Buses battling with Broadway traffic – credit photo (1)


The lately adopted Vancouver Transport 2040 prescripts an underground Extension of the Millennium line along the Broadway alignment to address the transportation demand on this corridor. This left still open 2 questions:

  • That probably is not coming in service before 2020 at best, What to do in the interim?
  • The subway will probably stop short of UBC (Arbutus in the most optimistic case), leaving the demand unaddressed on western section section of the corridor: how to address it?

Translink is calling for an LRT, skytrain combination: If there is a good case to build the subway soon enough up to Arbutus as a regional priority, the case could be significantly weaker for the LRT part of the combo, especially in regard of competitive demand coming from the South of Fraser. That left the buses on Broadway, for the foreseeable future, and something need to be done now to handle the existing demand, which will only increase with the advent of the Evergreen line.

The answer is two prongs

    Divert as much as demand on other corridors, mainly #84 and #41/#43.

    The main drawback of those solutions, is that they are not servicing central Broadway. Due to weaker demand, frequency is less attractive than on Broadway, triggering a vicious circle. A way to address it is to offer a better level of service, on at least the route 84:
    Double Decker buses are probably a solution worth to explore for this route. Beside it, real time information like on Main, can contribute to attract more rider on this line.

    A 45ft double decker, with 2 stairs and 3 doors (here a Man Lion’s City DD in Berlin) can have tremendous capacity. Its appeal can eventually help to relieve Broadway overcrowding if deployed on parallel routes like the 84 – credit photo wikipedia

    Increase capacity and efficiency of the buses

    Bigger bus is part of the answer. Double Decker could be an answer – but

    • It can be a self defeating answer due to its additional attractiveness (so such solution should be applied to relief line)
    • One of the major reliability/efficiency problem of the B line is due the dwelling time, and that is known to be a potential weakness of the Double Decker

    Longer articulated buses should be the answer. Not only longer, but with at least 4 doors per bus, since it both improves:

    • The practical capacity of the bus, by better partitioning of the load
    • The dwelling time

    Should the bus be double articulated, that is 80feet long, or not?
    A priori it is not a right step:

    • Due to frequent Local service, the 99B bus performs a significant amount of weaving, operation becoming more complex with 2 articulations
    • Proper alighting at bus stop could also be compromised by the above, affecting negatively the dwelling time
    • It can be complicate to redeploy such buses on other routes. curb space at bus stop being not the least of the problems

A 65+ feet bus with 4 outside opening doors, and proper interior layout, can probably have 20% more practical capacity than the current 60 feet bus while overcoming the above drawback [2].

This Man Lion’s city GXL is 67ft long, and with 4 doors, it has vastly more capacity than a 60ft bus 3 doors, like currently operated on Broadway.

The buses presented above could not have the right to operate legally on BC roads, but it is a stroke of a pen to allow them. The Los Angeles Transit Agency, LACMTA, operates a fleet of 45 feet and 65 feet buses, showing a North American market for such bus size.

The bus lanes
The lack of bus lane in Vancouver is a shame:

  • Bus lanes on Main between Broadway and Hasting should be a no-brainer,
  • Bus trip on Main between Hasting and Broadway are scheduled to be between 8 and 12mn, whether it is off peak or rush hour, and there is an excess of 800 daily bus trip on this portion of main used by some of the busiest bus lines of the network, #3, #8, #19 carrying a combined 20 millions of rider/years. Needless to say, not only the lack of bus lane increases significantly the operating cost of those route, but it also imposes a tremendous economic burden to the region in term of lost time

    bus lane with traffic signal preemption – – credit photo (1)

  • Bus lanes on Broadway
  • Matters are a bit more complex due to the weaving of local and express services, requiring the use of 2 lanes of traffic by buses, but clearly there is significant room to improve the efficiency and reliability of the route. Here is What we suggest for the Cambie#Broadway intersection:

transit priority improvement on Broadway at Cambie involving an half scramble intersection: right turn traffic proceed while pedestrian cross in diagonal. buses can move thru the intersection yielding to peds

    The problem of this intersection is the heavy pedestrian traffic conflicting with the right turning cars movement which is heavy too. This is affecting the buses. Having an extra cycle for bus only doesn’t necessarily help the pedestrian flow, which is mainly oriented NW-SE (West bound bus stop – Cambie station). Because the bus can use 2 lanes of traffic, keeping general traffic moving is important too: that means right turning car shouldn’t block the through traffic. So the proposal is an extra cycle for:

    • Right turning car only and buses, and pedestrian in diagonal only
    • to allow quick “flushing” of right turning car , pedestrian E-W crossing is red
    • right turn from Cambie shouldn’t be allowed on the extra cycle
    • Because bus go through, they could conflict with the half scramble: a yield to pedestrian rule then apply to them: A carefully designed scramble allows a 40feet bus to yield in the middle of the intersection, and still allow car following him to do a right turn
    • The next cycle is green through Broadway, to allow bus to clear intersection in case of blocked behind the scramble.

    Due to the presence of the half scramble, regular pedestrian crossing are less used, allowing greater right turn movement on all corner at all other time …eventually improving the general output flow of the intersection, and in any case improving the general output flow of Broadway.

There is still some room to accommodate growing demand on Broadway. It could not be an excuse to not investigate longer term solutions like a subway, but the prospect of the later is not an excuse to do nothing now. Right answer is in the hand of Translink, but enabler are mainly the Province, to allow bigger bus on the road, and the City of Vancouver to allow more efficient operation on its street, this by starting by giving more consideration to buses and their rider than parked cars.

[1] Translink’s buzzer: Building a better transit line: how location and land use make or break good transit service, august 2, 2012

[2] see Bus capacity : some remarks , November 9, 2012

[3] see UBC line rapid transit act 2, April 5, 2011