Thursday, October 24, 2019

Congestion increasing delays and decreasing reliability of bus service. RapidBus program to reverse negative trend.

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that the population will continue to increase in Metro Vancouver. With increased population can come increased congestion on major roads, but this is not always the case.

One of the only ways to give people a way out of congestion is to make walking, cycling, and taking public transit safe, fast, and inviting.

In places like New Westminster, road congestion hasn’t increased because of the investment in high-quality walking infrastructure and transit service in that community.

The South of Fraser, and other parts of Metro Vancouver, doesn’t have this same level of higher-quality transit service which is causing road congestion to increase. This means that the time it takes to get places whether by bus or by car is increasing. TransLink found that around 80% of bus routes are slower today than they were five years ago. With over 60% of all transit ridership in our region from bus service, this is a serious issue.

This slowdown in bus routes is bad news not only because it now takes people more time to get to where they need to go, but it also requires TransLink to provision more buses due to congestion, leaving less buses available to expand the transit network. In fact, congestion costs TransLink over $75 million per year to maintain bus service reliability.

TransLink recently released a map of the bus corridors that are the most impacted by congestion. The Fraser Highway corridor is on this map.

Top 20 most congested corridors that are delaying people riding buses in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

So how do you get buses moving to reduce congestion? Through TransLink’s RapidBus program, in partnership with municipalities, bus priority measures are being introduced throughout the region. The best way to get buses out of congestion is to introduce bus-only lanes and reconfigure intersections and traffic lights to prioritize buses. Some earlier work shows that this worked, including along King George Boulevard.

In Langley City, we will be changing current general travel lanes to restricted bus lanes along some sections of road in our downtown to help speed up bus service. While it may seem that switching general travel lanes to bus lanes would further increase congestion, it does the opposite.

Fast and reliable bus service actually causes people to stop driving and start taking transit. A good case study would be the Broadway corridor in the City of Vancouver.

The RapidBus program will be successful if municipalities continue to partner with TransLink to build out bus lanes and intersection improvements to keep transit service running on-time. This will give people a way out of congestion, and keep our economy moving.

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