TransLink service optimization proposed for 2013: focus on the 22

Earlier this year, I blogged about the poor scheduling coordination between routes 2 and 22 through Kitsilano. I suggested that the frequencies for the two routes be made equal to allow for improved coordination. It appears that TransLink might be taking steps to improve that, with an additional step that is long overdue.

Screenshot of TransLink document, detailing proposed changes to routes 2 and 22

2/22 Service Refinement

This PDF document has background on TransLink’s service optimization and details on the various services that may be affected. Page 7 covers routes 2 and 22; a screenshot is posted above. Looking at the entire corridor, not just Kitsilano but also in the east side, where demand is just as heavy, TransLink is considering upping the frequency, and introducing short-turns in the east side to Knight and Kingsway, very close to where I live. Headways between Macdonald and 16th and Knight and Kingsway (shown in pink above) can be as low 10 minutes in midday, seven days a week.

The additional step that I mentioned is folding route 2 back into the 22. This part of the service change proposal was the one that really caught my interest and excitement. Once upon a time, there was a single route 22, some of whose trips operated between only downtown Vancouver and Macdonald and 16th.  In 1997, those short-turned Macdonald-16th trips had its other terminus moved to the emerging Yaletown district. To distinguish it from the main-line 22, it was given the route number 2. (Source: Buzzer from June 13, 1997 [PDF]) The Yaletown experiment was short-lived (truncated to its current terminus at Burrard Station in the early 2000s), but the route number remained as 2. I’ve always wondered when the Cornwall and Macdonald corridor will be served once again by a single route number. If TransLink goes ahead with what they are proposing, expect to see a “22 Macdonald to 16th Avenue” (and “22 Knight to Kingsway”) starting next fall.

If you live in the Vancouver region, visit the service optimization website to check on changes that may affect you. You can fill out the brief survey online or at any of the open houses that are being offered throughout the region. While the list of open houses identifies affected routes for the specific city, there is the opportunity to speak to TransLink planners about any of the changes that aren’t for your specific city. That was what I did earlier today at the first open house at the Roundhouse in Yaletown.

September 2012 TransLink service changes

[Full details of changes in September Buzzer PDF]

A couple of things of note with the fall service changes, which, when you remove the usual upticks in services to post-secondary institutions, are rather light.

There is some inconsistency with how TransLink is notifying  customers of these changes, particularly with decreases in headways. Example: the C26 in midday is “adjusted to one trip per hour (from two trips/hour) between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.” But other routes whose headways have changed are still expressed in minutes, such as with the increased frequency for the 395: “service will improve to every 20 minutes between 3-7 p.m.”

For those who still pick up paper timetables (like me), I noticed that the maps have been updated to the new format, which also emphasizes the Frequent Transit Network (current system map available as a PDF; the maps for the timetables are based on this map). However, the editing and formatting for the rest of the timetables seem to have slipped, especially for the September edition. Look at the N19, which appears on multiple timetables. And yet in all of them has the stopping procedures for the 135, which is irrelevant for all but the Burnaby timetable. The standalone PDF for the N19 schedule has it as well. Is this a one-off event? I’ll wait until December before passing judgment.

Transit daytrip: new routes, new adventures

The various buses I took on my daytrip.

On Friday afternoon, I happened to be in Surrey for a job interview. (Sadly, I did not get the job.) After a quick lunch, I boarded the 375 to South Surrey. The route has been around for a few years, but it’s the first time I’ve actually ridden it. After a brief wait at White Rock Centre (a bit of a misnomer as some of its stops are in Surrey), I got on the 531 to Willowbrook. This is a newer route (introduced this past spring), so it’s nice to get a chance to try this long-awaited regional service. I also extended my trip by going over the Golden Ears Bridge on the 595 (the limited-stop service between Langley Centre and Haney Place), and then the 791 to Braid Station (another first board).

As context, here is my trip on a map, starting at the red place-marker. This is the bulk of it; the rest of the involved taking SkyTrain back to Vancouver.

Macdonald corridor still needs scheduling coordination

Part 2 of my thoughts on TransLink’s seasonal service changes for summer 2012. Part 1 is here.

