Anatomy of a bus ride: How to catch the westbound 99 B-Line at Clark

Anatomy of a bus ride:

8:40 a.m.: Arrive at Clark and Broadway bus stop headed west.

8:51 a.m.: Note that two B-Lines and two 9 Almas have stopped but are too crowded to board. Stay back from the hordes of shoving people to avoid early morning fistfight.

8:53 a.m.: Another B-Line stops; I can't board due to shoving.

8:56 a.m.: B-Line doesn't even bother to stop.

8:59 a.m.:

9:02 a.m.: Despite standing exactly where the back door to the B-Line opens, I get flanked by two people who shove their way onto the bus ahead of me. Finally lose my patience and yell at the entitled jerks who pushed their way on ahead of me. "I've been waiting here for SIX buses! What is your problem?!" Continue yelling until bus doors close.

9:04 a.m.: Begin rage crying at the bus stop.

9:07 a.m.: Finally board an overcrowded B-Line to take me to work.

It is this painful to board a bus at Clark just about every single day. (And don't even get me started on boarding at Commercial-Broadway.)

We don't need more enforcement, and we don't need a $171 million fare gate-smartcard system if we can't even get enough buses on the road to service the current ridership.

Fun fact: yesterday morning, something magical happened. While enduring the regular stream of pass-ups and shovers, a completely empty B-Line arrived at my stop. EMPTY. I got to sit in a seat. It didn't make my blood pressure go through the roof. I wasn't almost trampled to death by a steady stream of college students, iPod zombies, and tiny old ladies. By the time we got to the Cambie stop, the bus was full, but not so much so that I could smell the coffee on the breath of my fellow riders. I managed to get to work without screaming at a single person or crying once.

It was, quite frankly, a miracle.

When your morning communte reduces you to screaming and tears, there is something fundamentally wrong with the transit system.


For more bus-riding tales of woe, follow Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_.

Comments (29) Add New Comment
Skytrain disparately needed
Why there isn't a Skytrain that goes to one of the busiest schools in the province where there is an abundance of people who can't afford cars and heavily rely on transit is beyond me.
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Craig
Ride a bike: bounteous happiness results.
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Mark Fornataro
Sounds like a machiavellian scheme to produce future marathon running stars for the Olympics and/or depressed patients for Big Pharma.
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JS
re: Skytrain disparately needed

It's pretty obvious why there isn't one: the property values of the areas that a skytrain would run through. Where would you run the line? Above ground or underground? I can't see any way of doing it that wouldn't require buying private property in a very expensive part of town full of well connected people who don't want some noisy train for poor people ruining their neighbourhood.

I can see why no one wants to take this nightmare on after all the issues with the arbutus corridor and the cambie delays during construction of the canada line. It sure is needed though, maybe in the 2020's.
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sevamatters
I lived near that corner for more than a decade. I rode that bus, at that time of day, for years. Never did I cry or yell at anyone (well, sometimes in my head). Yes it is busy, very much so. However, if you squeeze on, by Cambie and certainly by VGH, it is often possible to get a seat. Or at least a bit of space.

And if the 99 is just too much, from that corner, it is four blocks to catch the 84 which is often not full and depending on your place in line, it might be possible to get a seat all the to UBC.

Yes we need more buses, especially at busy times, but we also need less overblown accounts of everyday events.
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Maya Beckersmith
Although absurd, it might cut your commute down to hop on a bus to Broadway Station, and wait in the horrendous lineup there. At least there is a (mostly civilized) lineup and you can wait until you get a seat! My newest tactic is to wait in the line going in the front door, and let like 3 buses go by if I feel like sitting down. Okay, maybe that wouldn't be shorter, but it might lead to a reduction in rage-tears.
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ATD
So sick of people complaining that this is Translink's fault. If you want someone to blame, point your finger at the people who feel automobile use is a birthright and who bitch and moan about any tax raise on motorists to pay for better transit. Given how heavily subsidized road usage is, motorists don't pay nearly their fair share, yet their sense of entitlement means they whine that they're already overtaxed. If they did in fact pay their fair share, Translink might actually be able to get the funds to build rapid transit in the Broadway corridor. But don't hold your breath - look how long it took to get the Evergreen Line funded.

