In a previous post, we have examined the general financing of the plan, and noticed that half of the Congestion improvement tax could go toward operating the system. In this post we focuse deeper on the Capital plan

Capital cost and Translink contribution to the plan

When looking at the plan, it is important to make a difference between the capital cost of a project with the effective contribution paid by Translink:

    If the Millenium line extension (Broadway subway) represents 30% of the capital investment over the first 10 yeras, it is expected to represents only 14% of the Translink financial contribution to the capital plan [1]. 77% of The broadway subway is expected to be financed by senior and municipal contributions.


The inner “cheese” represents the partition of the $7.5B capital investments of the plan.
The outer “cheese” represents the partition of the $3.5B of Translink contributionto the plan (difference come from senior government contribution)
(*) Surrey LRT is only partially financed by the current 10 years mayors’ plan: the capital cost is $2.5 billion, from which the current plan finance $1.9 Billions

Congestion Improvement tax allocation

The above represents only the capital cost, so not all the new CIT tax revenues will go toward it, but only the portion not used to fund the Translink expanded service operations. The allocation of the CIT tax to finance the plan will look like it:

CIT revenue allocation per project: half of it will be allocated to the new expanded transit operation. the TRanslink contribution to the Pattullo bridge is expected to be fully financed by tolls, and so is not financed by the CIT

the broadway subway end up to be only 10% of the total Translink plan extension cost to the tax payer. At the difference of other Transit investment, it doesn’t cost taxpayer money to operate, and could be able to generate revenue [1]. More tax $ will fund the roads network (and that doesn’t include the Pattullo bridge) than the broadway subway.

Capital cash flow and project timing

A bit of “reverse accounting” suggests the following [4]:

(*) the Surrey LRT line 2, is only partially accounted in the 10 years plan, an additional $600 million will ne needed in 2025 and 2026


The CIT generating more revenues in the first 10 years than considered in the original Mayors’ plan, the debt in 2024 could be around ~4Billion instead of $6Billion as published in June 2014 [2].


borrowing and debt repayment (assume a 4.5% interest rate)

As we have seen before, the transit operating costs are expected to increase at a much higher rate than the revenue sources (taxes + farebox revenues), revenues allocated to service the debt will be depleting over the years. ~2023, Translink will be unable to service its debt, it will be missing ~$50 Million to be able to service the debt interest only.

    In fact that was considered in the original plan, expecting ~$390 Million of new revenue by 2026: the current CIT will be actually $50 Million short of it.

At this time, it is unclear how the $50 Million gap will be closed [5][6], but it is fair to say that the plan or at least part of it- that is certainly the Fraser Hwy LRT (Surrey to Langley)- is not financed. Unless the financial forecast is significantly erring on the conservative side:

    The Fraser Hwy LRT would only go ahead if a new source of financing is agreed by 2022.

By this time, the technology choice could need to be reviewed, so one should not worry too much on this line [3]

Removing the Fraser Hwy LRT from the plan could not be enough to keep the Translink financial sheet on sound basis by 2024: scale back of some bus operations could be required. Though that a more cautious ramp up of bus services could be preferred, that is a normal and reasonnable risk. Otherwise, significant saving could be found in the Expo line upgrade program as we have suggested before.

As for the previous post on the Mayor’s plan financial, one will find my “sandbox” worksheet in Google doc

[1] Ideally one would like to consider the full life cycle cost of a project: the Operating cost of the Broadway subway is expected to be more than recovered by fare revenues, and it will allow saving on bus operations too. It is the only Transit project of the plan able to do so. Other transit projects are expected to have a fare recovery ratio of ~17%, involving reccuring costs for taxpayer. Concentrating on the sole cpaital cost is more often than not, misleading

[2] In 2014, the Translink assumption (Translink 2014 baseplan and outlook), was 6.8% interest rate for long term debt, and 5% for the short term debt. Translink has lately emitted bond at 4.5%: we use this last number accross the board but our number could be too optimistic

[3] It seems a bit silly to commit on a technology for a project not expecting to hit the ground in the next 8 years.

[4] Surrey LRT line 1 and line 2 are considered to have the same price per km. the ful cost of the LRT is $2.5Billions. The 10 years plan finance $1.9 Billions of it, ~$600 Million need to be provided in years 2025 and 2026. cash flow model come from the Surrey raid transit phase 2.

