Vancouver Downtown Bus Review: the City and Translink Propositions

April 7, 2014

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 segments (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 operator allows this 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 respects 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, branches 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 directions on all served street), this route mainly carries the same advantages/drawbacks 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 removal of the hook at Burrard and Robson, it doesn’t address most of its current shortcoming already pointed 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 offers 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 offers good foundations based on sound Transit principles (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 explanations 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 a connection with the Expo line. From there, the question is:

  • Where the buses 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 efficiencies. 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 routes otherwise very short, also more useful by enabling to circulate in an downtown extended to its neck and Chinatown, without the need to transfer [3]
  • The lost of a direct route between Fraser and Hasting, is also compensated by a better access to the 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 solutions have been found to accommodate a potential closure of Robson square, but all proposed alternatives 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 routes).

    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.

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4 Responses to “Vancouver Downtown Bus Review: the City and Translink Propositions”

  1. Stephen Rees Says:

    City Council seems to have forgotten the idea that in the city everything is connected to everything else. While pedestrian areas are important they are destinations more than through routes. Creating them encourages people to loiter purposefully. Doing that on transit routes is wilfully obstructive. There are plenty of examples of central city streets that have removed cars to make transit work better. Only in Vancouver do we try to make transit worse.

  2. David Says:

    I honestly don’t understand how the City expects the QE Theatre/Playhouse complex to function with Cambie closed to traffic. Cambie is the stage entrance where things like sets are delivered by large trucks. It’s also the only entrance to the parking lot for patrons. Closing Cambie shuts down the theatres almost as quickly as cancelling their business licenses.

    To me the logical solution is to create a plaza parallel to Georgia Street. There is already a large barren plaza atop the parkade that could be beautified and extended over Cambie all the way to Beatty as part of the redevelopment of Larwill Park. I think such an elevated plaza would be a terrific addition to the city.

    Grids are clean and easy to serve, but they’re only efficient if most of the people want to travel in a straight line. So if you’re TransLink do you tell your passengers to get off and walk or transfer while you run a mostly empty bus in a straight line or do you turn the corner and drop the people off where they want to go?

  3. Jordan Says:

    Completely love the thought you’ve put into this! I totally agree it seems like the CoV is advancing pedestrian space to the detriment of transit users, when they should compliment each other. You’re extension of the 5/6 to Main and Hastings would be well welcomed. I would have to say, I’m more partial to the 5 on Betty, and 6 on Pacific/Expo which provide an even better transfer to the Expo line. As well, I would hope that Main and Hastings would become the layover point, finally allowing proper through transit along Robson-Denman-Davie.

    Thanks for you insights!


  4. Pretty obvious that Georgia and Nelson/Smithe should be the main bus streets in downtown. Georgia connects well to both rapid transit lines. Having buses turn at one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the city, Robson and Granville, is a very poor idea.


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