Last year at this time, I noted how, despite TransLink’s claims to coordinate schedules for routes 2 and 22 serving the Macdonald/Cornwall corridor between Downtown Vancouver and 16th Avenue, there are still noticeable gaps in the combined departure times. This can mainly be traced with the different frequencies for the two routes during the middle of the day: 15 minutes for the 2, which short-turns at 16th Avenue, and 12 minutes for the 22, which serves the full corridor to 41st Avenue.

This year, there are additional promises of coordination between the 2 and 22, as well as extended hours for the 2 on Saturday. I did the same exercise from last year (putting all departure times on a spreadsheet, merging them, and calculating the difference between buses). Here are some things I noticed, when looking at those differences:

One glaring change can be found in the southbound direction, Monday to Friday after 19:00. Last year, there was some effort in coordination; because both routes operated at 15 minute frequency, the departure times at Burrard and Davie were spaced apart to 7-8 minutes. This year, the departure times for the two routes are almost simultaneous, which results in a gap of as much as 15 minutes before two buses are scheduled to show up.

And on Saturday afternoon, in the southbound direction, the same problem can be found between 16:00 and 18:00, when both routes are operating at 12 minute frequency, but leave Burrard and Davie at the same times. And even though route 2’s service hours were extended to 21:00 on Saturday, its frequency for the early evening period is 20 minutes, but the 22’s is 15 minutes. The combined scheduled is therefore not balanced, just as it is in the midday.

I still think the best way to provide a coordinated schedule for the Macdonald/Cornwall corridor is to increase the midday frequency for route 2 to 12 minutes. I would love to have a chat with a planner at TransLink if this can be done within its current constraints under the service optimization program.

June 2012 TransLink service changes

[Full details of changes in June Buzzer PDF]

North Vancouver gains, while Richmond loses in this round of seasonal service changes. The two major routes from North Van to downtown Vancouver, the 210 and 240, receive frequency increases, while the Lonsdale corridor joins the Frequent Transit Network. Unfortunately, SeaBus service is not increased to match that on Lonsdale; that might not occur until 2013 at the latest.

Thanks to ongoing service optimization, where one area gains transit service, another inevitably must lose some service. That is the case in Richmond, where three routes have had their frequencies reduced. One in particular, the 404, has 30-minute headways in peak periods. But it’s not all bleak in Richmond, as the inter-regional 410 sees slight increases in peak-period frequencies.

Vancouver has a mixed bag, as several routes (including the 25) see increased headways, while the 26, 27, and 29, serving east and south-east Vancouver, have their headways reduced during the midday. Elsewhere, there are other slight additions for improved SkyTrain connections and adjustments to conform to the new Frequent Network guidelines.

It’s disappointing that some areas have reductions in frequencies, but that’s the reality of the fixed hours TransLink has to allocate for the entire region. Without additional funding beyond what’s already there, the transport authority is stuck with having to re-allocate service hours to where it’s needed most. Hopefully the situation changes sooner rather than later.

TransLink service changes, spring 2012

Buzzer Blog post covering Spring 2012 service changes

Most of TransLink’s service changes for spring are related to the rollout of the Frequent Transit Network [PDF map], and most of them are to cut down on the weekend early-morning service before the 15-minute frequency kicks in at 7:00am on Saturday and 8:00am on Sunday. (Prior to this, the 15-minute guideline applied from 6:00am to 9:00pm, 7 days a week.) It’s interesting how some routes that appear to be frequent enough (I’m thinking 337, 401, 403) do not make the cut, according to the guidelines.

The other big piece to the changes is the introduction of the long-awaited connection between White Rock and Langley. A few TransLink planners managed to board the new 531 on opening day. But why was the 531 made to terminate in Willowbrook, instead of the bigger hub of Langley Centre?

The 531 could be the only piece of new or improved transit services for a while. In an action-packed April, the independent commissioner for TransLink has released his review of TransLink’s application for a fare increase, followed by TransLink’s response, which effectively suspended most of the items on last fall’s Moving Forward Plan. I’m disappointed that such a decision had to be made, which only places a glaring spotlight on the major disconnect among TransLink, the cities, and the province. And with a provincial election a year away, I’m not expecting any movement between now and then.

Why TransLink’s new mobile website is a game changer


iPhone screenshot from TransLink's mobile website

TransLink stop 52417

iPhone screenshot from TransLink's mobile website

Same stop info, with map zoomed out.