[5] The Mayors’ plan implictly suggests a mobility pricing tool to generate additional revenues.

[6] We didn’t have accounted an apparently “exceptional” “partnership” funding toward operation ($50M in 2023 and $35M in 2024) which could slightly delay the time when Translink could not generate enough revenue to service its debt.

The Metro Vancouver mayors council plan, proposed to a 2015 referendum, calls for $765 millions of expenditure on the Expo an Millennium line over the next 10 years. This could result in an increase of 50% of the vehicle fleet and skytrain operating cost: Are those investments justified or just an extravaganza?

As of today, the Skytrain comfortably copes with the demand, thanks to the recently added vehicles in the years leading to the 2010 Olympic games, and should be able to serve the Evergreen line without hiccups, considering the expected addition of 28 cars. In fact the vehicle productivity (measured as rider/vehicle) is 20% lower from its 2008 peak. When the average increase in vehicle capacity is considered (83 passengers, before 1999, to 108 passengers in 2014), Skytrain vehicles productivity is at a 20+ years low (see our spreadsheet for detail).

To define the fleet requirement, Let’s see what the future ridership is planned to be:

Ridership prediction [1]
without a Broadway subway

2041 AM peak hour transit flow (without a Broadway subway)

2041 AM peak hour transit flow (without a Broadway subway)

..and with a Broadway subway

2041 peak hour transit flow with a Broadway subway up to Arbutus

2041 peak hour transit flow with a Broadway subway up to Arbutus

[1] doesn’t give explicit peak hour numbers for year 2021, but we can still infer them from [1] and [5] for the year 2021:

Maximum passenger per hour per direction (pphd).

without Broadway extension 2021 2041
Millenium Line 8400 10000
Expo Line 16000 23100
with a Broadway extension 2021 2041
Millenium Line 10400 12600
Expo Line 16000 19000

Thought the above projections could not have factored other transit investments such as the Surrey LRT or B lines, as contained in the Mayors council plan [3], they are not expected to significantly affect the peak pphpd requirement on either the Expo or Millennium lines.

The actual skytrain fleet is composed of

  • 150 MK1 cars.
    The 114 oldest car are currently refurbished, for an estimated amount of $38million [2], providing them an additional 15 years life span, so they are good to go up to ~2027
  • 108 MKII cars + 28 cars to be delivered in 2016 (Evergreen line).

The below table illustrates the usually used consists and associated train capacity:

4 car MKI train 4MK1cars-consist
332 passengers/train
6 car MKI train 6MK1cars-consist
498 passengers/train
2 car MKII train 2MKIIcars-consist
256 or 264 passengers/train
4 car MKII train 4MKIIcars-consist
512 or 528 passengers/train

We place ourselves in a scenario post Evergreen line:

  • The Expo line operates from WaterFront to King George (one branch),and to Lougheed (other branch): that is also called split-tail service by [2]
  • The Millennium line operates from VCC to Douglas college
The 3 skytrain lines, after integration of the Evergreen line spur

The 3 skytrain lines, after integration of the Evergreen line spur

Thought we are aware that Translink is considering to extend the Expo branch from Lougheed to Production Way, we are not considering it for the below reasons:

  • It doesn’t make good use of the skytrain capacity due to the poor expected ridership on the considered section
  • It creates operational and reliability challenge, due to the meddling of the Expo and Millennium operation
  • It significantly limit the capacity of the Millennium line: this one could be not required in the short-term, but discontinuing a service people get use to consider as granted, could prove to be troublesome in the future

2021 Rolling stock requirement

  • As per [2], we assume a minimum 93s headway and a 87mn round trip on the expo line and 78mn return trip on the Millenium line. Due to the ill designed Lougheed station, headway below 108s on the Millennium line could be challenging.
  • The extension of the Millenium line up to Arbutus increases its round trip by 15mn [1], and increases the pphpd requirement to meet by 2021, from 8000 to 10400.
  • We don’t consider short trains such as Commercial (or Metrotown)-WaterFront. They could still be used to reduce the fleet requirement or increase the spare ratio. Such strategy is not without issues [6].

