:

We redesign this route as a peripheral one, linking Broadway#Granville, Granville Island, Olympic station, Main street station and Main#Hasting:

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

Among other benefits: Such alignment allows to improve the transit offer in the South East Flase Creek area, and remove one diesel bus route of the Granville Mall.

The inconvenience of this design is the eventual lost of a direct connection between Downtown and Granville island: The implementation of an elevator between granville island and the Granville bridge span could be a good solution, which could be part of the Granville Bridge greenway proposal

The route 15 is then prolonged to downtown, following the alignement of route 17, able to provide a more consistent bus service on the peninsula section of Cambie

The Hasting bus corridor

We include the bus serving Powell in this corridor (essentially route #4). Even with the removal of bus #3 and #8, there is lot of bus service redundancy (#7,#14,#16,#20): The rationalization of it should be the object of a study focusing on this corridor rather than a down town study.

The Burrard bus corridor

At this time, it consists only of bus 22 and 44. If the Broadway subway is designed to terminate at Arbutus, it is expected that this corridor will see much more bus traffic, and a revamped route 44 -using Broadway to connect with the subway line- could see a level of service similar to the actual bus 99.


[1] Vancouver/UBC Area Transit Plan , Translink, July 2005.

…and the Vancouver Canada line case. The remarks apply also to LRT unless specified (another post has been dedicated to buses

In a nutshell, the person per hou per direction capacity a subway line can offer, is

    (capacity of a train) × (number of train per hour).

Like for buses, the capacity of a train is a function of different parameters, mainly person per square meter occupancy standard, and seat arrangement.

At the difference of low floor buses (and LRT), is little “protuberance” (such wheel room) on high floor train, and technical room present in a train cabin rather under floor or on roof, are often the result of a tradeoff:

    train capacity vs easy maintenance

The theorcal capacity of a train, is in fact a direct function of its surface:

    (length of the train) × (width of train).

…and train length, is constrained by the station’s paltforms length, which are typically very expensive to expand.

Train capacity

below is an example of compared train capacity, expressed in term of surface able to accomodate passengers

Train consist Platform length width surface
Vancouver Canada Line 40 3 120
Vancouver Canada Line 50 3 150
Vancouver Skytrain (Expo line) 80 2.65 212
Paris typical subway line 75 2.37 178

For matter of comparison, the theorical Canada line capacity (with 50meters platform) is just 15% lower than on most of the parisian subway lines, such as its line 2 or 5: those lines carry ~100million riders a year.

Behind the seating layout, a train needs in practice several features to effectively reach its theorical capacity. Among them

  • Minimal unusable space between cars (and in cars)
  • Allow passenger to “overflow” from a car to another one

Intercirculation between cars, usually allows that, but again, some interciruclation layout can be more efficient than other:

skytrain


MP89CA_interior On top the skytrain MKII (second generation interior)intercirculation is narrow, impeding free flow movement from car to car, and blocking line of sight at the difference of the Parisian MP89-CA (bottom picture), where the train look like a single “big room”- credit photo top, the Translink’s Buzzer, bottom: wikipedia

Dwelling time and frequency

homogeneous occupancy of a train is also function of the door disposition, but the door layout affect primarily the dwelling time. Short dwelling time is important for a host of reasons, frequency being one of them, and frequency affcet the line capacity:

    interval between train can’t be shorter than the station dwelling time

It is hence important to have as much as possible doors, but also have them wide enough, to allow good in/out flow movement. It is also important to avoid that some doors, slow down the boarding/alighting time because they have to handle more traffic flow:

  • From a boarding viewpoint, where passengers have no apriori on the location of door on platform, the best way to do that, is to have all the doors equidistant (It make also the best use of the platform space)
  • From an alighting perspective, all doors on a car should be equidistant
skytrain

A 68 meters Vancouver skytrain consist, compared to a 75meterParisian MF01 5 cars consist (operating on line 2,5 and 9): the later has lower theorical capacity because it is narrower, but it has greater practical capacity due mainly to a better intercirculation. Furthermore, all doors are equidistant on the MF01 [1], while on the skytrain MK2, people waiting in red zone have to report on a nearby door zone slowing down the boarding. Similarly people standing in red zone aboard the train are too far from a door slowing down the alighting (or conversely limiting the practical capacity of the train by passenger reluctance to stand to far away of a door).

Track issues

A single track, vs a double track, at the end of a line could be used as a cost saving measure, but obviously it affects the freqeuncy of a train line. That said, if the single track portion is short enough, the impact can be relatively minimal.

    Frequency can be be obtained by using a tail track to store trains

The possible frequency is then:

    ((time to travel for and back the single track) + (dwelling time × number of train to be stored) ) / (number of train stored).

As an example, at Richmond Brighouse station, on the Vancouver’s Canada line

  • the tail track past the station can accomodate one stored train [2], and the station another one
  • the travel time between Lansdowne and Brighouse is ~90s and a typical station dwelling time ~20s
2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains can run every 4mn on the Richmond Brighouse branch of the Canada line.

Because one train can run every 4mn on the Airport line, it is possible to get a train every 80s, or 45 trains per hour, on the common trunk (Bridgeport-Waterfront)

Even, with 40meters long train, the Canada line could provides a caapcity of ~15,000pphpd, assuming 330 passengers per train: that is 3 times of the actual capacity. Greater frequency are theorically possible with the introduction of short turn train (avoiding the single track section):

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

PS The above numbers for the Canada line, assume the availability of rolling stock, power supply, track signalling, and fast operating switch: All those could need to be upgraded, as well as the stations along the line to handle the corresponding increase in ridership, but it could be no need for heavy civil engineering work/track reconfigutation toward a capacity increase of 15,000+ pphd


[1] Materiel roulant MF2000, seance 12/12/2000, Conseil d’administration du STIF

[2] Addressing Canada Line capacity questions, Translink, June 3, 2010.

We have generally welcomed the last 2 rounds of service optimization, since they address bus route network structural deficiencies and this year makes no exception:
Among proposed change the 404 rerouting from Ladner exchange to Riverport is something we have previously called for:

The bus 49

It is important that TransLink rationalizes its bus network to provide value for both the taxpayer and the transit user, as well as provide a sound foundation for sustainable growth. The most obvious inefficiencies, are the route diversions serving specifc needs- An issue already well identified in the 1975 Downtown Vancouver bus review [2]- since a diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travellers.

A bus route detour may seem benign on a relatively low frequency route but it introduces inefficiencies which compound as transit ridership grows. It is notoriously the case of the bus 49 diversion at Champlain Height, which we have already pointed to the Translink commission

current_bus_49

Such a diversion could have been overlooked decades ago, but is an unsustainable in 2014, with UBC, a Canada Line connection and Metrotown as major destinations along this route:

The Champlain Heights detour is an unnecessary inconvenience for 95% of route 49’s 20,000 weekday riders. It adds 4 to 5 minutes to each of the approximately 250 daily bus trips, which costs $500,000 annually (more than the cost to operate all the Ladner/South Delta community shuttles routes C84, C86 C87 C88 and C89 combined)[1]. This figure will only get worse over time.

Addressing it, not only improve the Translink financial sheet, but it also dramatically improve the bus service along the 49th avenue:

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

Understandably, some residents affected by the change have voiced their concerns [3]. Any routing change affects some customers and their concerns need to be considered. In the route 49 case, virtually all Champlain Heights’ residents will stay within 500 metres of a bus stop (either rerouted bus 49 or bus 26, both being among the 20% most frequent bus routes).

A reworking of the bus 26 could be also possible along lines below providing better connections to the rest of the network and service/jobs than the actual one:

A bus Joyce/Metrotown could improve the accessibility of the Champlain Heights thru the rest of the network, service and jobs compared to the current route (29th Ave Skytrain station- Joyce)

…But eventually the development of the East Fraser lands area calls for a more drastic review of the bus routes in this area, so it seems wise to not touch the route 26 for the time being (since it is a prime candidate to be extended to the East Fraser Lands)

The saving provided by the ending of the 49 diversion could easily pay for a community shuttle linking champlain mall to Metrotown thru 54th avenue.

