Critics say redistributing TransLink bus service won’t help

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TransLink says it will deliver extra buses where they are truly needed with its “service optimization” plan. But not everyone is onboard: critics say some commuters are going to be left behind.

The regional transportation authority is wrapping up consultations on the plan it will roll out starting in mid to late 2013. That’s months after transit fares increase by 10 percent.

“The guiding principles for optimization are twofold, so it’s about making better use of transit resources and putting service where it’s needed the most,” Marisa Espinosa, TransLink senior planning manager, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

According to Espinosa, a total of 25,000 service hours are being redistributed across Metro Vancouver to “generate higher ridership and address overcrowding”.

TransLink’s plan covers 33 Coast Mountain Bus Company routes. Nine of those are in Coquitlam, where long-time CMBC operator Brent Asmundson serves as a city councillor.

“You’re robbing Paul to pay Peter, basically,” Asmundson told the Straight by phone. “You’re creating service in another area but taking service out of other areas. It doesn’t improve overall service.”

In Coquitlam, five buses will be rerouted. Three others will be discontinued and their loads shared between one existing route and a new bus service. “We’re a growing community in Coquitlam, and we don’t need to lose service in any area,” Asmundson said.

TransLink started the process of bus-service optimization in 2010. According to its overall base plan for 2013, the transportation body will have reallocated 170,000 hours, or 3.4 percent of its total bus-service hours, by the end of 2012. The document 2013 Base Plan and Outlook notes that as a result of optimization and population growth, “capacity utilization has increased from 84 per cent in 2009 to 88 per cent in 2011, boardings per revenue hour have increased from 54 to 58 over the same period, and fare revenue increased by 5 per cent ($21 million)”.

With bus-service optimization, leveraging of real-estate assets, and a rate hike at its park-and-ride lots, TransLink expects to raise $24 million in extra revenues next year. This figure does not include revenue from the 10-percent increase in transit fares that starts on January 1, 2013.

In Vancouver, two regular bus and two community shuttle services are included in the optimization. The changes will include a service reduction for the number 22 bus in the area south of Kingsway, where TransLink says ridership is low.

Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs noted that service optimization will hit small municipalities harder.

“It’s hard for them to build ridership when the service times are too far apart,” Meggs told the Straight over the phone. “It’s going to impose significant hardship on riders. Suburban riders are going to be even harder up.”

Meggs, the vice chair of Vancouver’s committee on planning, transportation, and environment, stressed that the bus fleet isn’t growing in size in 2013.

“They’re shuffling the standing room on the TransLink buses,” Meggs said.

TransLink added 48 bus-service hours as of April 2012. However, because of funding constraints in 2013, another 306,000 bus-service hours will not be added, even though it had previously been committed by the regional transporation authority.

East Vancouver transportation researcher and activist Eric Doherty told the Straight that the changes are not going to enhance overall service. He maintained that TransLink is “shuffling the chairs on the deck of a sinking Titanic”.

Meanwhile, TransLink spokesperson Drew Snider explained that service reduction in low-demand areas is justified because “it’s just not getting used”.

“We’re not trying to stifle transit growth in a rural area,” Snider told the Straight by phone. “It’s a situation where we’re trying to make the best use of what we’ve got right now.”

TransLink’s most recent quarterly report revealed that even though expenditures were $25.6 million less than budgeted, it still had to draw down $11 million from its reserves to maintain service.

The regional transportation authority’s fuel-tax revenue in 2013 and beyond is anticipated to be “significantly below the 2012 Strategic Plan’s forecasts”.

TransLink has hosted seven of 10 scheduled open houses about its optimization plan. The last three of these consultations will be held in Maple Ridge (December 6), West Vancouver (December 11), and Burnaby (December 12).

Comments (9) Add New Comment
Denise
Why not use some of the carbon tax to ay for public transit? This would help expand the service for all, and keep our international commitments to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.
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iSheep
Translink gets Ca$h from everywhere much like a Crack Addict.

The Revenues are more than adequate it is the GROSS MISMANAGEMENT of ANY REVENUES that is causing this MESS!

e.g., Overpaying $171 + Million for Fare Gates - R.O.I 10 Years + No Business would make that stupid decision. That buys a lot of Bus Service.

* Paying $540,000 to about $1 Million per Bus - Competitive Bidding + Negotiation for far more reasonable costs need to be made.

* Overstaffed and Overpaid.

* Fire all Senior Management + Board that pays for Bus Services that are being cut. Instead Translink should report to the Minister of Transportation.

Again it is the Gross Mismanagement of Translink Budgets that lead to this mess.

Are we to Fund aka give the Crack Addict more Ca$h to buy its 'Drugs' or is an intervention necessary to restructure the Beast and make it more Fiscally Responsible.

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Andrew
Reduce the 22 south of Kingsway? Are you serious? It's packed at rush hour and constantly delayed coming from downtown.

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Just a thought
Why haven't they invested in double decker buses for heavy use routes (i.e. the 99) during peak times? You can carry about twice as many people without increasing personhours. The other drivers/buses can continue to run other routes at roughly the same service level as is currently being provided.
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bowser
You just can't please the "critics". It's easy to be a "critic".
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miffed
I don't know what to say about this. Every day, all I see are empty trolley buses smack behind crowded bee lines. Something is amiss.

Can't the trolley buses be put to better use than using them to ferry people to the bees? You don't have to be too bright to understand that TransLink doesn't know how to operate transit efficiently.
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Hazlit
Dear iSheep.

Stadium roof: overpaying $66 Million. Tickets for sports events: not priced high enough to persuade car drivers to stay home. Tax parking to support Translink?
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Plum Duff
"Why haven't they invested in double decker buses for heavy use routes?"

Are there trolley wires on those routes? Are those wires high enough to allow double deckers?
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Frank Rizzo
There are articulated buses already. Do double deckers hold more? There are trolley wires and double deckers do easily fit under them. The double tourist buses do anyways.
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