Monday, January 13, 2020

RapidBus Review - R3 Lougheed Highway lives up to hype

One of the key priorities in the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision is to improve the fast and frequent bus network in Metro Vancouver. On January 6th, TransLink launched the RapidBus program to much fanfare. This is the new brand name for the fast and frequent bus network in our region, and includes new routes plus re-branded B-Line routes. Does the RapidBus network live up to its hype?

My good friend Paul Hillsdon and I decided to ride every RapidBus last Saturday to find out. Over the next little while, I’ll be posting a review about each of the current RapidBus routes. The first route we took was the R3 Lougheed Highway.

Paul Hillsdon and I at Carvolth Transit Exchange. Select image to enlarge.

Paul and I met up, and took the 595 to Maple Ridge from Carvolth Park and Ride. We noticed that the 595 connects to the R3 in Maple Ridge, but unfortunately this is only during peak periods.

The 595 should always connect to the R3 Lougheed Highway, but unfortunately this only happen during peak periods. Select image to enlarge.

For us, this meant that we had to walk about 5 minutes from the 595 stop to the R3 stop because we were travelling on a Saturday. As someone who uses public transit as their primary mode of travel, I can tell you that having inconsistent bus routing isn’t ideal.

I know everything costs money, but it seems like having the 595 connect to the R3 all the times would be an easy win. It would also make it significantly faster to get to Coquitlam Station. Previously, I’d have to take a bus to King George SkyTrain, transfer at Columbia SkyTrain Station, and transfer at Lougheed SkyTrain Station to get to the Coquitlam Station area.

The R3 heading along Lougheed Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Once on the R3, the service was fast! The 701 during peak travel periods takes 53 minutes to get from Haney Place to Coquitlam Central station, the R3 takes 36 minutes. This is because there were investments made to get buses out of congestion at key areas along Lougheed Highway.

When I took the 701 from time-to-time in the past, I remember the bus getting jammed up along Lougheed Highway near Coquitlam Centre. TransLink in partnership with the City of Coquitlam have put in bus priority measures in this area which really speeds up service.

Bus lanes from the R3 near Coquitlam Centre. Select image to enlarge.

A new bus-only intersection that connects the Coquitlam Centre bus loop to Lougheed Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Our roads are not getting any wider. To allow more people to travel through a corridor, improving bus priority is critical, even if it means reallocating road space from general travel lanes.

Besides speed, one of the other highly anticipated features was the introduction of real-time arrival information at RapidBus stops.

Paul pointing at the real-time bus arrival information. Select image to enlarge.

While the real-time information was useful, there is some room for improvement. First, if you press the audio button to get the real-time information read to you, both the pronunciation of Coquitlam and Lougheed were seriously incorrect. The other thing I noticed is that sometimes the real-time information was in minutes and sometimes it was in time-of-day format. I find it much more useful to have it always in minutes.

Another area where there is room for improvement on this route is to have bus shelters at all stops. While not a deal breaker, it is a nice to have.

There is no bus shelter at this RapidRus stop in Port Coquitlam. Select image to enlarge.

Overall, I think that the R3 Lougheed Highway lives up to the hype. It is a major improvement to transit service for people in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

No comments: