review of the Phase 2 consultation: loop and connectivity issues

This review is eventually done in light of previous ideas exposed in those posts

Bus 17 and C23

The new route alignment are the same as the one suggested in our previous posts, so we obviously consider them as good. In order to avoid Cambie (a street targeted for aggressive pedestrianization by the City), a byzantine alternative proposal (B2) is proposed: it induces operating costs 5 time higher than the more straightforward Cambie routing [2].

    That should be enough to rule out this alternative…and the closure of Cambie

Bus 4,7 and 3,8

The improvement is obvious for route 4 and 7. For route 3 and 8, there is an issue. Thought the consolidation of the both service directions on Pender (avoiding the 30km/h Hasting speed limit) improves the legibility of the routes in the DTES, it is done at the expense of the network connectivity:

downtownbusTranslinkC1

the proposed rerouting of bus 3 and 8 Via Pender (instead of Hasting and Cordova), introduces a gap for the South East trip

  • lost of direct Transfer with the Hasting buses
  • bus 4,7 (and 200’s) East Bound, are also 2 block away of Pender, making the transfer poorer than today

We are of the opinion that e Main#Hasting is a major transfer point between bus 3,8 and Hasting buses (#14,#16,#20,#135), and for this reason we have some reservations on the 3 and 8 proposal.

The Robson and Davie loop

About the loop

The loop desire has been expressed in the phase 1 [4]: here is what reads Human Transit on loops [1]:

    Loop touch things deep in the human psyche. When community leaders are asked in a meeting to talk about their transit needs. it’s not uncommon for one of them to say, usually with circular hand gestures, that they need some kind of loop […]. Straight lines can seem aggressive, whereas loops offer a sense of closure […].

    If your agenda in life is to to enjoy every moment and never worry about a destination, then the appeal of loops is undeniable […].

    But however much we may savor every moment of life, most of us still have jobs and families. so sometimes we just need to get there. We are at point A and need to be at point B as soon as possible. The shape of that desire is not a loop. It’s a straight line.

Loops also creates some operating challenges: a disturbance (delay in Transit) introduced in a loop never disappear unless the loop is opened (think Larsen effect). What is usually done is that loops are either open (London Circle line) or operated in segments (Tram T3 in Paris). Bus loops are much more prone to disturbance that segregated railway loop.

  • That is the reason of the lay-over at Davie and Denman, and all Translink loop proposals involve a second layover on Cambie
    • Those layovers undermine significantly the attractiveness of a loop for the transit user whose has either the choice to:

      • Stay in the bus if the operator allows this during his break
      • Transfer to a bus ahead in the queue at the layover

The Davie route

All options extend the Davie bus to Yaletown, then loop it back with the Robson bus via Cambie:
This shouldn’t be controversial, and respects some good Transit principles:

  • We have a single bus route serving the entire Corridor
  • And the route is anchored at Yaletown station

The Robson route

The L shape option

It is built up on the existing route 5, but instead to loop on itself via Richard, branches into the Davie bus via Cambie to make a “downtown loop”:

the L loop left Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

the L loop lefts Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

As such, beside a greater legibility (bus running both directions on all served street), this route mainly carries the same advantages/drawbacks of the current route:

  • The route, is not serving Robson east of Granville, (hence not serving Yaletown when it is natural to extend the Robson route eastward)
    • As we have seen before, it doesn’t make for a grid oriented network improving legibility and general accessibility

The option avoiding Robson square, is mainly the current seasonal routing. Beside the removal of the hook at Burrard and Robson, it doesn’t address most of its current shortcoming already pointed many times [5]:

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

  • The route is disconnected of the Granville bus corridor, and offers a back-ward connection with the Canada line
  • All trip toward South Vancouver or Yaletwon are penalized

  • The disconnection between Yaletwon and the Robson Strasse is even greater

The Rectangular Loop

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the "outside world"

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the “outside world”

The drawback of this option? The loop is pretty insulated of the rest of the network:

  • No reasonable connection with the Expo line is offered
  • No reasonable connection is offered with the Hasting buses too

But, the option has its advantages on the L shape loop:

  • It covers all Robson street

…and more generally it offers good foundations based on sound Transit principles (a grid oriented network with one bus route per corridor), from which we can elaborate to cover the connectivities weakness of the option: That is what we have done in our previous post:

What we have proposed for routes 5 and 6

See our previous post for further explanations and interaction with other routes

the Rectangular loop is "open" at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the "outside world"

the Rectangular loop is “open” at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the “outside world”

We hook the Rectangular loop to Stadium Station, offering a connection with the Expo line. From there, the question is:

  • Where the buses turn back and make their lay-over

As we have seen before, we extend the route up to Hasting#Main (lay over on Gore), to connect the downtown routes with the Hasting and Main route.

A consequence of this proposal, is that it introduces bus services redundancies with the Translink option C1 (routes #3 and #8 on Pender): it provides a reason to short turn those bus at the north end of Main.

Short turning of the bus 3 is something which has been done in 2008, but Translink has reverted this in face of public hostility at a time it was not as actively as now looking for better operation efficiencies. In 2014, the short turning of artics bus #3 and #8

  • pay the extension of standard bus #5 and #6 on Pender
    • That makes those routes otherwise very short, also more useful by enabling to circulate in an downtown extended to its neck and Chinatown, without the need to transfer [3]
  • The lost of a direct route between Fraser and Hasting, is also compensated by a better access to the Westend via route #5 and #6
  • A short turning at the north end of Main preserves a good connection with the Hasting corridor

Conclusion

At the exception of the proposal B2 (route #17 avoidng Cambie), the Translink option are generally a step in the good direction. Some ideas discussed in our previous post still fit and could be still valid with whatever option is proposed.

We notice, that in despite of many efforts, not only no good Transit solutions have been found to accommodate a potential closure of Robson square, but all proposed alternatives trying to accommodate such a closure end up to be tremendously expensive ($300k to $400K additional operating expense [2]…that can buy ~2 community shuttle routes).

    Who is willing to pay for it?

What the Downtown Transit review has demonstrated is that

  • Closure of Cambie should be forgotten
  • Closure of Robson square to Transit is simply unreasonable and irresponsible

The city council should accept that a good surface transit is a necessity, and that pedestrianization of streets should be done to complement it and not to impede it, as we have said many times before.


[1] Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives, Jarret Walker, Island Press, 2011

[2] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 2 Technical Summary City of Vancouver and Translink, 2014

[3] See also Jordan’s comment at the buzzer blog

[4] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 1 Consultation Summary Report City of Vancouver and Translink, 2013

[5] See also the PriceTag’s circling-the-square serie as an example where a critic of the proposed seasonal route is proposed.

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.

Coverage

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
4busDavie

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)