Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Future SkyTrain Map Released

Curious about what the new SkyTrain network will look like once the Evergreen Line opens? The following map is from the September 25, 2015 Open Board Meeting Reports. It seems like there won’t actually be an “Evergreen Line”, but it will become an extension of the Millennium Line. The Expo Line will have two branches, just like the Canada Line.

Future Metro Vancouver Rail Transit Network. Select map to enlarge.

Major changes proposed for South of Fraser transit network

Since TransLink has no money to expand transit service in any meaningful way, for every new bus route or increase in service along one route, another route has to have its service reduced or eliminated. TransLink is proposing some major changes to transit service for the South of Fraser in the coming year. For every enhancement made to the South of Fraser network, service was reduced elsewhere. These proposed changes are outlined in the September 25, 2015 Open Board Meeting Reports.

For example if TransLink moves forward with its plans in Langley City and Brookswood, the 590 and 502 Brookswood services will be eliminated. I’m actually losing access to the 502 right next to where I live; this will increase my commute time in the morning. Update: People in Brookswood will have to take the 531 or C63, then transfer at Langley Centre. TransLink is proposing to loop the 531 thru the Langley Centre bus exchange. This will actually improve access for people heading toward Campbell Heights Business Park and South Surrey/White Rock.

Proposed changes to 502/590 in Langley City and Brookswood. Select map to enlarge.

TransLink is also proposing to move the 595 route from 200th Street to 208th Street. This proposed change will finally give people in Willoughby better access to transit services. It will be interesting to see if these routes will stay running every 30 minutes with higher frequent during peak hours, or if one of the routes might be upgraded to be part of the frequent transit network.

Proposed change to move 595 from 200th Street to 208th Street in Langley. Select map to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The whole Compass Card shemozzle is the province’s fault

Yesterday was the first weekday for TransLink‘s new “one zone fare, bus anywhere” fare structure. Why did TransLink have to create a flat fare structure for its bus network?

With the huge political pressure to get the Compass Card/fare gate system launched, especially after the failed referendum, I’m sure that an edict came from on high to launch the Compass Card/fares gate system now! What has been holding up the full launch of the system to this point was the requirement for people to tap-off when leaving buses.

Because some people do not wait for the readers to process their cards and/or the readers do not validate their cards properly on the first try, some people would be charged for a three-zone fare even if they only travelled one-zone. While it is easy to blame TransLink, it is actually Cubic Transportation Systems that committed to delivering a system with working “tap-off” bus functionality, and the provincial government that wanted the system in the first place.

TransLink never wanted the Compass Card/fare gate system. In “December 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell’s former deputy minister and former special adviser Ken Dobell visited TransLink on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems. Dobell, a former TransLink CEO, registered to lobby Falcon on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. Approximately two weeks after [the lobbying], Falcon announced he wanted to see TransLink bring in controlled-access gates to SkyTrain.”

The whole Compass Card/fate gate program was provincially mandated.

A City of Burnaby Staff report from 2011 presents a timeline on how the Compass Card/fare gate program came to be. Here are some excerpts from that report:

2002 June: TransLink rejected the use of faregates on the SkyTrain system. A report to the TransLink Board estimated SkyTrain fare evasion at 8.7%, amounting to $3.3 million per annum loss to the system. The capital cost for faregates (then on only two SkyTrain lines) was estimated at $83 million, with incremental operating costs of $22 million per year.

2005 December: The TransLink Board again rejected faregates. SkyTrain fare evasion was estimated at this time at 6.3% of passengers, or $4 million per annum… the annualized cost (capital and operating) for faregates was estimated at $25 million.

2007 November: In a surprise announcement, the then-Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Kevin Falcon, announced that the Province would pay the capital cost of installing faregates on the SkyTrain system.

2009 April: Senior governments committed $70 million ($40 million provincial and $30 million federal) for faregates, about 41 % of the estimated capital costs of faregates.

2009 December: The TransLink Board decided to implement smart cards and faregates, based on a Business Case that they received [which was co-authored by the provincial government.]

2010 December 8: The TransLink Board awarded a ten-year contract to Cubic Transportation Systems (with IBM Canada) to design, build, and operate the smart card and faregate system.

Even as TransLink is rolling out the Compass Card/fare gate system today with the one-zone bus policy, the endgame for TransLink is to move to a distance-based fare system. This is only possible if you can tap-on and tap-off of every form of public transportation that TransLink provides. The question is, will Cubic be able to delivery on their original commitment?

The whole Compass Card/fare gate program was driven by the whims of a former provincial Transportation Minister. It amazes me that time and time again, the provincial government can muck around with Metro Vancouver's transit system, yet somehow deflect the blame for their mess-ups onto local governments and agencies.

Monday, October 5, 2015

When a Shared Pathway is not in the Township of Langley

Back in August, I posted on transportation infrastructure that enhances the visibility and safety of those who cycle in a rural context. What is required in a rural setting is different than what is needed in an urban setting.

In rural areas, one of the most important things that can be done to improve the visibility around cycling is to install signage and pavement markings on cycling routes. I shared two photos from my friend and cycling advocate John Evanochko on how the Township of Langley has been trying to enhance rural roads to support cycling.

I posted that installing “Share the Road” signs was a good way to promote cycling safety and visibility. It turns out that “Share the Road” signs can cause confusion for people who are driving and for people who are cycling. There is a great post by Bike Delaware titled “Why ‘Share the Road’ Is Gone in Delaware” which explains why that state is changing its signage.

Acceptable and unacceptable cycling signage in Delaware.

There is some legal ambiguity in BC around where in a general travel lane someone cycling should be. When you are cycling, you must stay “as near as practicable to the right side of [a] highway”, but you can take up the full lane for safety reasons. This includes if there is no shoulder or if the lane is narrow.

Speaking about cycling safety, the Township of Langley recently updated the pavement markings and signage of the two sites that I posted about in August. The new photos are from John as well.

Before: Cycling route signage in a rural section of the Township of Langley.

After: Shared Path signage and pavement marking installed.

Before: Share the Road sign and pavement marking at Murray Creek ravine on 48th Avenue.
After: Shared Path signage and pavement marking at Murray Creek ravine on 48th Avenue.

Is this really a "Shared Path"?

When municipalities create shared pathways for cycling and walking, there is normally a sufficient width to allow someone cycling to be able to comfortablely pass someone walking. This is not the case with the recent changes in the Township.

In fact, these new “Shared Pathways” are not wide enough for a person walking to feel safe; they're certainly not practical for cycling.

Creating these “Shared Pathways”, and removing the former signage, suggests that people cycling shouldn’t be in a general travel lane. If someone is cycling in the general travel lane, this can create a “get off the road” conflict. When on the “Shared Pathway”, it might not be practical to cycle at a reasonable speed; there is no way someone walking and cycling could actually share the pathway.

I’ve come to realize that much care and attention to detail is needed when installing signage to protect vulnerable road users.

In rural areas, the Surrey-style “Share the Road” signage without the wording “Share the Road”, combine with the green bike route signage that is current used in the Township will enhance cycling visibility and safety.

“Shared Pathway” signage and markings should only be used when a path is at least 3 meters wide; anything less is a sidewalk. Permitting cycling on a sidewalk decreases the safety and comfort of people walking.