Wednesday, January 5, 2022

TransLink is cutting some transit service though still committed to building reliable and frequent service


In 2020, TransLink and other transit agencies in Canada received time-limited government support to maintain transit service levels despite a massive drop in ridership. With TransLink’s proposed 2022 Business Plan, which includes its operating and capital budget, the agency will no longer have the extra funding to maintain transit service levels at 2019 levels.

While TransLink staff plans for ridership to return to 80% of 2019 levels by this fall, there will still be service cuts to transit routes throughout the region to balance their budget.

These cuts started on January 3. You can view the impacted routes on TransLink’s website.

The good news is that TransLink is mainly reducing the frequency of routes with 15-minute or better service. For example, the 555 Carvoth/Lougheed used to run every 12 minutes during peak periods. Now it will run every 15 minutes. The R1 King George Blvd will run every 10 minutes mid-day instead of every 7 to 8 minutes.

These frequency reductions are minor, and TransLink so far is not reducing the hours that transit routes operate or route that are not frequent.

Before 2020, TransLink made impressive gains in transit network coverage and frequency, attracting increased riders. Getting the funding to build-up the network took tremendous political effort over a decade.

If TransLink has to cut the frequent transit network or the hours that transit operates, it will create a negative feedback loop which would permanently erode transit ridership for a generation, further increasing congestion on our road network. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The best way to increase transit ridership is to provide reliable, frequent, and direct service. These reasons are why I was happy to see that TransLink is still committed to building the frequent transit network.

For example, even when buses ran every 7 minutes, I would regularly wait up to 25 minutes for a bus at Surrey Central, having three buses for the same route show up at once due to bus bunching. TransLink will pilot “Advanced Headway Management” on a bus route this year. If it is successful, it will limit bus bunching, resulting in a more reliable transit network with possible reductions in operating costs.

TransLink is also committed to working with municipalities to ensure bus speed and reliability by adjusting bus stop locations. The is also funding for municipalities to support bus speed improvements. If it was like in previous years, it means building bus lanes, queue jumper lanes, and timing traffic signals to help speed buses through congestion.

I am cautiously optimistic that our transit network will continue to improve as long as TransLink doesn’t have to make deeper cuts to transit service and continues to invest in speeding buses up.

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