  • ~40 daily shuttle runs could end up to cost ~$125,000 annually, assuming a $60/h shuttle operating cost [1]

but one could reasonnably question: Is it the best use of the saving Translink can do, when so many other areas are severed of even basic Translink service?

In any case, there is no lack of options to mitigate the lost of a direct 49 access for some people, and potential inconveniences are largely outweighted by the general service improvment.

The Vancouver council position

It is sad, but not overly surprising that the Vancouver council seems to be prepared to pass on March 11th, a motion initiated by Geoff Meggs, disregarding the benefit of the proposed 49 rationalization for the overwhelming majority of transit user, to focus only on a so called “service cut” in the Champlain Height, to oppose to the the improvment of the route 49.

One will notice, that so doing, the Vancouver council is dismissing the transit user value of time, and its contribution for the region’s economy (a viewpoint rightfully denounced by Gordon Price)…Do they adopt the same perspective when it is time to argue for a Broadway subway?

In the context of a looming transit funding referendum, it is extremely important that TransLink addresses its network inefficiencies, especially when they impede greater benefits for most of the transit users, and reduce the transit value of our tax dollars… and thought one could expect tthat its efforts could receive full support froom the concerned municipalities, it is also important that Vancouver doesn’t receive a favor treatment.


[1] Bus service performance review, Translink 2013

[2] The Downtown Vancouver Bus Service vision in 1975

[3] Bus service cut worries Champlain seniors,Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier, February 25th, 2014


Since mid 2012, Translink and the city of Vancouver have been working on a Downtown bus service review, with public open houses held on June 2012. Below is our take on it:

It is no secret, that the purpose of the exercise, done under the impulse of the city of Vancouver, is to clear many areas of the city from transit, and more notoriously Robson square. As such the public has been presented with a set of constraints:

The constraint set for the Downtown bus Public consultation

The constraint set for the
Downtown bus review Public consultation

The consultation was not presented necessarily in the best terms possible – we could have liked a brief historic of the downtown transit network, and having the staff seeking feedback on a set of considered principles to design the transit network [2].

In light of it, and especially the previous consultation on the Block 51, the Downtown bus service review consultation Summary [6] is a very welcome surprise:

  • some geometric principles are spelled

    • “Routes should be designed to be simple, direct, and easy to understand”
  • More importantly, the concern on the impact of street closures to bus, especially Robson square, seems properly recorded, as well as a potential solution

    • “The Robson closure does nothing to better city culture and is disruptive for bus routes”


      “I approve the City’s initiatives for public spaces (eg. the 800-block of Robson) but this should not force transit to detour, there can be closures for private cars and trucks but let transit buses/trolley buses through, similar to great plazas in Europe.”

Timeless geometric principles as already stated in [2] (as we have seen here, and well worded on the Jarret Walker’s blog and book) appear as uncontournable.

Not surprisingly, the summary teach us, that in downtown, trips demand are from everywhere to anywhere…

Origin destination pair in the downtown peninsula exhibit a great entropy - nevertheless some major transit corridor appears

Origin destination pair in the downtown peninsula exhibit a great entropy – nevertheless some major transit corridor appears

Trying to single out some destinations to be served, such as a future art gallery, is somewhat self-defeating. The popular destination of today, was not the one of yesterday, and will be not necessarily the one of tomorrow. What is important is to be able to provide a network which is time resilient:

  • It is a “mobility” network, around which the city is structuring itself rather than the reverse

That leads to the following issues, from the most important to the least

Bus coverage

One principle in designing an efficient and resilient bus network, is to maximize the coverage while minimizing the number of bus lines, and still obeying to a core geometric principle: direct and consistent routing – that is a straight line (or following the street grid orientation). For the Downtown peninsnula, assuming an accepted ~1/4 mile walk to a bus stop, the probably most optimized configuration can be done using 3 main transit corridors as illustrated below

