bus 410 Express

July 19, 2011

…or how to do more with less

the bus route 410 in red, and a suggested express route, 411 in yellow

The route 410 linking New Westminster (22nd station) to Richmond is one of the most popular suburban route [2]. That is, it achieves several goals in addition to link two suburban communities:

  • provide service to largely residential area of Queensborough neighborhood
  • provide service Along Cambie road in Richmond, mixed residential and industrial areas
  • provide service Along Railway to Stevenson in Richmond

Thanks to its patronage, the route has seen an increase in service which is as frequent as 7/8mn weekday, much better than other local bus routes in Richmond. Since the route is quite long, average trip length is 1h03mn, with numerous stop, and the vehicle requirement is quite high [1].

number of bus 410 on the street according to the time of the day (1)

Obviously, the local service, thought useful, makes the more regional New Westminster-Richmond center connection painfully slow.
The table below gives you an idea of how much longer time it can take between the Hwy 91 exit at Westminster highway in Queensborough and Richmond Brighouse (number from Translink for an arrival at 9am weekday at Brighouse), consider you have good chance to have to do the ride in a standing room only 410 bus!

bus 410 40mn
bus 301 22mn
car 15-20mn

Not only, the current option makes for a long and unappealing trip for the rider, it makes also for a low productivity route!

As the frequency of other local Richmond bus route suggest, the enhanced service on 410 is mostly justified by regional transit…that is boarding per operating hour is probably nothing to celebrate.

The 411 Express

What we suggest is an express route between New Westminster and Richmond, let’s name it the route 411, marked in yellow on the map above (it is an express route stopping only at selected stop suggested in white circle).

  • The route could follow the route 301 (dashed yellow line), but we could prefer the solid yellow line thru road number 6 and westminster highway, since the exit of Highway 91 at Road 6, allows the route to connect with the eastearn part of Richmond (current route 410, and C96) with no real significant penalty time, considering the final destination
  • Like the 301, The route 411 stop at Westminster highway in Queensborough, to provide connection with this community
  • We assume the route above involve a ~30mn trip versus 50mn with the current bus 410

That is a 411 run could be 30mn versus 1h03 with the 410. In clear:

  • for the cost of one 410 run, you could have 2 411 runs.

The strength of the proposition:

Considering that

  • the most busy locals route in Richmond have in the vicinity of 165 runs weekday,
  • and that a frequency of 7/8mn (as currently on 410) versus 10mn will make no noticeable difference in term of user experience.

A redeployment of some runs from the 410 toward a 411 could not affect adversely the local bus service be in Richmond or Queensborough, but indeed could dramatically improve the regional connection.

without adding on operating cost, you could dramatically improve the New Westminster-Richmond connection in term of speed and offered seat, and de facto increase the buses productivity

We suggest a 411 peak hour express route, running every 20mn during peak hour:

  • that is 3 run per hour, requiring 4 vehicles

That can apriori be bought by reduction of service on route 410 from 8 run/hour (7-8mn frequency) to 6 run/hour (10mn frequency) per direction.

In fact, with 211 runs versus 184 runs for the second most frequent 400 serie bus route (route403), around 54 hours of operating hours could be redeployed to a route #411, and still keeping the route 410 at decent frequency standard. That could be enough to provide a full day 20mn frequency rapid transit service between Richmond and New Westminster:

It is not necessarily the tradeoff we recommend but it illustrates that there is lot of room for an express route funded by reallocation of bus 410 operating hour, this without compromising the integrity of the later:

The Suggested 410 and 411 route service

An express route, even if peak hour only – like the route 44 used to be – could be enough to attract new choice customer and make happier current one, this on a route able to relieve Queensborough bridge congestion, and more generally congestion in New Westminster.

