Commuting is harder now – A letter to the Vancouver Sun

As predicted, the RAV/Canada Line has increased journey times for many transit customers, even those who commute directly to Vancouver. Despite ‘rose coloured glasses’ style stories in the mainstream media and ‘talk radio’, longer journey times translates into less people opting to take transit.
The letter does reveal two issues:
1) What percentage or portion of a student’s U-Pass is paid to In TransitBC? How is a U-Pass apportioned between RAV/Canada Line,  SkyTrain and the bus?
2) The 480 Richmond to UBC bus still offers a direct (no-transfer) service and its riders are not forced onto RAV. Strange that, when Trans Link forces all bus customers from South of the Massy Tunnel to transfer to RAV. One wonders if having Liberal MLA’s has anything to do with providing a direct bus service?
Vancouver SunSeptember 16, 2009
The new commuting patterns have added 15 to 20 minutes each way to my commute from Ladner to the University of B.C. Most of this is due to poor connections, especially to the east-west lines on 41st and King Edward. The early 480 bus to UBC is jam-packed when it arrives at Bridgeport.

As for columnist Pete McMartin’s pleasant trip from Tsawwassen to Vancouver (Commute goes smoothly – anticipated chaos fails to show, Sept. 9), he travels at rush hour, rides for almost the full length of the line and doesn’t connect outside the downtown area. His situation is perfectly suited for the train.

Unfortunately, I am resigned to that fact that a longer commute is my sacrifice on the altar of the Olympics.

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12 Responses to “Commuting is harder now – A letter to the Vancouver Sun”

  1. mezzanine Says:

    All the more reason to build the UBC subway!

    Zweisystem replies: Will a UBC subway cater to 400,000 to 500,000 passengers a day? If not, watch for massive tax increases to finance it. Sadly, the SkyTrain/RAV/subway lobby just can’t deal with reality. If subways were so good in attracting ridership, why are we not building more of them? Why is Paris investing in LRT? Why does LRT survive?

    The answer is money, there is only one taxpayer and massive subway projects, except in major conurbations, drive up taxes. Is it no coincidence that TransLink is mired in financial peril because it has too sustain 3 metro lines, where 80% of the ridership (95% for RAV) first takes a bus to the metro? Talk to real transit experts elsewhere and they all say the same thing, the region serving SkyTrain/RAV will have to ante up major tax increases to sustain a truncated metro system. Those high taxes will split TransLink; cannibalized the bus system; and force businesses out of the TransLink tax area. It is happening already.

  2. Justin Bernard Says:

    Don’t worry. When the line reaches 100,000 riders, everything will be A-OK, and the line will be successful with all problems solved.

    Zweisystem replies: Yes all our transit problems will be solved!, We can build subways to Whiterock, West Vancouver and even hope and if each line carries 100,000 passengers a day, it will cost the taxpayer nothing! That, if you believe the SkyTrain/subway lobby.

  3. David Says:

    UBC streetcar: $500 million
    UBC subway: $4,000 million

    The streetcar is a direct replacement for the B-Line with higher capacity and lower operating costs. Signal prioritization would allow it to either exceed the speed of the bus or maintain the current end-to-end speed with additional stops along the way to serve more passengers (my preferred choice).

    I’d propose going one step further and putting a streetcar on both Broadway and 41st. The southern line would likely have to run in mixed traffic between Arbutus and Camosun, but it would still be an improvement over the 43 and the two lines put together would cost significantly less than a subway while serving more passengers.

    The Joyce/Kingsway intersection and lack of space at Joyce Station would be problems so one possibility would be to have the tram turn and run along Kingsway to Central Park and then along the old railway right of way under the SkyTrain guideway as far as Metrotown Station. A lawned right of way would be used through the park and include new paths for cyclists and pedestrians.

    Zweisystem replies: Watch for the BCIT to UBC light rail line in the next few weeks. If SkyTrain needs a billion dollar upgrade, I would propose building LRT instead. Why keep investing in an ‘Edsel’?

  4. mezzanine Says:

    @David – do you mean Streetcar(tram) or surface LRT?
    They have different functions, costs, specs and impacts.

    Zweisystem replies: Light rail is a streetcar that operates on a ‘reserved’ rights-of-way. A reserved rights-of-way is a route reserved for a tram and can be as complex as a lawned boulevard or as simple as a ‘High Occupancy Vehicle’ (HOV) lane. Only in North America, with antiquated laws and a penchant to build LRT as a light-metro have planners tried to reinvent the streetcar. A streetcar or light rail vehicle’s function is to carry transit customers and the cost of construction depends on the amount of engineering done on the line. As for the rest, it just the metro lobby spin!

  5. mezzanine Says:

    As you mention, speed advantages with tram vehicles come from the reserved right of way. You can do this in different ways, like elevating it, running it on a highway ( or saving the ROW on the street.

