Transit on Commercial Drive…or the cost of a bike lane
November 3, 2014
Some numbers extracted from the Translink GTFS feed  (for the day of Sept 5th, 2014), for the 2km segment between Hasting and Broadway. The current average speed is ~11.5km/h, could be increased to ~15km/h with a bus lane…or reduced to ~9km/h according to the tradeoff done to implement bike paths
- number of #20 runs: 304 (but I counted only 276 between Broadway and Hasting) requiring a minimum of 19 vehicles in revenue service 
- time and speed between Broadway and Hasting :
- ~15,700 annual operating hours meaning $1.57 millions in annual operating cost (at $100/hr, in line with )
|Min time||Average time||Max time|
|Max speed||Average speed||Min speed|
bus lane Impact on Commercial Drive
We are considering the previously presented Commercial Drive proposal as illustrated below
- This bus lane, featuring clearly marked corridors (protected in one direction) and transit priority signal, suggests that average speed typical of BRT or urban LRT could be achieved: that is ~20km/h.
- That said, noticeabily because the stop are closely spaced, an average speed of 15km/h could be more realisticaly and conservatively achieved:
- That is roughly the average speed of the bus 20 outside the Commercial Drive segment.
Annual operating cost
|average speed||Average time||Annual operating cost|
The potential operating cost saving is in the tune of of $300,000 to $600,000/year.
Similar configurations, be on Davie or Robson, suggest a reduction of the average speed to ~9km/h; That could increase the route 20 operating cost by $400,000/year:
- the bus+bike lanes proposal is conductive of $1 Million in operating cost saving versus a proposal favoring street parking over transit.
A bus lane + traffic signal priority, allows an increase in the bus schedule reliability: lay over can be reduced accordingly, increasing the operating saving
Operating cost is only part of the picture:
the slower a bus route is, the more buses are required at same frequency/seat capacity:
The bus requirement is compounded by two conflating issues:
On the route 20, afternoon peak hour traffic cost ~4 buses:
A bus lane, making transit more immune to traffic congestion, allows to reduce drastically the peak hour buses requirement (in our example, the average speed maintained at ~15km/h, vs 9.5km/h currently in peak hour)
Adding a peak hour bus is a very expensive proposition: it means (to preserve spare ratio, and other contingency)
- the Purchase of an additional bus
- Adding storage capacity for this bus (even if in use 20mn a day)
- Adding maintenance cost
- adding a driver on payroll and all ancilliairy cost (training, administration)
According to a conversation with a former Toronto Transit Commission employee, the TTC is costing an additional peak hour bus at $100,000 a year (that is for a 40footer, typically sold a ~$300,000)
It is worth to note that Translink is in very short supply of articulated trolleybus, estimated each at $1M
It is no secret that the faster a transit service is, the more ridership it will attract. That has been again recently verified in Seattle, with a quasi linear relationship:
- an increase of 20% in speed is conductive of a similar increase in the ridership, which de facto increase the bus operator revenue
This coumpounded to lower operating cost makes Transit much more financially sustainable.
When all the effects are combined, it is relatively conservative to estimate that a bike lane, done at the expense of transit on Commerical, could end up to cost more than $1 million/year to Translink, when compared to a solution improving both
…and here we have analyzed only the direct cost for Translink…
 New markings aim to keep drivers out of Battery Street bus lane, Aubrey Cohen, SeattlePi- Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
 That makes the route 20 the 4th most frequent bus route of the network, behind route 99,9 and 41.
 See our reference spreadsheet (which has been updated with the 2014 data) for further detail.
 We use here the hourly operating cost as stated in the 2013 Bus Service Performance Review (see Annex A): it is worth to note that this hourly operating cost doesn’t include neither bus lay over and dead end trips. It doesn’t differentiate artics buses from standard ones too: the $100 mark is a very significant under estimate of the real operating cost of a route. A $180 per customer hour service could be closer to reality as we have seen before.
 It seems that the average speed of the route 20 is decreasing year over year, almost 10% reduction in the last 7 years according to our spreadsheet  (which also depends of the Translink data quality): A probable consequence of the city council inaction on Transit front