Also, if you know the 99 B-line is going to be ridiculously crowded, and you're able bodied, wouldn't it make sense to walk the three or so blocks east to Commercial to get on at the origin station? I'm not sure which B-line this author has been riding but I've never had more than a one-bus wait at Commercial in all the time I've been living here, and I usually get a seat, too. Seriously, whiny, hand-wringing pieces like this do little to help and only serve to marginalize what are very real concerns.
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Miranda Nelson
@ATD, if you've never had more than a one-line wait at Broadway-Commercial, you are the luckiest person in the entire universe.

I used to take the SkyTrain from Nanaimo to there (a nightmare in and of itself), then catch the B-Line. I would more often than not be stuck in a lineup of no less than 300 people, and have to wait for 3-4 buses to board. The worst lines would wrap through the station and up Commercial Drive.

See photos and write-ups of those wonderful commutes here and here.
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MrBusRider
Why don't you walk the 5 minutes down to VCC station and catch the 84? its usually quicker to get across town and less crowded.
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b76
Buy a Ruckus...
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ATD
Perhaps I am. You may very well travel at times than mean you have to wait in a much longer line than I do, and that's unfortunate and shouldn't happen.

The main point of my comment, though, was not to dispute your contention that the B-line is ludicrously overstuffed more often than it should be; it certainly is a problem that obviously needs to be fixed urgently. (Though I may experience it infrequently, I have friends who, like you, encounter this sort of frustration more regularly.) My point was it's time to start directing these frustrations - and not in a whiny, oh-so-typical-of-Vancouver manner - toward their true sources, rather than constantly saying, "It's all Translink's fault." Some of it may be, sure. But it's lazy not to look at the bigger picture, at the forces at work preventing Translink from receiving more funding for badly needed transit.

I'm still not sure why you seem so against faregates/smartcards and more enforcement, though. Doesn't it make sense to you that the millions of dollars lost to fare evasion could be used to put more buses on the 99 B-line route (and other places in dire need of better service?)

Anyway, we can both agree that things need to change in a hurry. How to effect that change is going to be a lot more difficult.
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Avid Cyclist
I'm getting a little sick and tired of people complaining about transit delays when simply using a bicycle would eliminate their problems completely.

If every one of these people complaining about lack of room on Skytrain and buses used a bicycle, the overcrowding problems would be solved overnight.

Stop your whining and get your ass on a bike. Now.
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Quirky
Give yourself a real thrill ~ try to get on a 41 after the skytrain station during the student rush.
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Carolyn Ali
I find it challenging not to let Vancouver transit chip away my faith in humanity. If somebody who clearly needs a seat boards, get up already! Don't pretend you don't see them. Take off your backpack! Don't you see the other people crammed in?

My personal peeve is watching people at Broadway station walk straight past the waiting area for the B-Line's back-door entrance, casually hang out there, and then board when the bus comes as if they actually waited their turn. Nobody ever calls them on it.

Yesterday, however, I got tired of being hit by somebody's backpack on a crowded Skytrain. So instead of stewing in frustration like I usually do, I asked them (nicely) to take it off. They did.

Wow. Guess I'll hang on to my faith in humanity a little longer.
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Miranda Nelson
ATD, you're definitely right. There's a lot reason for transit problems than I get into and it can hardly all be blamed on TransLink. It's chronically underfunded, the traffic situation in Vancouver is horrible on the best days. I get it. It's just so hard to deal with what I had to deal with today and not stamp my feet and shout "DAMN YOU TRANSLINK."

(In all fairness, the pushy jerks were more of an annoyance.)

My big problem with the fare gates is that the numbers don't make sense to me. By their own estimates, the gate/card system will save $10 million per year at most. Considering the cost of the system is $171 million and it'll cost $15 million per year to maintain, it doesn't seem like the system will ever be able to pay for itself.

But I don't know that for sure. Maybe it'll be the best way of collecting data and adjusting routes, riders, resources, etc. and will completely revolutionize the system. My fingers are crossed, but I won't hold my breath, y'know? :)
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my own personal b-line
@Avid Cyclist
"If every one of these people complaining about lack of room on Skytrain and buses used a bicycle, the overcrowding problems would be solved overnight."

Rather than sounding like a self-righteous asshole, maybe you could simply comment on the positive aspects of cycling, as opposed to hopping into the human-stew that is the 99. Lots of folks on the bus have physical disabilities or are not in good enough shape to whip up Vancouver's hills, or are terrified of traffic.

Of course, lots of bus riders could be on bikes, and that day is coming, mostly because the experience of cycling around this city is so amazing, especially when compared with the god-awful transit experiences depicted here, and caused, as some commenters have noted, by neo-liberal tax-hatred.
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Bikes are good but not a solution to this
I am an avid cyclist and regularly ride my bike instead of bussing but that is not the answer for riders who for some reason cannot easily ride a bike (elderly, injured etc.). Or for those who find it important to avoid helmet hair and sweaty armpits, the bus is a more appealing choice....well you might still get sweaty armpits. More buses please!
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BikerCK
As long as you have Translink directors with car allowances there won't be more buses. You might as well hire a Mormon as your beer and coffee taster.

As long as there aren't people who are more representative of those who actually ride the bus, there won't be more buses. I doubt any of them have ever had to deal with getting a stroller on the bus, or trying to do the right thing by taking transit with a toddler and not a damn bathroom in any of the stations, or experienced the joy of riding with f-bombing gangsta wannabees.

As long as the board consists entirely of caucasian executives, a sliver of the bus-riding demographic by my experience, there won't be more buses. Where's a board that's actually representative of the people who use the service? Not at Translink board meetings that's for sure.

Hundreds of millions to recoup a few million in lost fares... this they have money for. A decision that's more about a get tough, law and order mentality than spending money to actually improve service.

As long as the region's employers don't collaborate on staggering worker start times by even a quarter hour, to deal with the rush of people all trying to start work at the same time, transit congestion is a given, as is road congestion. This is the bizarre-est piece of the puzzle. Does it really matter if downtown paper pushers aren't all at their desk at 9am? I took the Skytrain at 9:10 am on Tuesday, and Broadway station was like a ghost town.

For Miranda:
I'll bet two people sharing a Car2Go would be as cheap as the bus if you're going from Clark/Broadway to the G. Straight offices. At $0.38 a minute, two people can drive for roughly 13 minutes before it's more expensive than two single zone fares. Car2Go is going to crush Translink in the downtown core eventually, if they don't start making their service more attractive.
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seagreen
Here's a wild proposal for you: COMPLETE THE MILLENNIUM LINE! Build an elevated Skytrain along Great Northern Way to Main, then follow the railroad right of way from Main St. to Granville Island. From there, build it to follow the Arbutus rail corridor to 16th, then along 16th to Wesbrook Mall, then down Wesbrook to the UBC Loop. While we're at it, pass the cost of paying for ALL the Skytrain/Canada Line guideways to the province of BC, and use the money saved in the Translink budget to expand bus service throughout the Metro area. This avoids having to dig a tunnel under Broadway, but would require people who are actually going somewhere on Broadway between Commercial and Arbutus to take the bus without having it packed full of UBC commuters.
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timv
Buy a bike, it will be the happiest decision you make...EVENTUALLY!!

It will be painful/inconvenient at first. Start out with a bike/transit combo. (Bike part of the way, transit part of the way.) Even that will be painful/inconvenient. Eventually, you will get in better condition, and fine-tune your "systems". Eventually you will ride the entire way, and not even consider transit.

Eventually you will love the ride, crave the ride, need the ride.
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