Below is the suggested timetable for the 2 bus routes, 410 and 411 operating without increase in operating bus hour compared to the current situation (410 only)

bus 410 – 22nd station → Brighouse → Railway

22nd station → Brighouse travel time 35mn to 55mn
5h 6h 7h 8h 9h 10h 11h 12h 13h 14h 15h 16h 17h 18h 19h 20h 21h 22h 23h 0h
31 03 03 03 03 05 05 05 05 05 03 03 03 03 03 03 03 16 16 49
51 13 13 13 17 17 17 17 17 17 13 13 13 18 18 18 18 46 46
23 23 23 29 29 29 29 29 29 23 23 23 33 33 33 46
33 33 33 41 41 41 41 41 41 33 33 33 48 48 48
43 43 43 53 53 53 53 53 53 43 43 43
53 53 53 53 53 53

bus 411 – 22nd station → Brighouse

22nd station → Brighouse travel time 30mn
5h 6h 7h 8h 9h 10h 11h 12h 13h 14h 15h 16h 17h 18h 19h 20h 21h 22h 23h 0h
40 00 00 00 00 00 00
20 20 20 20 20
40 40 40 40 40

The exercise shows there is significant room for bus service improvement, even in financial restraint time…

[1] Compiled from Translink gtfs data weekday, April 2010

[2] According TransLink’s Regional Transit Model, Final Model Development Report – Phase B: 2007 and 2011, PTV America Inc. and Translink. vancouver December 2008: bus 410 were carrying more than 11,000 riders/day in 2007, second only to route 135 and 106 in suburban area, and noticeably more patronized than B line 97.

check Translink proposals B1 or B2

but first, some reports of the April 30th workshop (material and report can be found here),

The big Picture

Does New Westminster will accept the waterfront vision proposed by traffic engineers...Vancouver has said 'no thanks' 40 year ago

Translink tried to provide the bigger picture in which the United Boulevard Extension (UBE) takes relevance under a favorable light. Not surprisingly they had hard time to conceal the fact it calls for a 4 lanes freeway solution along the New Westminster waterfront, and that is not stranger to the fierce opposition of the New Westminster folks to the UBE [4].

Needless to say, Translik has been less than convincing at providing rational for the NFPR and impact of the UBE on New Westminster traffic and livalibility, and this opinion has been well reflected by the intervention of one participant which has been received by long and warm applause of the audience.

Not surprisingly, to support the “big picture”, Translink recommends some variation on option B

Option B family

Translink came with 3 variations B1, B2, and one curiously titled E3 based on the option B1

UBE extension Option B1 and B2

The option B1 highlights the fact that 2 4-lanes highways are merging in one, south of Braid street. When you question the consultants on hand about the congestion consequence of it, the answer is

the “model” said it works well

Sure, we believe that traffic engineers didn’t aim at creating congestion, but usually when you design a funnel like in option B1, it is typically what happens! why it will be not the case for UBE?

Transit in Option B family

Braid station is the natural skytrain station for the area, where buses connect…Option B prevents road access to UBE from braid station. plain in simple:

  • Efficient transit service to extended United boulevard is not possible

Why an agency which is also a transit agency even consider such transit hostile option is beyond comprehension.

Option E family

Translink proposes 2 options. The difference between them is just the alignment of the United Boulevard. Below is the option E2 which suggests a United boulevard alignment similar to the one originally proposed here. Not surprisingly we think it is the best one Translink has put forward so far

Option E2 choose a road alignment north of the Brunette river, as suggested in option F and G, but still multiply unecessarily the number of intersection on brunette

family E is dismissed by Translink and its consultant Delcan, because it “increases” the level of congestion. Why?

too closely spaced traffic signaled intersection on brunette avenue

So why not the option below?

Option G2

Option G2 is conceptually similar to option E2, except a redesign of he Brunette interchange ramps prevent the introduction of an extra intersection

the Delcan consultant on hand suggested that the traffic on hwy 1 east bound exit ramps could be too heavy to be handled by a single Hwy 1 east ramp exit like suggested in G2. There is no available number to back up this suggestion…and MOT seems to think otherwise, since the exit ramp suppression as presented in G2 is what it is suggesting too [1].

That said the option G2 is nothing else that the previously presented option G , but with a traditional intersection instead of a roundabout.

Why not a roundabout?

…Following my post about it, I was eager to get some feedback.

To this question I and others have raised with several representatives, the answer can be very variable according to the interlocutor on hand…

A Delcan representative noticing that the Province and ICBC push for more roundabouts, explains:

-“We have think of it for option E, but could need to be an elevated structure” [because the thinking is in the context of the intersection above a railyard as layed out in option E]
-yes but what about the roundabout at Brunette Interchange?
-It could need to be multi lanes! …people are not used to it !

A third party:

-“Brunette interchange is MOT juridiction, it will slow down the project!”

A Translink representative

-“people drive differently here, roundabout will not work”

I was pleased that the solution has been considered and the suggestion heard but the arguments opposed sounds to relate to what Jarret Walker (whose is currently consulting for Translink), call the lowest level of “spectrum of authorities”, that is:

  • My feeling says it will not work
  • Our feeling says it will not work
  • it will not work because our culture

multi-lane roundabout are popular all over Europe, now in Asia too…it is hard to grasp why they could not work in BC…since at the end of the day it is question of “geometry” and here lie probably the real reason why the roundabout solution is not considered favorably by Delcan/Translink.

The political (or psychological reason).

  • The Delcan team working on the UBE project could not have the expertise to design large roundabout…and they don’t want loose the project to another team or consultant [3]

but more importantly, and that is also why the more traditional option G2 is not even on the table:

  • Having the UBE extension encroaching the MOT juridiction could probably signify to Translink the lost of the project management to the Province ministry [2].

That means that to foster their interests (psychological reason), both Delcan and Translink teams could be willing to work at a substandard solution, even if that is done at the expense of the general public interest.

Let’shope it will be not the case…

[1] Brunette Avenue to North Road, fall 2010. the original design was including a fly-over, but the latest solution suggested by the MOT is the suppression plain and simple of one of the 2 Hwy ramp exits.

[2] As noticed in the letter ‘Road to the future is not the United Boulevard Extension of the NFPR‘ (New Westminster News leader, April 12th) , all non-road-building options have been dismissed for similar reason too.: Mr Zein, the road building engineer responsible of the project scope/definition is poised to be also the responsible for its construction too.

[3] Indeed, the roundabout design is a very important actor to its efficiency, and if somewhat North American roundabout are less efficient than european ones, it is not a question of driver but of design…and there is effectively only limited experience, and incidentally expertise, with large or interchange roundabout in North America.

[4] You will find some more elaborated thoughts on the challenges raised by a 4 lanes highway on the New Westminster Waterfront at GreenNewWest

Translink came up with numerous new options for the United Boulevard Extension in New westminster BC…Basically none of them, expect may be one, sound acceptable…


You can claim explore lot of options, by coming with rendering like the above, but Translink should keep serious…. Patrick Jonhston at Greenwest did a review of all the options. Of it, it appears that the option E seems the less damageable, assuming we need to extend the United Boulevard to Brunette.

The apriori less damagable option is not free of flaw, it suppose an extended elevated way to cross large railway yard, and interfere with the Brunette interchange

Assuming option E is the best so far Translink has put on table and considering

  • it creates a new intersection in close vicinity of he Brunette interchange
  • It requires crossing extensive rail-yard

It is time for Translink to consider to merge the intersection with the Brunette interchange… and that is what roundabout are for. so below two options Translink should have put on the table but didn’t for unexplained reason.

Option F: roundabout interchange

In the concept above, taking less land than the current interchange, all traffic lights are removed

  • it is a free flow interchange.
  • It has higher capacity than the current interchange [5]

But it is also [5]

  • Safer than the current interchange which is one of the most accident prone intersection in Metro Vancouver [2]
  • providing traffic “passive” calming measure, since the traffic need to slowdown in all case (at the diference of traffic light which invite to speeding to catch them on green…and/or emergency breaking on Amber)

Not surprising, due to the above, the roundabout interchange has been overly developed in Europe in the last two decades, but you can see some in the USA too.

a 6 legs roundabout interchange (Porte de Vannes, Nantes, France) (photo Google satellite)

The concept above, while having a foot print smaller than the existing interchange, supposes the construction of 2 new curved overpasses on the Highway 1. It could be considered too costly…Let’s go to a simpler version of it:

Option G: “half” Dumbbell interchange

a roundabout on the south side of the brunette interchange, distribute all the traffic. The entry ramp on Hy 1 East bound pas below the UBE, where a bridge is anyway required to cross the railtrack

In the later concept, the roundabout size is limited by some constraints like the Brunette river, but still can offer a radius larger than the current exit ramps on Highway one. This “Dumbbell” interchange concept requiring less civil engineering is quite popular in Europe, but you don’t need to go that far to observe it:

  • Thought it is still not yet at par with the best European realization, the Blaine interchange on the I5 just south of the Border is probably one of the best example you can observe on the continent, and show encouraging move from the WSDOT. Why they have retrofitted the interchange like it?
“The roundabouts will help improve safety and mobility at the interchange for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists”.

