Some Translink Service Optimization in Vancouver

February 13, 2012

As you probably know, The Translink commission is inviting comments from the public on the proposed fare increase, and particularly on TransLink’s efficiency (The deadline for sending them is February 15, 2012). This post is part of my contribution toward it, and I encourage you to share yours too.

optimize the network by pruning irrelevant, because redundant and lightly used, route segments

Translink has published a Transit plan for Vancouver in 2005 [1]. While many recommendations of it have been implemented, especially the good integration of the bus system with the Canada line, some others aiming at making the system more efficient have not been followed so far:

  • short turning of the route 3 (Main) at Main and hasting
  • short turning of alternate trip of route 20 (Victoria) at Commercial and Powell (instead to go thru Downtown)

The saving can be very dramatic, and in the case of route #3, it could have allowed a 30% reduction of the bus fleet.

One of the reason for that is expressed by the average speed diagram below.

Average operating speed of Transit(2)

Due to relatively low operating speed on the Hasting and Downtown segment, the buses tend to spend a considerable amount of time there. Below is an estimate of it (from 2010 Translink timetable)-and a recent reduction of posted speed on Hasting makes the matter only worse:

route number of runs fleet requirement total service hour hr on hasting/Downtown % of service hr on Hasting/Downtown
3 280 14 197 41 21%
8 317 16 196 34 17%
20 332 20 250 75 30%

This fact makes also for a low reliability route. The additional observation that most customers transfer to/from SkyTrain for downtown access and ridership in downtown and Hasting is pretty light-an observation corroborated by Translink ridership analysis [1]– complete the justification of the short turning of those routes South of Hasting (instead to head toward downtown).

Those route could then operate on a nearly pure grid system- Hasting street being served by route 14,16 and 135 among others on nearby parallel corridors. The lack of direct service to downtown is largely compensated by the Skytrain access: In that matter, those routes could not be treated more differently than the suburban bus routes (which have been short-turned with the advent of the canda line for similar reasons). Furthermore It is also worth to note the route 19 still ensures a direct connection between downtown and Main, north of Broadway.

Since we are talking of frequent route operated by 60 foot trolleybuses, the saving can be massive, not only in operating hours but also in bus fleet requirement, which can be also reduced significantly. Part of it can be redeployed to improve the network connectivity, on a model as below:

Toward a Vancouver network better connected to the South of Fraser one

The main idea, is to connect as much as possible Vancouver N/S bus routes at either Marine Drive or Knight bridge:

suggestion for bus route 3,16,8,20 and 100

suggestion for bus route 3,16,8,20 and 100, orange colored route (10,15,17 and 22) rest unchanged

The knight bridge Hub

This Hub allows connection with the Richmond network -route 405,407 and 430- [3], which legitimates the extension of route 8 and 20 toward it. Since there is no bus loop, and the number of runs on route 8 and 20 are roughly equivalent, the buses of route 8 could continue on route 20 in the same manner as buses operates on route 5/6.

  • Notice that the bus queue jumper on Knight bridge provide a natural advantage to the Richmond’s bus which could be more leveraged by providing a decent scope of connection on the Vancouver side from this Bridge
  • The Harison loop (bus 20), is then retired (and can be sold)

The Marine drive hub

  • All the runs of route 3 go to Marine drive: This is to encourage contra-flow riding, hence lowering the pressure on main flow
  • Observing that very few customers stay on the bus at Marine drive, route 100 is replaced by route 16 West of marine drive. Both route have similar number of runs, so it is roughly equivalent in term of operating cost but
    • It increases the number of destination accessible from Marine Drive
    • It replaces a diesel bus by a trolley can’t be bad!
    • It allows to retire the route 16 bus loop-as well as Marpole loop-which can be sold (what can probably pay all the work required for other operation suggested in this post).


The short turning of the routes at Hasting largely pays for the extension of all the 3,8 and 20 bus runs at either Knight bridge or Marine Drive:

route number of run cur fleet requirement cur total service hour proposed total service hour proposal bus requirement % hr saved
3 280 14 197 161 12 13.5%
8 317 16 196 178 15 9%
20 332 20 250 186 16 25%

While, the proposal improves significantly the connectivity of the network, the average daily operating hour saving-120hrs- could be still around 18% , what is probably worth $5 millions/years (assuming operating cost of $120 per, leaving significant room to improve other part of the system.

It could be interesting to understand why Translink has chosen to not implement its own efficiency recommendation as stated in [1], but it occurs that it could be a good time to proceed forward on it

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

[2] Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an
Operations-Based Model
, Ian Fisher (translink), Wolfgang Scherr and Kean Lew (PTV), 2009 ITE Quad Conference, Vancouver, 1 May

[3] See also our suggested Transit plan for Richmond (September 2, 2011).