No ext Broad. ext
Expo line Desirable (2021)
headway 93s 114s 114s 120s
train requirement 56

(31 4xMKII cars
25 6xMKIcars)
(21 4xMKII cars
25 6xMKIcars)

9 5 cars MKIII consists
12 4xMKII cars
25 6xMKIcars)

15 4 cars MKIII consists
26 4xMKII cars
1 6xMKIcars)
capacity (pphpd) 19,900 16000 16000 16000
Millennium line Desirable (2021)
headway 150s 120s 108s
train requirement 32
(32 2xMKII cars)
(40 2xMKII cars)
(36 4xMKI cars
16 2xMKII cars
capacity (pphpd) 3,000 6,000 8,000 10,600
Total Desirable (2021)
train requirement 150 MKI cars
136MKII cars
150 MKI cars
136 MKII cars
150 MKI cars
136 MKII cars
9 5 cars MKIII consists
150 MKI cars
136 MKII cars
15 4 cars MKIII consists
~10% spare ratio 6 5xcars MIII 8 4xcars MIII

The Broadway subway extension will involve at least the command of 7 new train consists (6 train consist to operate the segment + one spare)[1] which will be accounted as part of this project. So the extra rolling stock required to continue to meet the demand on the Expo and Millennium line in the next 10 years is:

Without Broadway ext. With Broadway extension
15×5 car MKIII consists 16×4 car MKIII consists
$262.5 millions $224 millions

the refurbishing of the remaining 36 MKI cars, estimated at $10 millions from [2] need to be added.

In the case of the Broadway extension, all other Expo line upgrades are already financed (federal gas tax subsidiary) and continue to carry on on schedule, so that the non yet financed cost is ~$240 millions (some minor egress improvement could be required here and there, especially on the Millennium line))

Potential additional storage requirement should be seen in the context of the Broadway extension project: The Coquitlam vehicle storage facility should apriori be expanded to accommodate, with the Burnaby OMC, the fleet up to 2031 [7].

Regarding the 5 and 4 cars consists

  • If the Broadway extension is not built, the expo line will require 5 cars train consist before 2041, so it eventually makes sense to consider to start to add such trains on the rolling stock from now, but that supposes also ancillary cost to adapt the line and the OMC, to longer trains it could also require upgrade of Waterfront and Stadium station, which are not yet funded. It requires also an upgrade (stage 3) of the propulsion power to enable the delivering of 25,000pphpd [6].
  • If the Broadway extension is built, there is no need for 5 cars train in the next ~30 years or the usual lifespan of a train: 4 car trains (MKII and MKIII generation) will be able to absorb the 2041 demand, and the line is already prepped out (or upgrade funded).

In any case, what should be ordered are trains able to maximize the capacity at a given length: The idea to order 3 cars train is a flawed one, since it doesn’t allow to realize the maximum train capacity, but more importantly prevent platform door installation (due to train assymetry making train doors location not always the same):

It is more than time to order rolling stock which will:

  • enable future platform screen, since such installation allow much greater system reliability than the current passive track intrusion detection model.
  • minimize dwelling time

That should imposes constraint on the train door location for any future procurement.

4 car MKII train 4MKIIcars-consist
512 or 528 passengers/train
4 car MKIII train 4carsMKIIconsist~540 passengers/train
3+2 car MKIII train 3and2MKIIcars-consist
~670 passengers/train
5 car MKIII train 5MKIIcars-consist
~680 passengers/train

~2030 Rolling stock requirement

Circa 2030, the original 114 MKI car will reach their end of life, as well as the 60 MKII (ordered for the opening of the Millennium line). we place ourselves in a scenario where those cars are still in service, and before a decision is done regarding their eventual life extension or replacement

By that time, the Expo line should be able to carry ~18,000pphpd and the Millennium line, ~12,000pphpd (number inferred of both the 2021 and 2041 projection). The rolling stock could be assigned as below:

Expo line (2030) Millenium line (2030)
headway 108 150
train requirement 48
26 4xcars MKIII consist + 22 4xMKII cars
25 6xMKI cars + 12 4xMKII cars
capacity (pphpd) 18,000 12,000

Considering a ~10% spare ratio, 36 new 4 cars train should be ordered by 2030. More likely 30 in the next 10 years with an option to order 6 more circa 2025. That includes the 7 train part of the Broadway extension project, so the effective requirement could be 29 4 cars train – or 23 train in the next 10 years period, that is ~$320M (with a 6 additional 4 cars-train option to exercise ~2025)


  • the possible availability of second hand MKI car (from the Scarborough RT or the Detroit People Mover), and potential acquisition for refurbishing should be considered
  • the decision to go with 4 or 5 car consist order should be reexamined in the next 10 years, in light of the ridership evolution

The Mayor council plan

In brief the Mayor council plan[4] calls for the below

% increase
increased operation cost 53.5 50%
capital cost $765 millions
new vehicles ($500 millions) 145 50%

The above doesn’t account for 27 vehicle to be procured between 2025 an 2029

In the light of the previous sections, this seems to be an inconsiderate expense to

  • address purposeless goals; such as doubling the capacity of the Expo line by 2020 (the main reason for the mayors plan extravaganza)
  • and still failing to address basic requirement, such as the 10,000 pphpd ridership on the Millennium line in the case of the Broadway line (the Mayors council’s plan consider only 8,000).

The Mayors council’s plan implicitly assumes 3 cars train: This is a bad idea as we have seen before

A fundamental reason to put the Broadway subway as the top priority transit investment is to spare the considerable expense to upgrade the Expo line to meet the ~23,000pphpd 2041 demand; which could happen only on the very short section Commercial-Stadium:

A Broadway subway will reduce the Expo line demand at ~19,000pphpd: something achievable as of today, and could save ~$300 million of investment on the Expo line, according to the council mayors numbers [8], and associated operating cost, otherwise necessary.

The fact that the passenger load is much more balanced along the Expo line, in the case of a Broadway extension, make a much better use of the line capacity.It is still possible to operate short train in the other case, between Commercial (or Metrotown) and Waterfront, but it doesn’t come without issues ([6]), such as passenger bunching or platform crowding (due to passenger waiting for the expected less crowded short train)

It is unfortunate the Council of Mayors missed this important point.

[1] UBC Line rapid transit study: Phase 2 Evaluation report Steer Davies Gleave, August 2012

[2] Translink 2013 Business Plan Operating and Capital Budget Summary

[3] Regional Transportation Investment: A vision for Vancouver – Appendices, Mayors council, June 12 2014

[4] Regional Transportation Investment: A vision for Vancouver – Appendices, Mayors council, June 12 2014

[5] TransLink’s Rapid & Regional Transit Model , PTV America Inc. and Translink, Vancouver and Wilmington, DE, February 2007 and December 2008

[6] Expo Line Upgrade Strategy, SNC Lavallin and Steer Davies Gleave, Sept 21, 2010

[7] We estimate the current storage capacity at 114 MKI + 126 MKII at the Edmonds OMC, 36 MK1 and 34 MKII on the main line an the Coquitlam Facilities storage center. See the Translink Finance Audit – Specific Project Approval. Subject: SkyTrain OMC Expansion – Phase 2. October 19, 2007 and an ensuing discusssion on the skytrainforsurrey blog

[8] That is the difference between the Mayors council plan, $765M and our ball pack numbers, $320 for rolling stock expansion/upgrade and ~$150M for infrastructure upgrade, including storage/OMC expansion: Those numbers are in fact consistent with [6]

Adam Fitch wants to share this pdf with us:

Tunnel Vision vs Green Vision

See also, UBC line: The Adam Fitch proposal

Skytrain fizzle again

October 2, 2014

A recurring and cherished headline at RailForTheValley : Tought time to be either a Translink or skytrain cheerleader those days, isn’it?

Let’s ignore the disastrous Translink crisis communication and let’s go to the facts:

The facts

The system control lost communication with a group of 10 switches (the one in red in the map below), defacto neutralizing Metrotown, the 2nd busiest station on the network [1], and Patterson:


The cause

Some people claim it is due to lack of funding for proper maintenance of the Skytrain system. Either they are right:

    That could mean the reinsurances by both Translink and BCRT officials that they are able to keep the skytrain system in a state of good repair, were lies…proper action should be hence taken to sanction such misbehavior.

…or they are wrong: The cause is not due to a lack of funding.

Some also call for redundancy for each piece and bit of the system they see failing: If we follow this logic we could end up to have a full redundant Expo line 2!

…In fact here we don’t have enough information to dissert on the cause of the failure but we have nevertheless some questions regarding the below items:

  • The time to restore the system
  • The problem switches which don’t need to move in normal operation, but still neutralize the system on a communication failure with them (which apparently can’t be manually overriden).
  • The switches at both end of Metrotown monitored by the same communication device.
    • A different switches partition control, (Switch group East of Metrotown under a card, group west of Metrotown under another one) could have left the 2nde busiest station still open, whether a single communication control card fail.

