Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Buses - They Do Serve A Purpose

Many times in our quest for light rail we speak against the buses, as usually someone is trying to force them upon us. But while buses will not lure "choice riders" from their cars, we sometimes forget that people that don't own vehicles need the buses for daily survival. Additionally, as we get light rail moving we will need buses to connect the system. Hopefully densification will then turn the buses into streetcars.

I had a healthy transportation conversation last week with Mayor Kurt Alberts, Township of Langley. Despite what some may say during this election year, the mayor knows a boat load about transportation in the south Fraser region and I have spotted him with a bus ticket more than a few times. One has to respect His Worship because he spent many years in various planning positions, as well as his work with TransLink in his capacity as mayor. He's a practical sort of man and one that I personally respect and value.

The late US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything". He said this because things change and plans change with them. These plans can change very rapidly as well. So as long as we are continuing down a healthy path of planning, we will be OK.

Not long ago I heard from someone that was very angry at some Township councillors for voting to approve the new South of Fraser Area Transit Plan that included many buses and rapid bus services. But I understood that many of our neighbours approved the plan to move it along and that the mode (bus or rapid bus) could easily become light rail very soon. So I recalled this quote from Eisenhower and thought to myself that this approved plan means nothing in the big scheme of things, as the planning process and the influx of massive numbers of people in the south Fraser region will force a change in the mode. It will become light rail.

Its good for us to see what is being done by TransLink in a positive way and these good things will further enhance an eventual LTR system. He's some good news sent to us by Mayor Kurt Alberts.

Bus 502 between Surrey Central Station and Langley Centre - first route in the south Fraser to be upgraded to Frequent Transit Network (FTN) status. I've got to try this one!

Bus 502 now starts from Langley Centre at 4:32am to get poeple to Surrey Central Station for the first westbound SkyTrain (as at April 2008).

Bus 341 was extended Langley Centre every 30 minutes (as at December 2007)

Buses 501 and 502 "reverse peak service" has been increased over the past 2-3 years for people getting to and from Langley.

Bus 502 hours of operation extended to 2,400, with more service for Aldergrove.

Community Shuttle Service began in 2002 with 22,600 annual service hours and expanded to 31,200 hours by 2007. This is a compounded growth of 8.5% per year. A new Community Shuttle route is planned for 2008 and will add another 5,000 more annual hours.

I have to say that I like the Community Shuttle program. I like it because it connects our community for a reasonable fee and offers clean vehicles. But unless they are run every 10-15 minutes like they are in downtown Vancouver, they will not lure choice riders. Also, although equipped with a handicap lift, its a slow process and our population is aging rapidly. I'm hoping these Community Shuttles will one day be swapped out for streetcars that will provide at-grade boarding for the elderly and handicapped. I'm not far from that age bracket when I'll be eligible for senior meal discounts. One day when I have to give up my driver's license I hope reliable and elderly-friendly transit in my lifetime will help me to remain active and connected with my Langley community and beyond.

One final note is that TransLink's TRRIP Projects (co-funded through the Transit Related Road Infrastructure Program) in Langley from 2000 - 2008 thus far total $203,900.

The mayors and councils in the south Fraser have been very vocal with TransLink and vow to not cease in doing so, regardless of how much more transit we get. They fully realize that our current and future growth requires them to remain vocal. South Fraser OnTrax intends to do the same!

1 comment:

Light Rail Guy said...

Of course buses are needed, the debate should focus on rapid/guided bus or BRT, light rail, and metro.

If average ridership on a transit route is less than 2,000 persons per hour per direction (except for special cases) buses will be the mode used. When ridership increases past 2,000 pphpd, cost of operating a bus route increases dramatically. LRT, most likely operated as a simple streetcar, would be cheaper to operate in the long term.

Here we have the first criteria for operating LRT; when ridership on a transit route exceeds 2,000 pphpd.

Buses have proven 'NOT' to attract much new ridership, especially the motorist from the car. Buses suffer from the dreaded 'German disease' or mainly for the poor, the elderly and students, thus gaining a reputation as 'looser cruisers.'

LRT has proven to attract new ridership, especially the all important motorist from the car, thus when one builds with light rail, ridership increases dramatically.

Thus we have the second criteria for LRT; it attracts more new ridership than buses.

By operating LRT on street, on reserved rights-of-ways, LRT obtains the same commercial speeds and capacities of small metro systems at a fraction of the cost, thus more LRT can be built to more places, attracting more ridership.

Thus we have the third criteria for LRT; the ability to carry more passengers, more places, AFFORDABLY.

Sad to say, TransLink rejects this and continues to plan for hugely expensive metro schemes, which needs buses to fill them; buses that don't attract ridership.

Understand this and you understand that despite over $5 billion spent on SkyTrain and a huge increase in bus services, the percentage of population using public transit has stagnated at about 11%.