    With the latter choice, arguably the ROW is more important.

    “Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.

    Where a streetcar is faster or more reliable than the bus route it replaced, this is because other improvements were made at the same time — improvements that could just as well have been made for the bus route. These improvements may have been politically packaged as part of the streetcar project, but they were logically independent, so their benefits are not really benefits of the streetcar as compared to the bus. ”

    Zweisystem replies: Quote: “Streetcars that replace bus lines are not a mobility improvement. If you replace a bus with a streetcar on the same route, nobody will be able to get anywhere any faster than they could before. This makes streetcars quite different from most of the other transit investments being discussed today.”


    Trams or streetcars, operating on-street without signal priority, because of faster acceleration and deceleration and shorter dwell times are about 10% faster than buses when operating on the same route. Add some reserved rights-of-ways and the commercial speeds increase dramatically. What constrains commercial speed is the number of stops per route km.

    A reserved rights-of-way is not to be confused with a grade separated rights-of-ways as one is far less cheaper than the other. A tram or streetcar, operating on a grade separated rights-of-ways is considered a light-metro.

    But also do not forget that one tram (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (six to 8 bus drivers) and operating a tram on a route will see large operational cost savings over a period of time. We could replace all the buses on Broadway with a fraction the number of trams (and drivers!) and save a lot of wages paid and is a reason the bus union isn’t so keen for light rail in Vancouver!

    One failure of RAV is that it did not replace bus service on Cambie St., thus the metro fails in reducing bus operating costs, though TransLink claims that RAV will reduce overall bus service, it is the customer that is left with an inferior service.

  6. vonny Says:

    Mezzanine says: “One failure of RAV is that it did not replace bus service on Cambie St., thus the metro fails in reducing bus operating costs, though TransLink claims that RAV will reduce overall bus service, it is the customer that is left with an inferior service”

    what about all the bus travellinng along Granville corridor (and Oak steet) and now rerouted to Canada lne, thanks overall speed improvement of the journey?

    Zweisystem replies: Actually RAV has increased overall travel time for most customers, especially those who are now forced to take two transfers instead of the previous one. This means that UBC students will see a 20 minute to 30 minute increase in travel times or 40 minutes to one hour increase by using public transit. The only people who see an overall faster transit service are those who happen to live near a RAV station and which destination is near a RAV station.

  7. vonny Says:

    Zweisystem says : “This means that UBC students will see a 20 minute to 30 minute increase in travel times or 40 minutes to one hour increase by using public transit”,

    I don’t understand which students can be affected so much? It seems to me that for resident of south of Fraser going to UBC, the pattern has not changed a iota with the preservation of #480 preserving the direct connection from the suburb bus.

    In that regards, the Sun letter is of particular bad faith: it makes effectively no sense to board the canada line from bridegport to the 41st or souther tehn claiming “poor” connection wto UBC, when you have direct connection to #480 on same bus pier at Bridgeport.

    regarding load of the #480, it was already before like it (I remember using it 10 years ago was already pack jammed…so give me a break…

    and for other travel to UBC are East West route where basically the canada line has little impact beside allowing increase in frequency to meet demand.

    Zweisytem replies: Your arguments and comments are without foundation. In General the RAV Line has increased total commute times for people living in South Delta and South Surrey and for those now making two transfers, Richmond as well.

    Zweisystem is beginning to smell a troll………………….

  8. David Says:

    To answer mezzanine’s question, I envision on-street running in a reserved lane with signal priority. That affords enough speed advantages to include more stops than the B-Line without any increase in travel time.

    I did say that a theoretical 41st Ave tram would have to operate in mixed traffic through Kerrisdale village and a section west of there because the street is only 2 lanes wide. Joyce would be a problem because it’s only 2 lanes wide and there is a steep hill on the north side of Kingsway. Joyce Station is terribly space-constrained and can’t even accommodate the buses it needs to. Thus my suggestion that Kingsway, the cycle path through Central Park and one of the roads or cycle paths between Patterson and Metrotown be used instead.

    zweisystem: I don’t see any light rail routes to BCIT that don’t involve steep hills and/or expensive engineering works and certainly none that would be acceptable to a transit operator and provincial government determined to force as many people as possible onto their light metro lines.

    As long as we’re dreaming let’s compete against the existing trains and build a complete network:

    Downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack using the BN and SRY
    Downtown Vancouver to Mission using Hastings/Barnet/Lougheed/CPR
    Downtown Vancouver to Steveston using abandoned CPR routes
    UBC to Maple Ridge using Broadway/Lougheed
    UBC to Langley using 41st, Kingsway and the SRY
    YVR to YXX using the north Fraser CPR, SRY and a pair of airport spurs.
    Coquitlam Centre to White Rock using the Lougheed/Port Mann/108th/King George
    Surrey City Center to Langley using the Fraser Highway.

    BCIT is in an awkward spot. Perhaps a Willingdon line from Central Park to Confederation Park where a nice bunch of volunteers operate a narrow gauge railway.

    SFU is really tough. I don’t know if it’s the right answer but perhaps a high speed gondola like they have at Whistler combined with local bus service from Burnaby and Coquitlam.

    Oh and we’ll increase fare compliance, improve customer service, enhance safety and placate the union by doing what every transit system did prior to WWII. We’ll have a conductor on every tram.

    Mine may be a dream world, but it serves a lot more people than our current system does and probably doesn’t cost much more than we’ve already spent on light metro.

    Zweisystem replies: A ‘rack’ equipped tram can travel as fast as 40 kph when ‘racking’ and up to 80 kph when not. Zweisystem has always proposed ‘rack’ equipped LRT for SFU as part of a larger LRT network. As the chap from Stadler stated: “When you build major transit destinations in extraordinary places, extraordinary measures are needed to service them.

  9. Richard Says:

    You are desperately grasping at straws given the success so far of the Canada Line. Your prediction of only 50,000 riders per day has been blown out of the water. Almost 80,000 in the dead of summer when everybody is on vacation before even the bus service was improved to the stations is pretty good.

    If you actually read the letter, it was complaining about the bus connections at 41 and King Ed and not about the Canada Line. TransLink is planning rapid bus along 41st which should improve this person’s commute greatly.

    Your predictions of the inconvenience to existing transit users have been way overstated:

    I also suspect you have no proof for your statement that commute times have increased for the majority of passengers. A couple of letters and anecdotal statements in spite of what you think, are not proof.

    Again, your lack of balance and bias really shows and yet you have the nerve to complain about others lack of balance. How about leading by example and showing some balance in what you say.

    Zweisystem replies: Success? What success? At best the Canada line has carried about 77,000 passengers on its best day, that translates roughly to 38,500 actual people, hardly what one would call a success. 38,500 is probably the amount of people in Richmond and South Delta/Surrey, that used the buses prior to RAV’s opening.

    How many cars has RAV taken off the road? 0? That’s the real measure of success, attracting the motorist from the car and as of yet there is no indication that this is happening.

  10. vonny Says:

    Some people commuting along Granville (Emily Carr) could have seen their travel time increased with the Canada line, but that doesn’t constitue a generality, far from, there is far more people commuting to Cambie#Broadway than to Granville Island , and for those vast majority, there is no transfer increase, and commute is shorter…

    Regarding, UBC, I appreciate the “non fundation”, in disguise of lack of any proof to demonstrate that a single student see his commute increased by 20, 30mn (even 1hr!) due to Canada line: just give a concrete example as a “fundation”…I am afraid that with advocate like you accusing of trolling whoever beg to disagree with you, the valley can wait forever any rail system…

    Zweisystem replies: Your slandering of the author of the letter non withstanding, from others I have talked to, forced transfer onto RAV has increased journey times for students to UBC by as much as 60 minutes each day, depending on the time of day traveled. There is some savings for South Delta/Surrey commuters now using RAV, but it seems that the new HOV/bus lanes North bound on highway 99 has more to do with it than the metro itself.

    Strange that, why didn’t TransLink install HOV/bus lanes North bound in the first place? When factors in new HOV lanes, the times savings using RAV/Canada Line are negligible.

  11. mezzanine Says:

    ^WRT the north-bound HOV lane, my guess is that the on-ramp from bridgeport enters just at the south foot of the bridge, the HOV lane would have still meet the bottle neck at the bridge with no special lane/couterflow lane.

    I also wonder what impacts there are to south surrey/south delta traffic to YVR, langara and VGH with the new canada line.

    Zweisytem replies: We will have to wait until the end of October to see trends of ridership on the RAV/Canada Line to emerge. I severely doubt many from south Delta will use RAV to get to the Airport.

    The bottleneck is not on the bridge, rather the approaches to the bridge. Falcon tried the same argument about bus routes over the Port Mann.

    Langara is a two edged sword. RAV may provide Langara with more transit but at a huge cost. The U-Pass makes any fares gained by TransLink and RAV no where near the amout to justify a metro, especially if one apportions fares between bus and metro.

  12. Nicole Says:

    Funny thing is – I guess the prophecy’s being fullfilled here. The 480 line no longer provides a direct route from Richmond Center to UBC. Translink have done it again – forcing the rest of the commuters reliant on the 480 line to the Canada Line. It has moved its final stop at Bridgeport station.

    I am now bracing for the bottleneck at the Brighouse Station. Until some sort of incident of someone getting hurt or lack of ventilation in the Canada Line due to carrying way too many people during rush hours – it doesn’t seem like Translink’s going to stop channelling all its bus routes to it.

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