…But here we touch to the Skytrain system design itself, for which we have already expressed concerns.

The Contingency plan

Skytrain operation

At first they have operated the Expo-Millenium line in 2 different segments Waterrfront-Nanaimo and Edmonds-King George/ VCC Clark with a shuttle train Nanaimo to Joyce (6th busiest station on the system [1]“).

The way this is operated have system wide consequence:

    Frequency on any section of the system is constrained by the fact only one train is allowed on a single track section, either Commercial-Nanaimo or Edmonds Operating Center-Edmonds Station (…and only one track per station was used, as per my observation).

It is apparently for this reason, that Royal Oak was closed (too long a single track section between Edmonds and Royal Oak). Keeping Royal Oak open, could have

  • Drastically reduced the bus bridge length.
  • brought metrotown area/ in walkable distance of the skytrain for many patrons providing well needed relief to the bus bridge

It could be a better operation arrangement that the one in place on “dead end” sections (e.g Edmonds operation center-Edmonds), to enable to preserve or minimize the impact on the overall train frequency on the rest of the system:

tracks on the left side of the switches are used as 2 single tracks with a drawer to preserve good frequency on the double tracks section (right side of the switches)

see also here for other single dead end track operation

Translink/BCRTC should have better Skytrain operation contengency plan, to make the best use of their system, in degraded mode.

Bus operation

The bus bridge was working relatively well – at least in the West direction around 7:30pm – but could have been improved:

    Instead to have a single special bus route serving all the closed Skytrain station, what involve many street detours, when most of the rider are just interested to go to the other end, it could have been better to have 2 routes:

  • A non stop route (Joyce-Edmonds)
  • All skytrain station stop route

In addition, of it, Translink staff should advise existing alternative route – route 106 Edmonds to Metrotown was painfully underused – and beef up some other regular routes – Route 19, the obvious alternative to Skytrain was oversubscribed, but was running as per schedule (no additional buses)


Passenger information could have been much better

  • 22nd entrance station had a sign reading “All trains stop at Edmonds station”…what is true every day…
  • Announce of skytrain station closure should be done on buses before alighting at skytrain stations
  • Announce of alternative regular bus route to reach main destinations should be done both on the skytrain and the buses

We have already noticed the poor reliability of the skytrain, but on the bright side, we are noticing some slight progress in the handling of the recurring skytrain failures.


The first round of segregated bike tracks has essentially concerned non essential transit corridors (Dunsmuir, Hornby…), but it is natural for cyclists to expect similar bike facilities on the Main arterial of the city, where shopping destination are located. Not surprisingly some groups are making pressure toward it. That should be an opportunity for the various municipal candidates to offer their vision and their differentiators on a complex problem which will require significant trade-off, and priority setting. Since transit has been much neglicted by the current council, the prospect of bike lane along transit corridors become a matter of concerns for Transit advocates

Below is an exert of the “Commercial Drive Campaign” by “Streets for Everyone” :

Commercial street redesigned as per StreetForeveryone group

Commercial street redesigned as per “Streets For For Everyone” group [3]

The main strength of this proposal is that it exists and provides a basis for discusssion. It also highlight the reason of our concerns in regard of Vancouver bike lanes: They obey to a disturbing sense of priorities:

  • “Our plan leaves parking intact on both sides of the street”

…The same sense of priorities which could have lead to pave Kitsilano park to save street parking. Here there is no park, but there is the very important transit route 20, which is neglicted: It is nevertheless called a “win-win-win” proposal by some bike lanes advocates for the reasons below:

mode Improvment
Transit Users
Car Users
Emergency Vehicles

This layout, where the bus can be hold back by left and right turning cars, as well as the occasional parking car, is obviously very detrimental to Transit:

  • On could expect the average speed of the bus 20, actually ~ 14km/h, to slow down to the one of the bus 5 or 6 (lower than 9km/h), which face similar street configuration (single traffic lane + parking lane). Speed is an issue, reliability is another one.

Such a slow down can have a dramatic impact

  • On the attractivity of Transit, defeating a purpose of a street calming effort (get more people to choose alternative mode to car)
  • On the operating cost of the line. so such proposal can be in be fact very costly [1].

It is hence very important to find a compromise which not only is not detrimental to Transit but can also be an opportunity to improve it:

Thought Commercial Drive is relatively narrow (80feet), it is possible to find an arrangement which improve the bike experience as well as the Transit experience:


The bike lane + bus lanes is 4.5meters wide…the all purpose lanes total 9m wide (including separator), leaving space for sidewalks not narrower than today

The width of the all purpose lanes is what can be seen on most of the Vancouver residential street, such as 6th avenue (#Commerical),

  • It is enough to preserve a parking lane, but that means drivers must be willing to “share the street” and negociate with other drivers, as illustrated in the above rendering, on some uncommon but possible traffic case involing large vehicles
  • Traffic lane are ~3m wide, not unlike the traffic lanes on Number 3 road in Richmond (North of Westminster Hwy)
    • Narrow traffic lanes are a powerful device toward traffic calming
  • The bus lane on the parking lane side is “protected”, both from dooring and ill parked vehicles, while the one on the other side can be infringed (“mountable obstacle”) to allow occasional passing of large vehicle
  • The Bus+bike lanes are 4.5meter wide, a parisian standard [4]. Could it be possible to slighlty separate them, in a Dutch way (that is by having raised bike lane)? may be, but the preservation of a parking lane make the proposal difficult.
  • The bus lanes morph in emergency lane when needed

All in all:

mode Improvment
Transit Users
Car Users
Emergency Vehicles

The above is a suggestion fitting better the objective of the 2040 Vancouver transportation plan: It must certainly exist better layouts. A complete economic analysis of a street layout could be useful to determine the objective value of one layout vs another one [1].

This proposal, as the “Streett for everyone” one, is uncompatible with the Mayors council idea of a hierarchized (local+express) transit service on Commercial, idea proposed for the Transit referendum

Intersection treatments

“Street for every one” suggests “dutch intersections” pretty much every where:

The ducth intersection offers dangerous conflict points, if one street doesn’t have bike lanes

We prefer a more traditional bike box (doubled of a “queue jumper”) on street bereft of bike lanes: A solution avoiding some unnecessary conflict, and also more friendly to pedestrians (no detour imposed around the dutch “circle”):

Bike boxes on crossing streets are used to do a left turn

Bike boxes on crossing streets are used to do a left turn

[1] Here, we mention only the Transit operating cost, which could increase in the tune of million of $ due to lack of bus priority, but Transit lack of efficiency has more generalized social cost, in term of lost time,… as suggested by George Poulos on Price Tags

[2] See also Urban reality and transitized viewpoint.

[3] The blue car in the rendering is a Toyota Passo, it is a sub compact car, not seen in North America. We have included the same car in our rendering along other more common model seen in the Vancouver street to provide a better idea of the width of the different lanes.

[4] The STM is also experimenting a 4.5 meter wide bus+bike lane on Viau Street in Montreal, albeit with slightly different configuration (see “Can buses and bikes safely use the same reserved lane?, Montreal Gazette, July 14, 2014 )/p

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:


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


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.

The below work is built upon our previous post on the regional view. However, more important that the exact route alignments are the principles driving them: Many of those principles have already been spelled [1], among them:

  • Direct Routing
  • (1) Don’t divert routes to serve specific needs: Diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travelers
    (2) Use secondary services connecting to main ones, to serve “out of the way” area (rather than divert main routes)
    Minimize unnecessary transfers
    (3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers
    Minimal walking distance to final destinations
    (4) Go Straight thru the “center of gravity” of an area, and not its periphery, which increases the total walking distance by half.


As we have seen before, the most efficient coverage is achieved by 3 bus corridors.

The yellow strip represent the most efficient bus coverage of Downtown. red arrow represents necessary connectivity between bus corriior

Those bus corridors are Robson (#5), Davie (#6) and Pender (#19).

With the development of Yaletown, and more generally the Eastern side of the Downtown peninsula, it is only natural to extend both routes (5) and (6) on the eastern side of their natural corridor (resp. Robson and Davie).

Connection with the City and regional network: The waterfront station issue
From the above, it appears relatively clearly it is not possible to get both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

Furthermore, especially for the Davie bus, it is not possible to get both

  • A good connection with The Canada Line (Yaletown)
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

We also observe that:

  • Most of the connecting ridership is generated by the Expo and Canada line
  • The potential Broadway subway will enhance this trend

  • The actual connection between the Seabus and route 5 and 6 can be considered as poor
  • -360 meters between the bus 5 stop on Hasting and the Seabus deck (versus ~200 meters between thr Expo line and the Seabus)

  • It takes 4 mn to reach Davie by the Canada line, vs ~10mn per bus

Due to all of the above, we prefer put emphasis on both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with the rail rapid transit

An emphasis on the quality of the Transfer with the Expo line

short walking connection with the expo line at Stadium station are privileged:
bus 5 uses Beatty street, bus 6 uses the couplet Expo/Pacific

To improve the connectivity of the bus 5 and 6 with the rest of the network:

  • both route 5, and 6 are extended to the north end of Denman, to connect with bus 19, and the North shore buses

A critical gap between the North shore and Pender buses is adressed by the extension of the bus 5 and 6 on the north end of Denman: It also allows a relocation of the Denman#Davie layover to the city owned parking lot at the North end of Denman

  • Both route 5 and 6 are extended to Main#Hasting, to connect with the Hasting and Main street buses (bus #3 and #8 being short turned at the North end of Main street).
  • The bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

This proposal has some inconveniences:

  • There is dispersion of service on Beatty and Cambie
  • There is no good connectivity between the local route 5 and 6 in the Yaletown area
  • There is no good connection between bus 17 and bus 6 either (bus 17 is on the Cambie bridge above the Pacific bld)

The one way service on Expo and Pacific is also a drawback, but one can expect some change correcting that in the area with the re purposing of the viaducts

An emphasis on the Routes corridors

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity  on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Local routes are consolidated (instead to be dispersed).

  • Hasting corridor is used for City/Regional transit, while Pender street is used for local service (similarly to georgia vs Robson)
    • Different stop intervals could be used to speed up city service while still offering good accessibility on the Pender street
  • Eastern connection is done using Cambie preventing bus dispersion, and enhancing the attractiveness of the Cambie bus corridor
  • To increase the legibility of the bus network, The Pacific Boulevard is served from one end to another by a single bus line (actually served by C21 West of Yaletown, and C23 East of Yaletown)

      Placing ourselves in a “post viaduct world”, the natural extension of this route is Prior: For this reason we keep this bus On Keefer (as close as Pacific Boulevevard), bus still allowing it to connect with the Skytrain

The Gastown coverage

Nowadays, it is done by the bus 50. The proposed route doesn’t cover gastown anymore, but it could…as well as bus #5 or #6.

Gastown is in fact in the Hasting and Pender bus coverage area. A specific service to increase this coverage can be considered but is not part of the structuring network (as well as any other bus route to provide specific needs.

The bus network, and the Pedestrian street network

The City’s goal for its bus network review is to get rid of the buses on many city streets (and especially Robson Square [3]). Instead of taking the City approach; “decide which street to pedestrianize and let the bus find its way more or less clumsily to serve the rest of the city”; we take the opposite approach: “which streets spring as natural candidate for pedestrianization, to complement and enhance the attractiveness of the transit network?”

The Pedestrianization of some Gastown streets, starting with Water street, could be done at no expense of the bus network. It is obviously not the case of Cambie, or Robson. For the later one, a shared space arrangement based on a European model is a natural solution [2]. Streets making good candidate for pedestrianization are

  • Beatty street, already routinely closed to traffic for Canada Place event, and offering a much better potential than Cambie street (proposed by the City), and still providing direct access to the future AGO site
  • Hamilton and Mainland in Yaletown
  • And potentially others street in Westend like Bute

The network of bus lanes
In this probable priority order, regional route, then city corridor where bus traffic is heavy:

  • Georgia street (North shore buses) should have all times bus lanes
  • Hasting street
  • Main street
  • Burrard street
  • Potentially Cambie street

Routes #5 and #6 (as well as route #19) providing mainly a local service in downtown (short trip distance, often competing with a walk), can be considered as people movers, and as such should have relatively short bus stop interval (~250m): Bus lanes for them could be great but they are not much critical, from a customer perspective:

They could be nevertheless useful to increase the reliability of the routes (in fact one of the principle advantage of a bus lane)

[1] See more especially the the-downtown-bus-review post and the coverage of the 1975 downtown Vancouver bus service vision

[2] Transit as part of the urban fabric

[3] See a recap of the 2012 Oct 15 and 17th events on Robson Square (illustrating an unfortunate contempt of City of Vancouver for surface Transit, as we have noticed here)


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