9 Responses to “Some Translink Service Optimization in Vancouver”

  1. mike0123 Says:

    I think one of the main reasons for the lack of ridership on Hastings is the poor legibility of their routes downtown. Many of the east-west routes switch streets at Main (e.g. from Powell to Pender). It’s difficult to remember which buses go where.

    Local Powell and Hastings buses compete for the same market because they’re very close. Because the routes are on two streets instead of just on Hastings, the effective frequency is cut nearly in half for trips in the corridor.

    Because the 7-Nanaimo doesn’t connect to the Millennium line, it should run downtown to provide a reasonably frequent, fast connection to downtown for people on Nanaimo. But you’re right to note that the ridership on the local Hastings buses is low. Some routes should be changed or removed, and this can be an opportunity to improve the network for trips to the rest of the region.

    I would do it like this:
    1) Remove Powell from the network west of Nanaimo
    2) Extend the 3-Commercial to McGill/Renfrew on the current route of the 4-Powell east of Nanaimo
    3) Extend the 16-Renfrew to McGill/Renfrew
    4) Run all East Hastings local buses (i.e. 7, 14, 22) on Hastings downtown
    5) Turn all the Main local buses (i.e. 3, 8, 19) around at the end of Main
    6) Connect the 19-Stanley Park to the 17-Oak via Pender/Cambie

    This simpifies the routes of most eastside local buses, and consolidates the routes that go similar places on fewer streets where higher frequency service will be possible.

  2. mike0123 Says:

    Sorry, 20-Commercial not 3.

  3. Andrew Says:

    Would love to see a rail link from Marine Drive Stn. to New West and Coquitlam along the existing rail line to help complete the transit rail network on the Burrard peninsula.

    this would complement the local grid you describe here.

  4. The Other David Says:

    A few years ago, the 3 Main was cut back to the north foot of Main and Cordova, but soon extended to turn around at the Harbour Centre block..Ditto the 8… (Years ago, they continued to run around the West End via Davie and Denman)… I can’t speak to the AM service, but in the PM, they sometimes beat Skytrain from Harbour Centre to Main St Station (once you count walking from Cordova & Seymour to the platform, and waiting to depart.)

    Though some days, the crowds boarding on Main St, and a wheelchair or two, tips the balance in favour of Skytrain.

    (Note the 130 between Hastings & Lougheed Voony… relatively green)

  5. Voony Says:

    mike0123: I didn’t explored too much the Hasting corridor itself, but you are right that there is room for improvment on it. Translink had expressed the idea to merge route 4 and 16 in 2005 [1].

    Andrew: I also see that this rail track along Marine drive could play a role in the future…

    OtherDavid, I found on that the route 3 had effectively been shortened between 2005 and Dec 29th 2008 …not sure why it has been re-extended end of 2008:
    Is it because CMBC had too much trolley on hand and need to put them on the road?
    Is it because the bus operator prefer to have a break in downtown rather than Main#Cordova (I can understand that 😉 but is it a reasonable reason)?

  6. […] See our route shortening suggestions proposal which me measure as able to save to Translink around 1% of total bus operating […]

  7. Great post voony. I love reading about the “gears” of a system I don’t really understand.

    We found that Hastings within Vancouver city limits is walking distance to all locations north as far as the Railway for almost its full length. Beyond Nanaimo, there are residential areas that would be 15 min. walking distance from Hastings which would be problematic.

    But, there will be a real advantage to keeping the buses off the local streets, including the Powell-Cordova one-way coupling which blights the neighbourhoods today, and will hopefully one day be removed.

    There is also the hope of closing Maple Tree Square to traffic, either more often of semi-permanently. That move needs to be supported by transit on Hastings.

    If you are using Illustrator for the image try turning on the “round corners” on the line palette. You will find that the gaps disappear between the line segments.

  8. Voony Says:

    Thanks Lewis and thanks for the “illustrator” tip. I guess this Powell routing date back of the time when streetcars have to compete with walking and not driving…
    Now, the couplet Powell-Cordova is not transit friendly at all.
    I guess it is all like it for legacy reason, but effectively it looks all transit on Hasting seems a natural solution… may be there is also some operating reason to not do it (many different route in the corridor making it prone to bus bunching).

  9. […] a larger access to Vancouver from south of the Fraser. A suggestion already made in a previous post is to extend most of the North South Vancouver bus route to either Marine Drive or Knight Bridge. A […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: