A bus stop on the Hwy 99

September 1, 2010

updated September 3rd

At the 99 interchange with Steveston Hwy, you can catch one of the suburban bus running on the Hwy 99. It can be a traumatizing experience, especially in the south direction:

While there is a bus shelter, a luxury rarely spotted in Richmond, no one has really thought that people could walk to it!

Eventually to improve the waiting experience, the MOT has installed a 46” screen, on a lamppost, providing residual light at night for the bus stop (to be sure the purpose of the original lamppost is to provide light to the road)

It is part of a pilot project, supposed to give real time information to the transit user [1]. In fact the later one will often see the messages illustrated below.

the route 620 and 404 being not operated by suburban bus Orion V, the transit rider will get no information, real time or not, for them. Notice that the map, apparently a Google road map, display the route covered by the real time system, but no bus routes are displayed at all! Notice also the “quick and dirty” look of the installation: it is really a pilot project

for other bus routes, the system doesn’t give any information, when no bus are present on the route covered by the system, i.e. Bridgeport to Steveston Hwy. To relieve your patience, you can watch the real time video of the bus stop you are waiting at

Imagine,a departure screen at the airport, which warms as some flights are not displayed at all, and giving no information on some other flights because their plane is not en route!

That is what the MOT pilot project is doing for the bus information. We are relieved it is still a “pilot” project, because there is certainly lot of room for improvement.

This project, while looking a nice intention, raises lot of questions:

  • Why a pilot project? is real time bus information such a breakthrough technology, requiring “pilot” project those days?
  • The project, technologically different of the Main street one, rely on a private network:
    Why use a private network, when there is no lack of 3G providers covering not only the freeway corridor but all the metro area, able to provide communication link between the buses and a data processing center?

but the big question is:

  • Why it is a project from the province and not Translink, which could be expected to be the relevant agency to drive such project?

The Hwy 99 bus stop premises being probably under MOT jurisdiction, why the MOT is not trying to improve it first?

An interchange doesn’t need to be dull, as the picture below can witness. More than that, studies could tend to correlate beautifully landscaped highway with safer highway [2].

this nicely landscaped plot is the Highway 10 and 210 interchange in Redlands, CA. and there is no bus stop here, so it is only for motorist to enjoy the view (credit photo zIDEAz)

the information pilot project come in addition of an HOV lane currently under construction on the Hwy 99 North bound and the extension of the southbound one, north of Westminster bridge.
There is no doubt that significant dollars are spent to improve ths bus experience on the Hwy 99 north of the George Massey Tunnel, and there is no doubt that improvement are needed

the Highway 99 at Westminster Road (left) and Blundell (right) around 1pm weekdays. Westminster road bridge is currently a bottle neck, since the HOV southbound start only south of the bridge. The extension of it north of the bridge will be a welcome relieve… the buses share the current HOV lane with vehicle of 2 occupants or more. According to the MOT, that has no effect on the buses operations [3] : on the picture, the traffic on the HOV lane move at around 40km/h for a posted limit of 80km/h…

Transit advocates should apriori applaude such initiatives, but they left a sour taste: Why?

From the Highway 99, we are seeing erected components which could raise the hwy 99 as a corridor for a BRT or for buses with a high level of service. Unfortunately those initiatives lacking of coordination, starting by the apparent non implication of the transit agency, Translink, will probably provide a result inferior to what it could have been, whether a more integrated goal could have been followed, for the same overall budget

[1] B.C. pilots dynamic transit display, Jennifer Kavur, 09 Aug 2010, ComputerWorld Canada

[2] Landscape improvement impacts on roadside safety in Texas, J. H. Moka, H. C. Landphair b, and J. R. Naderi, Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) pp263–274.

[3] Southbound Hwy 99 HOV lane opens to more commuters, Press release, AUg 29, 2008, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure


3 Responses to “A bus stop on the Hwy 99”

  1. Eric Doherty Says:

    An important point about highway shoulder bus lanes is that they are normally not suitable for HOV lanes, they serve the dual purpose of bus lane and shoulders for emergency stops, and emergency vehicles. This makes it easier to defend them against those who always want to fill all lanes with cars. Plus they are usually inexpensive to build, they don’t even have to be continuous to be effective.

    But I am not aware of any pleasant bus stop on the side of a freeway anywhere. Even partially enclosed light rail stations in freeway medians or off to one side (Calgary / Portland) are ugly places to wait around. Freeways and pleasant transfers may just be incompatible.

  2. Andrew Says:

    Look at what is available in Seattle:

    There is no need for fancy displays at bus stops. Especially the one described in this post which is in the middle of nowhere. Imagine walking all the way out to a bus stop only to find that the bus is coming in 35 minutes.

    There is no reason why this information couldn’t be sent to your cell phone or to your desk top at work/home. Why not continue working or sipping coffee at home or office while waiting for your bus when it really arrives? With the information which is now available, it wouldn’t take a software genius to create an app which sends you an email or alarm when your bus if 5 minutes away from your stop (or whatever warning time you choose)

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