Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Riding the 531 to White Rock

The other day I had the chance to take the new 531 bus from Langley to White Rock. This service was promised as part of the South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan and was supposed to be in service by 2009, but kept on getting pushed back due to financial challenges at TransLink. With the current situation at TransLink, I’m happily surprised that the service was allowed to proceed. The new bus service reduces the trip to White Rock from over 1 hour to less than 30 minutes which is a huge improvement. While I appreciate the new service, I do have some concerns about it.

One of the long-term goals of TransLink is to move the bus system in the South of Fraser from a system based on transit exchanges to a system more like Vancouver where every route is a straight line or L-shaped. The design goal being that you can get anywhere in the South of Fraser with only one transfer. While I support this concept with the frequent transit network where you never have to wait more than 15 minutes, waiting 30 minutes for a transfer sucks.

Another concern is that while every other bus goes through Langley Centre, the 531 is off in its own little world and actually bypasses the major populated area of the City of Langley. While I support the grid bus network, the 531 would see more riders if it when through Langley Centre while the rest of the grid builds out.

Finally, the 531 spends 80% of its time in currently rural areas (it does pass through Campbell Heights). While I support the 531 route, I have to wonder how it was approved while Walnut Grove still only has one community shuttle and there is zero bus service on 208th Street in Willoughby; both areas with higher-density.

The TransLink website has a document that outlines the planned build-out of transit service in the South of Fraser though as it currently stands, there is no money to implement the plan.

1 comment:

Jhenifer Pabillano @ TransLink said...

Hey Nathan! Jhen here from the Buzzer blog @ TransLink.

I’ve passed your comments onto our service planning group. They mentioned that the availability of resources played a role in the decision to route the service directly to Willowbrook, bypassing Langley Town Centre. They’re certainly open to revisiting the design of the service in the future through their ongoing Network Management program. Any change to the service would be informed by observed ridership patterns and feedback from customers like you. As you rightly point out, the timed transfer system will continue to be the best service design for customers in lower density / lower demand parts of the region for the foreseeable future, since we can’t offer frequencies that support a truly useful grid system. Thanks for sharing the South of Fraser ATP with your readers. We’re hopeful that we can continue to improve service in the area in support of the vision it lays out.

Hope that helps somewhat!