The yellow strips, representing bus corridor and their catchement area, are lay down to provide the the most efficient bus coverage in Dowtown. Red arrows represents necessary connectivity between bus corridor

One will quickly recognize the route 5/6 as structuring the Westend coverage in a very optimal way: It explains the resilience of those routes structuring the Westend since its very early development and still doing it:

The WestEnd development plan is widely based on the actual bus route 5/6 anchoring the high density and retail/commercial development

The WestEnd development plan is widely based on the actual bus route 5/6 anchoring the high density and retail/commercial development

Moving one bus route from one street to another one, could seem to be a minor change, but in fact it can affect dramatically the coverage…either by introducing gaps or redundancis in the transit coverage, all severly affecting the network efficiency. In the context of the current Westend development, consequence can be much more dire.

Connectivity

A perfect grid as suggested above should allow to make any local trips with no more than one connection.

Our public transportation network is also a hierarchized one:

  • “local bus” routes aiming to provide transportation option in downtown, such as route #5
  • “city bus” routes, that is the one connecting the downtown to other part of Vancouver, such as route #14
  • “regional transit” routes where lies the skytrain network, sea-bus but also bus route such as #250 or #135

To keep reasonable the number of transfers for people coming from outside Downton, it is particularly important to have all “structuring” downtown network lines connecting to the regional network:

Vancouver regional transit network in its Downtown

City routes are not represented, but can be considered as part of the “structuring” downtown network (that is particularly obvious in the case of route #19 serving Stanley park)

bus-seat supply

Specific bus route could be overloaded, but in some key downtown corridors (mainly Hasting and Granville), there is an over-all over supply of bus-seat (over-supply on some bus routes is not compensating under supply on others)- a typical problem in urban cores we have already encountered, in a more acute form, in Sydney, Australia


buses_Granville there is excees of capacity on the Hasting corridor west of Main – credit photo (1). Simialr observation can be drawn on Granville Mall – crdit photo (3)

It could be no easy answer to this problem, but one will notice that one rationalization never implemented was the the discontinuation of bus route #3 west of Main [5]. A similar conclusion could be draw for bus 8.

The fact that the route # and #8 use 60ft artics trolley bus (in short supply), reinforce the case for route shortening, freeing bus capacity where it is more needed

Urban integration
Buses congestion, leading to a bus wall, as seen above on Granville, create its own urban integration issue:

It obviously affect the pedestrian experience on this mall, by creating both a constant physical and visual barrier.

The issue could be complex to address on Granville Mall. Howerver some other urban issues can be more readily addressed:


bus_stop_queue_Georgia top: bus laying over at Davie and Denman – credit photo (4). Bottom bus line-up on Georgia street

The bus lay-over at Denman#Davie creates an uninvitating “pedestrian tunnel” whereas, sidewalk activity could thrive, considering the view, sun exposition, and immediate proximity to the Beaches.

We have already discussed on a relocation of this lay-over, in a critic of Denman street, which is underlining the network issue this lay-over also creates

Transit is very Vancouver centric: thought numerous bus route to North shore run on Georgia, there is no direct connection of them with the Westend. furthermore bus 5/6 make a time point at Davie and Denman making the Northshore<-> Davie area transit option less than appealing (map credit - Translink)

At the end, a succesful transit network, means a good patronage, which also creates its own issue, as we can regularly witness on Georgia street. Such problem should be addressed.

The additional constraints or Robson square

Cnnsidering the above issues, one can see emerging the rough lines of what could be an ideal transit network…but adding additional constraint in the form of arbitrary “no bus” zone could be wreaking havoc on it.

When come Pedestrian streets, they should be designed as a complement to the city transportation system, not as an impediment to it, and that is also a reason making their success…or failure otherwise [7]. Fortunately some solutions, especially the ones considering transit as part of the urban fabric, achieve exactly that

Note:One will find a summary of a city conversation on the Robson square issue, on the Stephen Rees blog.


[1] Georgia Straight

[2] We mainly think of some geometric principles. on the example of those clearly enounced in a the 1975 Downtown Vancouver Bus Service vision, as seen in a previous post. Translink has some material illustrating the importance of some, as discussed by Jarret Walker

[3] “The TTC page” website

[4] Stephen Rees

[5] Vancouver/UBC Area Transit Plan , Translink, July 2005.

[6] Downtown Vancouver Local Bus Service Review: Phase 1 Consultation Summary, Translink and City of Vancouver, 2013

[7] Jarret Walker uses the “bus as pedestrian fountain” methaphor to convey the importance of transit to the success of a pedestrian area.

Edited after Stephen Rees comment
At the 1995 Fall

  • Up to 1987, the 9 was the only cross-town service along Broadway. and started to have runs to UBC only after University Bld got Trolley wires in 1988.
  • Before, 1987, UBC was reached from the Broadway corridor by the bus 10 (nowadays route 14), which had been extended to UBC in fall 1968 (then it was working in combination with the Hasting express bus)
  • With the advent of the Expo line in 1986, BC transit will start an express service from Commercial (now Commercial-Broadway) to UBC, in fall 87, numbered 81 the first year, then 31:
    • The bus 31, was a typical rush hour only express service with pick up only at all local bus stop East of Oak, for the West bound direction (and drop off only for the east bound), then non stop to UBC.

1996, Introduction of the 99 B line service on the Fall

The original B line Logo – credit flikr user: mag3737

It is the first time Broadway has an uninterrupted service from Boundary to UBC, and service extendining on Lougheed Hwy up to Lougheed.

      The preliminary service is weekday only, but is running all day long (without evening serice), and receives a special branding: the “Bee Line” logo.

      express route 31 is discontinued

      The line will reach the UBC loop after enlargment of it, in the spring 1997. The Clark stop will be added at the same time

      Sasamat is added in the Fall 1997

The service is an instant success, and the offer needs to be reinforced as soon as Nov 1996, where peak morning frequency is already at 4mn between Commercial and UBC [2]

.

1998: Full deployment in the fall

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery.

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery. The 99B route featured Low floor buses which were a novelty in 98 in Vancouver. the special livery was also new and came unspoiled by advertising. buses were coming with a bike rack what was also new – This bus (b8025) was part of a second order to face increased demand) credit photo Peter MacLaughlin, 2000

A new fleet of 21 low-floor articulated buses with a distinctive B-Line paint scheme and bike rack was deployed. All that were novelties on the Vancouver bus system in 1998. Service is extended on week-end and evening [2]. The Brentwood-Boundary loop route (109) is then discontinued.

The ridership increased by 20%, prompting an order for 5 additional buses

Bus bulges are installed at the Sasamat bus stop, in May/June 1998 [5], as a demonstration project: Besides it, the 99B line never benefited of any BRT like fixed infrasrtucture

2002 and after: the SkytrainMillenium line days

  • The Skytrain line replaces the B line east of Commercial in 2002
  • In 2003, Translink introduces non stop bus between COmmercial and UBC (99 Special) to handle additioan demand generated by the introduction of the U-Pass
    • The students, continued to board the first 99 showing up, rather than waiting for the 99 Special, which was then not alleviating crowding. the 99 special service has been discontinued with the introduction of the route 84:
  • In Jan 2006, the opening of the VCC-Clark station allows the opening of a new route from it to UBC (#84), supposed to relieve crowding on the Broadway corridor
  • Fraser, and Arbutus stop are added in 2009
Transit service along the Broadway corridor

Broadway99Broadway10 Transit service along the Broadway corridor, in 1995, 1999 and 2010

Ridership evolution

year daily ridership
Oct 1997 8,500 [2]
Nov 1997 10,000 [2]
1998 16,000 (*) [7]
1999 20,000 [7]
2002 26,000 [7]
2007 45,000 [8]
2011 54,350 [9]

(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 [2]

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stop, as Commercial pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door).

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stops, as Commercial WB pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door) – credit photo Vancotybuzz

Some reasons for the success.

It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation [6] :

  • A distinctive product:
    • The B line branding is applied to any aspect of the bus service: bus, bus-stop, map and schedule
      It is worth to mention that the bee line logo copyright has been challenged by an individual: the controversy did some stride in the mediaa, bringing exposure to the product itself
      The buses looking “different” don’t get unnoticed by drivers.
      The line has his dedicated bus stop
      The accessible low floor buses has been a disruptive point in the industry (same has occured with trams in the 90′s)

But one, must not forget the “geometry” fundamental of the line:

  • Where it was ~37 bus stop between Commercial and Alma (route 9), the 99B was offering only 6 (now 8) along the same 8.5km segment.
    • The time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
  • The strong Central broadway anchor (before not directly accessible from the Lougheed corridor
  • At the exception of Allison and Heather (Vancouver General Hospital), All stop connect with other network bus lines:
    • The B line, especially in its eastern part (pre millenium line), is conceived as to be feeded by local buses.
      The B line runs on as much as of the entire corridor broadway-Lougheed, making it very legible
      In practice service east of Commercial was relatively limited, but people coming from the Lougheed corridor, was able to board on a fast service offering limited stop service in Vancouver

The route 44 (limited stop from down town to UBC), having replaced the express route 85 (local on the downtown peninsula, then non stop up to UBC) participate from the same philosophical approach as the 99B.

The 98B line
The line opened on August 7, 2001, after a 4 1/2 month transit strike

At the time of the introduction of the 98B, the B line logo has changed, and Translink color are blue and yellow (instead of red and blue, former BC transit color)


The 98B line will capitalize on all the 99B lessons, but will add some BRT like features:

  • Dedicated Right of Way (number 3 road in Richmond), and bus lanes in Vancouver (Marpole)
  • Specially designed bus shelter, with real time information system
  • premeption of traffic signal (at least in Richmond)
    • The system was originally deployed to accelreate fire department response: it was not clear it was very efficient for transit operations

It is possible that Translink, could have liked to discontinue all direct services from Richmond, to having them feeding the 98B line…In fact rush hour direct services has been preserved, but the 98B line replaced a rather confusing array of bus routes (401, 403, 406 and 407) with a legible, direct, and frequent service, between Vancouver and Richmond Center. The line has been discountinued in fall 2010, as being replaced by the Canada line


[1] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1987 Aug 28

[2] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1996 Nov 29

[3] The Buzzer, BC Transit, 1998 Aug, 21

[5] TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001

[6] Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.

[7] TCRP report 90: Bus Rapid Transit Volume 1: Case Studies ( Annex B Bus Rapid TransitVancouver British Columbia, Translink #98 and #99 B lines), National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2003

[8] “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink

[9] “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink

Vancouver’s war on buses

October 7, 2013

This post was previously published on the Frances Bula’s blog, on July 12, 2013

It all started with a Trojan horse: The 2010 Olympic games. Granville and Robson have been closed to all traffic. Granville had been closed before due to the Canada line construction, and bus were using dedicated lane on the couplet Howe/Seymour.
We all liked the pedestrian atmosphere and gathered at Robson#Granville (thought city hall, have planed Robson square as the centre for celebration)….but it is not because you have enjoyed your last family reunion, that you must organize your living room as if it was happening every day.

The Olympic games gone, the buses got back their historic routes…short respite…
A war on bus was brewing:

Pedestrian only Granville was considered good, so buses are now routinely demanded to go back on Howe/Seymour which have lost their bus lanes in the interim!

When Hornby received its cycle track, The city ostensibly relocated its curb side parking along Howe: The city made a point to not build a cycle track at the expense of parking: the bus lanes are the sacrificed goats

Granville buses surrendered; stoned by a blitzkrieg attack; the real battlefield is obviously Robson square:

It is a war, and going to war requires an army: The purpose of Viva Vancouver is to occupy the battlefield, which can’t sustain itself, without artificial activation, as has been demonstrated last fall (an attempt to force definitive closure without consultation?).

Because it is a war, there is no mercy for the adversary: In despite of seasonal closure for more than 3 years. Not a single improvement has been brought to the Robson bus on its circuitous detour: The unnecessary hook via Smythe, to turn left turn on Burrard, from Robson, could have been easily fixed by now… whether City hall, was less contemptuous of the bus riders…

At best, bus riders are not considered differently from car drivers by both city Hall and, unfortunately the VPSN, an advocacy group for aggressive pedestrianization of Robson square (both 2012 City hall public consultation on Robson square, which in fact has been organized by the VPSN, and the 2011 VPSN “petitions”, made sure it was not possible to differentiate buses of general traffic)

Obviously, on the margin of the main battlefields, skirmishes happen routinely, often under the disguise of good intentions:

  • A 30km/h speed limit on Hasting fine!… but without appropriate street design, it is widely ignored…but bus driver dutifully slow down…
  • A cycle track on Union, Great!…nearby businesses have been promised that parking space will be relocated on Main…in the way of the buses…

Since it is summer, many readers, like the host of this blog, will be visiting Europe. They will eventually witness there that transit usually receives consideration and that an aggressive pedestrianism agenda is a 70′s concept, which is outmoded by shared spaces, where sustainable transportation mode, including transit, mingle with pedestrians, and naturally activate the places they serve.
They will also discover that it is not by erecting a blockade, as nice and attractive it can be, on a bus route that one will reduce car dependency…and still, it is exactly what Vancouver city hall is currently doing…

yesterday, transport action BC (a group I am member of) got contacted by a TV network, on this topic, so here below, is what has been provided, as a discussion base on the topic:

I could entertain a Hong Kong type model:

  • distance based on the rail network.
  • fixed route based price n the bus system (with time variation on/off peak, but not distance based variation)

That is:

A compromise between and “ideal” economic model and a pricing model, simple enough to be understandable by people is required

an Octopus reader on a KMB bus in Hong Kong: price is simple and easy to understand, (no surprise price) – credit photo wikipedia

you want to know how much you gonna pay when you board the bus…not finding it out afterward!
that is also true for trains, but the train system can be made pretty clear, at the station’s Ticket Vending Machine.

distance pricing on bus open a Pandora box: what distance we are talking about?
… bus are able to pound many extra miles on a trip looking very short on the map:

As for this bus route 405 in Richmond, it is very common for bus route to do many detours, loop,… before bringing you to your destination: should you pay for all that extra mileage you didn’t ask for?

Just Imagine what you could think if a cab driver (charging by the distance) was using the bus 405 route for a trip from Ikea to a temple on Number 5 road in Richmond…

Vancouver region is full of those circuitous routes…

Distance doesn’t reflect the cost to provide a bus transit service

The cost to provide a bus service is mainly based on the time spent on the road, not the driven distance, by the bus [2]:
It is commonly admitted than bus driver wages and benefits account for ~70% of the operating cost of a bus, and wages are paid based on a time, not a distance, base.

  • bus 5 (Robson) average speed is barely better than 10km/h
  • bus 555 (PortMann express) zip along Hwy 1 at 100km/h

It is almost as expensive for Translink to provide a bus seat between Granville and Denman (1.6km), than it is to provide a bus seat between Carvolth exchange in Langley and Braid station in New Westminster (20km). Why the later one should cost more?

The real problem to address
The real problem is to encourage people to use bus off peak, or alternative route to the more congested one:
examples include

  • encourage people to bus 84 rather than bus 99.
  • encourage people to use the bus 96B rather the bus 320, on 104th avenue when they don’t need to travel east of Guilford

this to make an overall better usage of the transit system …That is: it is more a demand management model tha a distance based fare model which is needed.


