We have generally welcomed the last 2 rounds of service optimization, since they address bus route network structural deficiencies and this year makes no exception:
Among proposed change the 404 rerouting from Ladner exchange to Riverport is something we have previously called for:

The bus 49

It is important that TransLink rationalizes its bus network to provide value for both the taxpayer and the transit user, as well as provide a sound foundation for sustainable growth. The most obvious inefficiencies, are the route diversions serving specifc needs- An issue already well identified in the 1975 Downtown Vancouver bus review [2]– since a diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travellers.

A bus route detour may seem benign on a relatively low frequency route but it introduces inefficiencies which compound as transit ridership grows. It is notoriously the case of the bus 49 diversion at Champlain Height, which we have already pointed to the Translink commission

current_bus_49

Such a diversion could have been overlooked decades ago, but is an unsustainable in 2014, with UBC, a Canada Line connection and Metrotown as major destinations along this route:

The Champlain Heights detour is an unnecessary inconvenience for 95% of route 49’s 20,000 weekday riders. It adds 4 to 5 minutes to each of the approximately 250 daily bus trips, which costs $500,000 annually (more than the cost to operate all the Ladner/South Delta community shuttles routes C84, C86 C87 C88 and C89 combined)[1]. This figure will only get worse over time.

Addressing it, not only improve the Translink financial sheet, but it also dramatically improve the bus service along the 49th avenue:

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

Understandably, some residents affected by the change have voiced their concerns [3]. Any routing change affects some customers and their concerns need to be considered. In the route 49 case, virtually all Champlain Heights’ residents will stay within 500 metres of a bus stop (either rerouted bus 49 or bus 26, both being among the 20% most frequent bus routes).

A reworking of the bus 26 could be also possible along lines below providing better connections to the rest of the network and service/jobs than the actual one:

A bus Joyce/Metrotown could improve the accessibility of the Champlain Heights thru the rest of the network, service and jobs compared to the current route (29th Ave Skytrain station- Joyce)

…But eventually the development of the East Fraser lands area calls for a more drastic review of the bus routes in this area, so it seems wise to not touch the route 26 for the time being (since it is a prime candidate to be extended to the East Fraser Lands)

The saving provided by the ending of the 49 diversion could easily pay for a community shuttle linking champlain mall to Metrotown thru 54th avenue.

  • ~40 daily shuttle runs could end up to cost ~$125,000 annually, assuming a $60/h shuttle operating cost [1]

but one could reasonnably question: Is it the best use of the saving Translink can do, when so many other areas are severed of even basic Translink service?

In any case, there is no lack of options to mitigate the lost of a direct 49 access for some people, and potential inconveniences are largely outweighted by the general service improvment.

The Vancouver council position

It is sad, but not overly surprising that the Vancouver council seems to be prepared to pass on March 11th, a motion initiated by Geoff Meggs, disregarding the benefit of the proposed 49 rationalization for the overwhelming majority of transit user, to focus only on a so called “service cut” in the Champlain Height, to oppose to the the improvment of the route 49.

One will notice, that so doing, the Vancouver council is dismissing the transit user value of time, and its contribution for the region’s economy (a viewpoint rightfully denounced by Gordon Price)…Do they adopt the same perspective when it is time to argue for a Broadway subway?

In the context of a looming transit funding referendum, it is extremely important that TransLink addresses its network inefficiencies, especially when they impede greater benefits for most of the transit users, and reduce the transit value of our tax dollars… and thought one could expect tthat its efforts could receive full support froom the concerned municipalities, it is also important that Vancouver doesn’t receive a favor treatment.


[1] Bus service performance review, Translink 2013

[2] The Downtown Vancouver Bus Service vision in 1975

[3] Bus service cut worries Champlain seniors,Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier, February 25th, 2014