Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Let’s drop the spaghetti-mess transit network and invest in fast, direct service

TransLink bus

Around 15 years ago, TransLink introduced the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan. The big idea in that plan was to shift the transit network focused on getting people from “the suburbs” to Downtown Vancouver, to a network that gets people easily around Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and Langley with fast and direct bus service.

The bus network at the time was more a spaghetti mess of infrequent transit routes that were not intuitive to use. The following map shows the 2008 transit network in Langley.

Example of spaghetti-mess routes in Langley back in 2008. Select map to enlarge.

Back then, the 502 and 501 even had different routings based on the time of day. You almost needed to be a transit expert!

While some of the spaghetti-mess network still exists today, and there are still very infrequent or peak-period only routes such as 388 or 509, TransLink has invested in creating direct, easy-to-understand routes over the past decade or so.

The big idea of the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan was that you could use a grid of frequent bus routes to get from any point to any point in the South of Fraser with only one transfer. Because the routes were frequent, you’d never have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus. You usually wait less.

2031 proposed fast and frequent transit network from the 2007 South of Fraser Area Transit Plan, Phase 1. Select map to enlarge.

One of the biggest success stories of investing in direct, frequent, and easy-to-understand transit routes is the 531, which connects White Rock/South Surrey to Langley. This route has been leading in ridership growth.

I’ve now been on several 531 that have been jam-packed this year.

About five years ago, the 501 would almost act like an express bus along 200th Street, when I took the 501 this weekend, it was busy, and people were getting on and off at many stops along the route.

I’ve seen firsthand how valuable this direct network can be as the population and jobs in the South of Fraser grows.

With overall transit ridership still below pre-pandemic levels, TransLink has the opportunity to evaluate the transit network. It might be a good time to assess if peak-period, Vancouver-bound commuter transit routes are meeting the needs of people, especially in the South of Fraser. Does it make sense to reallocate funds from peak-period-only Vancouver commuter specials and other infrequent, spaghetti-mess routes to strengthen the frequent, direct transit network?

From what I’ve seen, the answer is yes.

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