[1] I plan to write further on the bus 96B and 320 interaction: recently published letters in the Surrey leader, (“Transit woes continue in North Surrey” and “Transit changes make no sense“, in their Sept 30th, 2013 edition) high-light a real network design problem

[2] The bus operating cost/hr is defacto the metric used by Translink to assess the operating cost of its bus routes, as illustrated in its bus performance service review

Viva Vancouver 2013

August 29, 2013

Only one week-end before back to school: it is time to draw some conclusions when memory are still fresh on the Viva Vancouver 2013 season

The viva objective is to disrupt Transit as much as possible, no matter the reason what: under this light, 2013 marks a special achievement, by the reintroduction of cars on Granville Mall. (credit photo: Car2go facebook)

Judging the Viva programming is certainly a question of view point:


Some minor projects here and there, like the park-lets or the public pianos, are certainly positive actions for our public spaces, but the Viva signature projects will be on Robson square and Granville street. It is the focus on in this post

For some, the Viva 2013 program will be considered as a tremendous success:

  • Closing Granville Mall to bus, for the sake to provide space to a for profit car company subsidiary, is a noticeable achievement

For others, it will be considered simply as disappointing, if not a failure:

Robson Square 2013.
(credit photo, scout magazine)

This Year flagship installation, Corduroy Road at Robson square, was providing some seating using warm material, bringing the street partially at level with the sidewalk. Alas, as noticed before by Stephen Rees, it never get used much more than a glorified foodcourt, and beside lunch time, the place was looking too empty to be attractive [2]:

  • The installation itself, providing little interactivity, at the difference of the very popular 2012 PopRock, or the 2011 Picnurbia, could be at cause.
  • The fact that both side of the 700 block of Robson street are going under renovation, was not helping either

But more probably, the “Olympic atmosphere” memories which people could have been looking at when wandering on the Vancouver street in the previous summers is simply fading, and the interest for the programming of our public spaces is disappearing. More simply, there is not enough pedestrian traffic to “fill-up” the offered space, which is too big considering the pedestrian traffic [1].

That is a disappointment. A particularly sunny summer makes it even bitter.

It becomes a significant failure, when the goal is to demonstrate the viability of a year round closure, and in despite of a generous funding, Viva was not even able to meaningfully program the space it seized, for the 2 most favourable months of the year: Presenting a “car2go” booth as a way to program our public space, has turned the experience into a farce, to not say a full scale fiasco.

The space is too big with undefined edges to instillate a sense of “successfull pedestrian space”. The “corduroy road” installation serves mainly as a food court for the foodtrucks (on the bottom/left corner), which is preferred to the then deserted concrete seats, legacy of Arthur Erickson, credit photo, Brent Toderian

The conclusion on the viability of a permanent Robson square closure should be obvious, and the last year experiment- keeping Robson square pedestrian only during the fall 2012- should have given hints:

The Robson square Sidewalks are ample enough to accomodate the pedestrian flow: no pedestrian feels the need to overflow on the street, even when invited. The lack of “edges” provide no reason to stop/ slow down at Robson square – credit photo Emily Jackson from MetroNews

Where are the people?

As we have mentioned before, the Vancouver geography of public spaces has changed with the introduction of the Canada line: The Georgia#Granville intersection (and more specifically the plaza in front of the London Drugs) has replaced Robson Square as a major Vancouver’s focal point. That reminds us the importance of transit as it comes to define the geography of the city public space, and pedestrians activity, this for the best and the less good:

Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewage, is where some want hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges.

Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewer, is where some want to hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges and it doesn’t necessarily help to create a positive urban experience of the city at large

Transit, and transit users need to be accomodated, not hidden, and if the City of Vancouver is true to its transportation 2040 plan, the “problem” illustrated above will become more acute in the future: It should be addressed and not made worse.

We eagerly await the return of the bus 5 on its historic route and hope reason will prevail at City Hall


[1] Robson street is 80′ wide. There is virtually no example of pedestrian only street in Europe with such width. New York Broadway Avenue, at ~80′ wide, could be the closest, but the pedestrianized block around Times Square see a traffic of 350,000 pedestrians/day

[2] If it can be any indication, disturbing lack of people has also been observed recurrently on picture published on the Gordon price blog, on Granville street like here or there there (2012)

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