Some numbers extracted from the Translink GTFS feed [4] (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 [3]
  • time and speed between Broadway and Hasting [6]:
  • Min time Average time Max time
    10.3mn 5.3mn 12.4mn
    Max speed Average speed Min speed
    22.6km/h 11.65km/h 9.65km/h
  • ~15,700 annual operating hours meaning $1.57 millions in annual operating cost (at $100/hr, in line with [5])

bus lane Impact on Commercial Drive
We are considering the previously presented Commercial Drive proposal as illustrated below

4.5meters wide bike+bus lanes, with bus keeping in its lane at bus stop. It features transit signal priority and right turn specific signal to protect both transit and cyclists – Transit average speed is estimated at 15km/h

  • 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
9km/h 13.3mn $1.9M
11.5km/h 10.5mn $1.5M
15km/h 8mn $1.2M
20km/h 6mn $0.9M

The potential operating cost saving is in the tune of of $300,000 to $600,000/year.

On the opposite, a configuration of Commercial Drive with a single lane of traffic per direction to preserve parking [2], negatively impacts the speed of the bus, as we have seen before:

Commercial street redesigned as per StreetForeveryone group

Commercial street redesigned as per StreetForeveryone group – Transit average speed is estimated at 9km/h

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:

Capital cost

the slower a bus route is, the more buses are required at same frequency/seat capacity:

The steeper the slope of a line, the faster the travel, and the sooner a vehicle return to its orgin, ready to do another run. the number of starting lines in between represent the required number of vehicle – credit Melbourne on Transit

The bus requirement is compounded by two conflating issues:

  • Demand is at its greatest at peak hour, but
  • transit speed is also at its slowest at peak hour
  • .

    On the route 20, afternoon peak hour traffic cost ~4 buses:

    number of vehicle in service on route 20 according to the time of the day (graph for friday Sept 5th, 2014)

    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

    Revenue

    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[1]

    This coumpounded to lower operating cost makes Transit much more financially sustainable.

    Conclusion

    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…


    [1] New markings aim to keep drivers out of Battery Street bus lane, Aubrey Cohen, SeattlePi- Tuesday, October 21, 2014.

    [2] We refers here to the “Street for Everyone” proposal we have previouslly discussed, which has also been discussed on the pricetag blog.

    [3] That makes the route 20 the 4th most frequent bus route of the network, behind route 99,9 and 41.

    [4] See our reference spreadsheet (which has been updated with the 2014 data) for further detail.

    [5] 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.

    [6] 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 [4] (which also depends of the Translink data quality): A probable consequence of the city council inaction on Transit front

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    Post updated on April 6th

    As mentioned by Stephen Rees, I was at “a special blogger breakfast” about the project where Jeff Busby and Margaret Wittgens from Translink provided a description of the different options and was answering our questions [1]. Translink has provided significantly more material in this phase than in phase 1.

    The consultation process

    Like in Phase 1, translink has scheduled several workshops. In those workshops, Translink staff engage conversation where you have the opportunity to discuss your concerns, opinions not only with staff but also with your ‘neighbors’ and understand others viewpoints. It is a very constructive approach, and I warmly recommend people to attend those workshops and provide feedback as soon as possible in the process to Translink.

    Some comments:

    In the preliminary phases, it was unclear what Translink was meaning by “LRT”, an LRT in the American sense, or a tram in the European sense? A later solution apparently favored by noticeably UBC professor Patrick Condon and a relatively active Broadway merchant group called BARSTA.

    • The Phase 2 gives a clear answer: the option is an LRT in the american sense.

    Compared to the “business as usual case” (assumed to be the bus 99B) [4] the cost required to attract additional ridership is around $25,000 per new rider, as suggested by the graph below comparing the different solutions proposed by Translink

    cost per new rider is around $25,000, except two outliers, the RRT above and the BRT below. Numbers from (4)

    That is, the additional ridership could be at the expense of local bus routes, so if the goal is to increase the Transit mode share, and that is a goal of both the Province and the City of Vancouver [5], the figure become more striking, and solutions providing net gain time on the Commercial Drive to Central Broadway seems at a net advantage in term of “buck for the bang”.

    Capital cost per point of additional Transit mode share in the corridor, compared to the 'business as usual' case. Numbers from (4)

    Some solutions provide clear advantage in time of access time from Commercial to Cambie, and convenience from the Millenium (lack of Transfer), over others; and at least from the cost/additional rider perspective, looks reasonably priced. Obviously it couldn’t be the only metrics to look at…among others are the travel time to UBC [2], operating cost…

    Under this regard, the lately added Combo 2 , RRT+BRT, could require more refinement:
    The redundancy of service East of Arbutus doesn’t seem to provide the bang for the buck, noticeably in term of serviced area. We could have preferred something looking more like the rubber tire version of Combo 1 or looking like the figure below

    Combo 2 could have been maybe better served by a 'BRT' reusing the 84 alignment terminating at Main, and a potential rerouting of the 44 to serve the RRT

    The regional perspective

    That is, as reported of this week workshops, and already outlined here, it is hard to ignore the regional significance of the connection of the Millennium line to the Canada line, which could have a “shaping” effect probably as great as if not greater than an extension of the existing Skytrain in the confins of the GVRD.

    A discussion has been engaged by Stephen Rees on the trip model used to generate ridership. It appeared that Translink consider the Evergreen line built in its modelling. That says, they also rely on growth projection provided by external agencies; and this growth projection could not have considered a transit network effect

    The network effect

    The gap in the Vancouver rapid transit network is hard to ignore. credit (3)

    On this topic, Jeffrey Busby mentioned that the scope of the study is really the Broadway corridor, and not addressing the question of the “extension” or not of the Millennium line.

    • According to the selected option, this question could be still open, leaving customer of the Millennium line to their frustration for very long time.

    In that sense, an apparent cheaper solution, not based on an extension of the Millennium line could prove to be a costly mistake, but obviously all of that need to be quantified and LRT could make sense at least on part of the corridor


    [1] You will find other account of it at Southfraser.net, vpsn blog or citycaucus.com

    [2] The choice to prefer to compare travel time between Commercial and central Broadway rather than UBC is deliberate since UBC bound riders, mostly students, could be less sensitive to travel time than the more general users.

    [3] Illustration from Jarret Walker

    [4] UBC Line Rapid Transit Study Evaluation Summary – March/April 2011

    [5] Province call for a doubling of the Transit ridership by 2020. Vancouver call for 50% non-auto mode share in the city by 2020

    A bus stop on the Hwy 99

    September 1, 2010

    updated September 3rd

    At the 99 interchange with Steveston Hwy, you can catch one of the suburban bus running on the Hwy 99. It can be a traumatizing experience, especially in the south direction:


    While there is a bus shelter, a luxury rarely spotted in Richmond, no one has really thought that people could walk to it!

    Eventually to improve the waiting experience, the MOT has installed a 46” screen, on a lamppost, providing residual light at night for the bus stop (to be sure the purpose of the original lamppost is to provide light to the road)

    It is part of a pilot project, supposed to give real time information to the transit user [1]. In fact the later one will often see the messages illustrated below.


    the route 620 and 404 being not operated by suburban bus Orion V, the transit rider will get no information, real time or not, for them. Notice that the map, apparently a Google road map, display the route covered by the real time system, but no bus routes are displayed at all! Notice also the “quick and dirty” look of the installation: it is really a pilot project


    for other bus routes, the system doesn’t give any information, when no bus are present on the route covered by the system, i.e. Bridgeport to Steveston Hwy. To relieve your patience, you can watch the real time video of the bus stop you are waiting at

    Imagine,a departure screen at the airport, which warms as some flights are not displayed at all, and giving no information on some other flights because their plane is not en route!

    That is what the MOT pilot project is doing for the bus information. We are relieved it is still a “pilot” project, because there is certainly lot of room for improvement.

    This project, while looking a nice intention, raises lot of questions:

    • Why a pilot project? is real time bus information such a breakthrough technology, requiring “pilot” project those days?
    • The project, technologically different of the Main street one, rely on a private network:
      Why use a private network, when there is no lack of 3G providers covering not only the freeway corridor but all the metro area, able to provide communication link between the buses and a data processing center?

    but the big question is:

    • Why it is a project from the province and not Translink, which could be expected to be the relevant agency to drive such project?

    The Hwy 99 bus stop premises being probably under MOT jurisdiction, why the MOT is not trying to improve it first?

    An interchange doesn’t need to be dull, as the picture below can witness. More than that, studies could tend to correlate beautifully landscaped highway with safer highway [2].


    this nicely landscaped plot is the Highway 10 and 210 interchange in Redlands, CA. and there is no bus stop here, so it is only for motorist to enjoy the view (credit photo zIDEAz)

    the information pilot project come in addition of an HOV lane currently under construction on the Hwy 99 North bound and the extension of the southbound one, north of Westminster bridge.
    There is no doubt that significant dollars are spent to improve ths bus experience on the Hwy 99 north of the George Massey Tunnel, and there is no doubt that improvement are needed


    the Highway 99 at Westminster Road (left) and Blundell (right) around 1pm weekdays. Westminster road bridge is currently a bottle neck, since the HOV southbound start only south of the bridge. The extension of it north of the bridge will be a welcome relieve… the buses share the current HOV lane with vehicle of 2 occupants or more. According to the MOT, that has no effect on the buses operations [3] : on the picture, the traffic on the HOV lane move at around 40km/h for a posted limit of 80km/h…

    Transit advocates should apriori applaude such initiatives, but they left a sour taste: Why?

    From the Highway 99, we are seeing erected components which could raise the hwy 99 as a corridor for a BRT or for buses with a high level of service. Unfortunately those initiatives lacking of coordination, starting by the apparent non implication of the transit agency, Translink, will probably provide a result inferior to what it could have been, whether a more integrated goal could have been followed, for the same overall budget


    [1] B.C. pilots dynamic transit display, Jennifer Kavur, 09 Aug 2010, ComputerWorld Canada

    [2] Landscape improvement impacts on roadside safety in Texas, J. H. Moka, H. C. Landphair b, and J. R. Naderi, Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) pp263–274.

    [3] Southbound Hwy 99 HOV lane opens to more commuters, Press release, AUg 29, 2008, BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

    the agency overseeing the “guided transportation systems” in France publishes some numbers worth to be repeated [1]. Though that the sample sizes prevent to draw definitive conclusions: we can still exhibit some trends: not surprisingly multi year studies tend to show that subways [2] are order of magnitude safer than LRTs [3]. This said, it is interesting to probe the source of tram accidents, what is provided by the graphs below.

    partition and severity of tram accidents per year function of their location along the lines

    Accidents partition per mode, and transportation modal share

    It appears, that the bulk of accidents happen at intersections where they involve third parties. If car are responsible of most of the conflict, it is mainly, pedestrians and cyclists whose pay a disproportionate human toll considering the transportation modal sharing [11]. Furthermore, a study of the Belgium institute on road safety shows that while tram/pedestrian conflicts represent 2.1% of the overall pedestrian conflicts in Brussels, they result in more than 6.7% of vehicle/pedestrian conflicts with severe injuries [4] while that pedestrians represent more than 50% of the overall fatalities on the french trams network [1]. However, a non negligible number of accidents happen outside platforms and crossings: most of them involve emergency braking of the trams, which are responsible of most of the passenger casualties. The french agency has further detailed the pattern of crossing accident, and provides statistic per crossing:

    yearly number of tram accidents per crossing, according to their severity type

    Comparison with the US

    It can be interesting to compare the french statistic to the American one, as reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.


    Accident rate comparison between USA and France on LRt and subway network

    Though that the accident ratio between subway and LRT witnessed in France is also founded in USA, there is a striking difference in the number of casualties per million of trip.

    One explanation to it could be the suicide ratio:

    • statistics are not including casualties due to suicide, but suicide characterization can be different according to the country. Thought that casualties due to suicide are not well documented, anecdotal evidences seem to show that the French authorities are more willing than the North American ones to classify an accident as a suicide: Some officious counting report around 70 suicides per year on the Parisian RATP metro alone [5], when this number is of around 30 in New York City [6], and 15 in Toronto [7]. For purpose of a study on the suicides in the Montreal subway, the researchers have requalified fatalities, considered as accident by the coroner, as suicide [8].

    That said, the American LRTs still seem more prone to accident than their french counterpart. We can attempt some explanations to it. .

    • LRT accidents are significantly due to third parties, and eventually the measure of accident/trip is unfavorable to the less patronized US LRT vehicle. This explanation can be countered by the fact that busy LRT lines involve busy pedestrians traffic around their route, hence increasing also the chance of accident.
    • Average speed of french LRTs, usually in the 15 to 20km/h range is significantly slower than their american counter part
    • Design of European LRT could be more permissibe too
      • Front design of low floor european LRT seems less prone to drag pedestrian under the railcar
      • All low floor design reduce the chance of fall inside the car in case of emergency braking
    • More frequent LRT could increase the public awareness of their presence
    • Due to the above factor, French LRT seem also less attractive than their US counterpart to suicide candidate


    Compared to even recent American design, the European tram design features all low floor train,with “housed” coupler into an all “soft angle” front design, and offers an unobstructed view fro the driver…all these eventually help to prevent or reduce accident consequences (credit photo, Northfolk LRT: LRTA, Brussel tram in Vancouver: Stephen Rees)

    Nantes, a real life example

    A tramway accident in Nantes (credit photo: Presse Ocean)

    To provide some more reality to the statistic, we provide the example of the Nantes Trams network [9]:
    it has opened in 85, has 3 lines, totalizing 42km, and carrying an average of 266000 riders /day.

    • One accident every 2 days
    • One accident in 4 involves injuries

    Interestingly enough, according to the Nantes transit agency, their BRT records a rate of accident twice less than their trams, though their buses go faster [9]. It is eventually due to a better designed right of way for the bus than for the trams .


    [1] see Accidentologie des tramways, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006 and
    Accidentologie des metros, Service Technique des Remontées Mécaniques et des Transports Guidés DES TRAMWAYS, 2006

    [2] French subways include also the “VAL” family of subway

    [3] French LRTs include also the guided bus systems

    [4] Etude des accidents entre un tram et un pieton en region de Bruxelles-capitale

    [5] Suicides dans le métro : deux morts par semaine à Paris, France Info, October 30, 2007

    [6] Epidemiology of suicide in the New York City subway system, Sandro Galea and al. , APHA 134th Annual meeting and Session, November 4-8, 2006, Boston

    [7] More than 150 people killed themselves in subways from 1998-2007, TTC says, National Post, Rob Roberts, November 26, 2009

    [8] Qui se tue dans le métro de Montréal?, Brian L. Mishara, UQAM, Dec 1996

    [9] Un accident de tramway en moyenne tous les deux jours, October 7, 2008, Presse Ocean, Nantes, France

    [10] The rate per million of passengers is not necessarily the most relevant, but it is the only one readily available from the french statistics, which are averaged on the number of available years after 2003 to provide a more relevant sample size. For USA, to increase the sample size, the accident statistics are the average of year 1994 to 2006, as provided by the BTS 2009 report

    [11] Transportation mode share of 14 metropolitan area with tram in France, from “Les deplacements a Nantes metropole Etude N 80, decembre 2009, Insee Pays de Loire, France citing “enquêtes nationales transports et communication 1993-1994, transports et déplacements 2007-2008”, Insee, SOeS and Inrets.