British Columbia

Bus service slowing across Metro Vancouver, new TransLink report says

A TransLink report published Monday says growing traffic congestion is to blame for the fact that a full 80 per cent of all bus routes in the network are running slower than they were five years ago.

80% of all bus routes running slower than they were 5 years ago due to traffic congestion, report finds

Vancouver commuters board the 99 B-line bus. The Broadway corridor is one of the busiest and most delayed transit corridors in Metro Vancouver. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

A TransLink report showing that buses are running slower than ever in Metro Vancouver won't come as much of a surprise to anyone who regularly uses transit. 

Nor will any of the places listed as the worst for passenger delays, led by the ever-congested King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue corridor in Surrey, B.C.

The 2019 Bus Speed and Reliability Report says growing traffic congestion is to blame for the fact that a full 80 per cent of all routes in the TransLink system are running slower than they did five years ago.

"Everybody knows that slow and particularly unreliable bus service really affects the experience and can cause a lot of anxiety," said TransLink senior bus manager Daniel Freeman. 

Rider satisfaction isn't the only thing taking a hit. TransLink estimates the cost of delays to its bottom line is $75 million per year, or 12 per cent of its bus-operating budget.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says municipalities, the provincial government and his organization need to work together to keep the buses moving. 

"There's only so much TransLink can do on its own — regional collaboration will be key to implementing the kinds of bold transit priority programs that will enable us to continue to make buses an attractive option for the public," said Desmond. 

TransLink says better collaboration between itself, municipalities and the provincial government is needed to keep buses as an attractive option for the public. (Jeremy Allingham/CBC)

According to TransLink data, 61 per cent of all transit boardings are on a bus. That's compared to 26 per cent on the SkyTrain's Expo and Millennium lines and 11 per cent on the Canada Line.

Additionally, numbers show that bus ridership is up 14 per cent in the last three years.

But the report says TransLink's hands are tied when it comes to its own influence on maintaining and improving the overall efficiency and reliability of the bus service.

TransLink says the most effective tools — things like traffic signals, road and intersection design, and lane management — are the responsibility of municipalities and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. 

However, the report points out that prioritizing buses over other road users often becomes a political hot potato.

"For example, converting general travel lanes or parking lanes into bus lanes is a fast, effective and inexpensive way to improve bus service; however, the explicit re-allocation of space from one user to another often arouses opposition," says the report.

Freeman says some of the fixes could happen quickly if there was support from the municipalities.

He cites a a recent example in Delta where adding a dedicated left hand turn bay at 84th Avenue and Scott Road shaved two minutes off the schedules of all the buses turning there.

"Municipal staff need to weigh a bunch of other considerations when they make changes to street operations and so we're here to support them with information and also funding to make those changes possible," said Freeman.

Top 10 worst transit corridors

The following corridors, listed with the authority responsible for their management, create the most delay for bus riders, according to the TransLink report:

  1. King George Boulevard/104 Avenue — City of Surrey
  2. Highway 99 — City of Richmond, Ministry of Transportation
  3. 41st Avenue — City of Vancouver
  4. Broadway — City of Vancouver
  5. Hastings Street — City of Vancouver, City of Burnaby
  6. Scott Road/72 Avenue — City of Surrey, City of Delta
  7. Main/Marine Drive — District of West Vancouver, District and City of North Vancouver, Province of B.C.
  8. Fraser Highway — City of Surrey, City and Township of Langley, Province of B.C.
  9. West Georgia Street/Lions Gate Bridge — City of Vancouver, Province of B.C.
  10. Granville Street — City of Vancouver

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