Yes, roundabout do all of that, so why Translink suggests only inferior “old school” solution is a mistery.

The Province Agenda

The original design of the Brunette interchange was a 3 levels interchanges with a fly-over…that has obviously no place in an urban environment, but what can you expect from of our MOT [3]?

The initial design from the MOT for the brunette Interchange is ignoring the urban nature of the Brunette Avenue

The province could have hold-off on this insanity only due to the uncertainty involved by the United Boulevard Extension, which could be resolved and could try to achieve same goal [3] . But the project shows that for the province , when it is time to build roads, money is not an object, and very certainly the suggested design F and G presented here shows that you can achieve overall much better outcome that the disjointed approaches pursued on on side, by MOT, and the other, Translink…

…That is, it is time for Translink to become a bit more serious on its UBE concepts.

Translink is holding a workshop on Saturday, April 30, 2011, let them know what you think

[1] Washington State DOT, Blaine interchange

[2] Metro Vancouver’s most dangerous intersections, Chad Skelton, VancouverSun, September 12, 2010

[3] This video from the Gateway agency explain that the Brunette interchange improvement combined with the King Edward overpass are aimed to improve access to the United Boulevard.

[4] cap Horn and Brunette avenue Interchange Pre-Design Consultation. Port Mann brigde/ Highway 1

[5] numerous study support those assertions also stated in wikipedia. for North america, Roundabouts Increase Interchange Capacity, L. Ourston and G.A. hall

as you could now, Translink has decided to funnel more traffic into New Westminster, by planning the extension of United Boulevard to Sapperton, and is planning 2 workshops, one tonight: you will find all backgrounder information on the Translink buzzer blog.

While cities around the world are reconquering their waterfront for the good of their citizen, Translink has a very different plot for New Westminster. credit Photo (5)

You will also find reasons why this project makes no good sense at the local blog TentotheFraser and NWEP… and you will find the case against the United boulevard extension very well articulated in a letter to Editor to the local News Westminster leader [6].

we will not reiterate the very compelling reasons against the case but just focus on the Translink arguments.

Traffic projection

First, we have to keep in mind that

  • Translink has grossly over estimated vehicular traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge…the cost of this mistake is $30 to $40 million shortfall in revenue…. ironically the exact amount required to fund the Evergreen line
  • Translink has under estimated the ridership on the Canada line, since we are 2 to 3 years ahead of the projection

That said in despite of a model biased in favor of cars, Translink has hard time to show an increase in traffic in the near future on the United Boulevard, the given explanation is

Existing traffic volumes at some points are the same as 2015 traffic volumes. Some reasons for this may be: (i) the road is already at capacity (ii) while overall traffic volume is growing, other transportation improvements such as Highway 1 and South Fraser Perimeter Road have come on line and influenced some trips.

That is: the other investments already done in the region are sufficient to address the traffic growth!

The traffic growth itself should be questioned. The whole Gateway program has been justified by traffic Armageddon by 2010 which has so far failed to materialize. below is a graph using the 1989 to 2003 data of the gateway office [1] completed by the 2010 ones [2]

Overall, on the years 2003 to 2010 the traffic has kept stable. Notice how the Port Mann bridge traffic has significantly decrased in conjunction with the opening of the Golden Ears bridge

  • Not unexpected, the traffic increase on the Golden Ears bridge is in fact achieved in quasi totality at the expense of the Port Mann Bridge. That illustrates it was no latent unfulfilled demand as long as the full cost of the trip is expected to be paid by the user
  • When the (free) offer exceeds the demand, it is an invitation to use it: that is well illustrated with the Alex Fraser Bridge, where the demand growth has a continuous pace not witnessed in other part of the region: that is typically how urban sprawl occurs

Those mistakes on the traffic projection has been done in the past…be on the unnecessary replacement project of the Lions gate bridge or other road projects in town On the topic, one will especially refer to a report of 1962 devising on the need of rapid transit in Vancouver which was foreseeing

  • Exponential growth fo vehicular traffic
  • Stagnation of Transit ridership

…but Vancouver didn’t build freeway: Then the traffic prediction has proven totally wrong and the choice to not build freeway can be justified a posteriori…Whether Vancouver had build freway, we could have been mired in Seattle style grid lock…but making the traffic prediction true. The lesson of it is that in matter of transportation, offer drive the demand.

