It has been about a month since the Carvolth Exchange opened and the new bus service over the Port Mann Bridge between the exchange and Braid SkyTrain Station started. I’ve had the opportunity to take the new express bus service as have some of my friends. The general agreement is that from the moment you get on the bus to the moment you get to Downtown Vancouver is about an hour which is a major improvement over the past, and that the service is cost and time competitive with the new jumbo-sized Highway 1.
There are a few issues that I see with the Carvolth Exchange. The general design for rapid transit in the region has been to avoid park and ride lots. TransLink actually has a policy of not building park and ride lots at SkyTrain stations. A parking lot is dead space whether it is for transit or a strip mall. Park and ride surface parking lots can really limit transit-oriented development potential and create a poor public realm. Just talk to Calgary about their issues with connecting transit and land-use. It is also interesting to note that the parking lot at Scott Road SkyTrain may be turning into a transit-oriented development in the future. Of course as Willoughby develops, I can imagine that the Carvolth Exchange park and ride lot will be developed into something more productive.
There are other issues with the express bus service. First, the bus service is not frequent enough outside of peak periods and more importantly does not connect into Surrey which is the destination of the majority of inter-municipal Langley trips. Also, the bus service does not go into Walnut Grove or Willoughby which is a key requirement for giving people true transportation choice. If you are lucky enough to have bus service in Walnut Grove or Willoughby, you may have to wait up to 30 minutes for your bus to Carvolth Exchange and then wait another 30 minutes for the express bus to Braid SkyTrain Station. The reality is that you need to drive to Carvolth Exchange for the express bus to be a viable service and to me that is not good transit planning. While giving people the option to drive to a rapid transit station is certainly good, the main goal of transit should be to give people a viable option to avoid driving altogether. Of course the real reason why the express bus service does not go into Surrey, Walnut Grove or Willoughby is because TransLink doesn’t have the cash. I can only hope that if the funding situation is ever resolved with TransLink, TransLink will transform the Port Mann express bus into a proper rapid transit-type service.