Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Transit Service

One of the biggest problems with transit outside Vancouver, Burnaby, and the Tri-Cities is that we don’t have a large frequent bus network. These are buses that run at least every 15 minutes for most parts of the day. We were getting more frequent bus service before the transit tap was shut off last year. My part of the region mostly has buses that run every 30 minutes or every hour. These routes aren’t pack with riders because only people like me and people that can’t afford a car will wait around 30 minutes to an hour for a bus. TransLink is really in a cart before the horse situation here. They will not increase route frequency until there is demand, but there will never be a demand until frequency is improved.

The West Coast Express is a premium service that I took from time to time from Vancouver to Maple Ridge. It connects with the 595 which goes over the Golden Ears Bridge every 30 minutes. In theory the 595 is suppose to meet up with the train and whisk us across the bridge with ease. If the train is more than 30 second late, the bus drives off empty leaving West Coast Express rider stuck in the rain with no transit shelters. This has happened to me twice and it’s not fun. Most people that take the West Coast Express have a car, note this kind of reliability, and decided to write off transit. If the 595 ran every 15 minutes, it won’t be such a big deal. The 502 runs every 7 minutes during rush hour between Langley and Surrey Central SkyTrain. I could care less if one of the buses was off schedule. I know the next bus will be in 7 minutes.

As TransLink looks at “rationalizing” service, we must remember that reducing transit service means reducing transit riders which means reducing revenue. Back when Tom Prendergast was in charge of TransLink, he had a presentation about how cutting transit service is the best way to kill a transit system. Right now TransLink spends 20% of its budget on debt servicing: that is more than they spend on operating SkyTrain and West Coast Express. Fixing transit should not be about cutting services and maybe not even about getting new revenue stream, it should be about senior levels of government not downloading costs to the region. Then we could get a 595 that ran every 15 minutes, light rail in the South Fraser, and world peace.

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