Last month, Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang, was in town to explain nothing different to Translink as quoted by its buzzer blog

…adding capacity doesn’t make things better. Sometimes it contributes to worsening traffic.
I saw that many links encourages more routes. Once we got rid of some roads, that might reduce people’s willingness to travel downtown by car.

In despite of clear evidence from Seoul, and elsewhere, demonstrating the accuracy of this judgement,Translink stubbornly continues to force feed more road to New Westminster…

Is it to make sure their traffic projection are proven right that they have axed bus route in new Westminster?

Traffic safety

Since the United Boulevard can’t be justified by Traffic projection, Translink has decided to justify the project by the amount of “collision” as provided by ICBC.

Reducing the number of collisions is may be a nice initiative, but what is certainly more important is reducing the number of injuries and fatalities. It could be a paradox but they are different things, and some time it is better to have lot of fender-benders than fewer but more severe collision.

That has been well understood in Europe since now for around 2 decades:

  • Encouraging car traffic by increasing capacity and encouraging speeding is the wrong way to go!

Some other strategies based on road calming are now largely developed in western Europe, and road safety has increased dramatically in Europe this last 10 years. In comparison no significant progress has been done in Canada which could now be considered as a dangerous country according to nowadays European standard [7]

Still in despite of evidence now proven by the fact that Western European roads-where aggressive traffic calming are widespread- are now much safer, Translink view of safety is still anchored in the 60s culture of freeway expansion:

  • “Safety Goal” is Reduction of collision rate, not reduction of fatalities and injuries

…a policy which has failed to improve road safety in the last 10 years or so.

Goods Movement

That is the last reason invoked to justify more roads. Again the numbers provided by Translink are unconvincing.

  • Around 40 trucks per hour per direction peak time use the United Boulevard
  • That is roughly 5 to 10% of the total traffic

Goods movement is important but clearly truck traffic alone is not able to justify the investment…If you want to improve the truck traffic, you still can resort to some solution dissuading cars to use the Bailey bridge, that is transforming the United Boulevard as a cul de sac for car.

A cartrap, as here seen on a busway in cambridge UK, allow to discriminate traffic between SOV and heavy truck

The New Westminster leader explains in an editorial [3] that “barges to get containers up river, [are] much more expensive than trucking”…Not sure where they get this assessment. We have seen little study on it, and the only one we can refer for the region beg to differs [4]:

Short-sea container shipping, for selected terminal locations and routes
and with sufficient volume, offers price competitiveness with trucking and
some competitive advantages (likely to expand dramatically over time) in
the areas of delivery time and delivery time reliability. These advantages
occur because of road network congestion as well as deep-sea terminal
flow issues, gate congestion, reservation limitations and operating hour
limitations. All of these factors impact on truck transfer delivery time and
costs but do not affect a short-sea operation with on-dock marshalling
  • It is important to note that this conclusion is reached without injection of taxpayer money, what is far of to be the case for the road option hugely subsidized by the tax payer
  • It is not less important to note that addressing road congestion address only one element among other affecting the effectiveness of shipping from/to port, when a short sea shipping option could be more holistic

Clearly the New Westminster Leader editorial board is either ill informed or purposely misleads its readers to push the road builders agenda.

A Multi billions dollars road

It is important to note that the road lobby is often advancing a piece at a time to avoid to disclose too openly the true cost of road building…but the United Boulevard Extension doesn’t make sense outside a fully completed NFPR…That is certainly a multi billions dollars investment.

The tragedy of transit and other alternative options to mitigate traffic in New Westminster is they are not measured against the full cost of the NFPR, but only against the cost of the United Boulevard extension.

  • Measuring all the option on an equal foot is something Translink seems not prepared to do…but let see what the workshop will teach us.

[1] Gateway Program definition report

[2] Number from MOT, see Bridg traffic post

[3] Why we need to build the United Boulevard Extension New Westminster Leader, April 7th 2010.

[4] Greater Vancouver Short Sea Container Shipping Study Novacorp International/JWD Group, Vancouver, January 2005

[5] Pat Johnstone from TenToTheFraser

[6] Road to the future is not the United Boulevard Extension of the NFPR, Andrew Feltham, New Westminster leader, April 12, 2011

[7] Road safety evolution in EU, July 2010, European Commission