Earlier this month, TransLink updated its mobile website. While portions of it are in beta mode (which I tested a week before the general release), and with more functionality to come, the big new feature is real-time tracking of buses serving a particular stop.

When you load the next scheduled arrivals at a particular bus stop in a map, the map displays that stop’s location, as well as the location of all the active buses on the route at the moment. In the example above right, you can see there are three buses on route 106 that are about to pass through stop #52417. If I zoomed out the map further, there could be one or two more, going back to the 106’s origin at Metrotown. At the moment, buses update their position every two minutes. A “refresh” button can be tapped to, well, refresh the position of the bus(es).

Knowing where the bus is (within a two-minute delay) is the game changer for me. Before this info was provided by TransLink, I gave myself a leeway of as much as 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave a stop, or 10 minutes from when I leave my place. Now with real-time info, I can track the bus as it approaches my stop and leave my place accordingly. No more unnecessarily long waits at a stop because I didn’t know a particular bus was delayed. It gets more important now that summer is well and truly over, and waiting for a bus in the rain is never a pleasant experience.

Have you viewed TransLink’s new real-time info yet? Has it been helpful so far? Are you looking forward to any new functions from the mobile website?


PS. I have updated this blog’s theme (Clean Home), as part of much-needed house-cleaning. Comments and suggestions welcome!

Time to drop the “C” from TransLink’s shuttle services

TransLink bus R9254 at the Airport South terminus, signed "C92 Bridgeport Stn"

It's hard to read, but the destination sign on this bus reads "C92 Bridgeport Stn".

Buzzer Blog: September service changes and optimization

Thanks to TransLink’s ongoing service optimization, the service changes for the fall are quite modest compared to previous years. This year, they mainly involve frequency changes. One significant update is the change in route number for the Fraser Heights route from C74 back to 337. In addition, a few routes will be using Community Shuttle vehicles during periods of light use, such as in the evenings, or in the case of the peak-period 388, at all times.

When the Community Shuttles were introduced, routes that used them were given numbers that had a “C” prefix. Over time, the distinction between using a shuttle and having a “C” route number diminished greatly. When the old 337 was converted to the C74 in 2004 [PDF], demand on the route remained so high that conventional buses were soon brought back during times of heavy use. Even now, the resurrected 337 will use conventional buses during weekdays, but have the shuttles serving Fraser Heights on weekends.

I was always weary of the use of the “C” prefix on shuttle routes; they brought discontinuity with the other conventional routes that service the same area. (To be fair, at least TransLink/Coast Mountain had some presence of mind to have regional continuity within the shuttle route numbering, such as C6x in Langley or C9x in Richmond.)

As more and more routes with conventional route numbers are beginning to use shuttle vehicles for most or all of the day, I feel it’s time to scrap the “C” convention and re-integrate them with the route numbers they had previously (or within the same range if it’s a new route). I’m hoping re-numbering the C74 back to the 337 is only the start…

(Photo credit: flickr @ Stephen Rees)

I Love Transit, in T-shirt form!

I Love Transit shirt for 2011. Design by Chris von Szombathy.

I Love Transit week has returned to Vancouver, and I feel that it’s gaining momentum. The shirt that I won as a door prize during the meetup is one sign of that. The enthusiasm of meetup participants, young, old and everywhere in between, during the bingo and bus-boarding events (and I’m sure in the trivia contest too, but I had to leave before that) is another sign. Buzzer blogger Robert might even be considering having the blog’s readers determine the next city that will hold next year’s meetup.

It’s lucky that I won the shirt, but I likely would have bought it anyway, had TransLink offered it for sale. Buttons and pins have been a mainstay of the event (and I got a full collection of them with the shirt), but a shirt is a much bigger canvas to display one’s love for public transport. And trust me, I will be wearing this shirt as much as I can!

TransLink service changes, Summer 2011

Buzzer Blog: June 2011 service changes and optimization

Normally, the summer is not a very busy time for service changes at TransLink, seasonal services exempted, but the sheet effective June 20 has a few interesting items, a lot of it centred on the North Shore:

  • The 239’s frequency has been beefed up to become part of the Frequent Transit Network.
  • The 246 now operates to/from Downtown Vancouver seven days a week.
  • The 290 and 292 have been discontinued, but the 210 and 211 are taking up the slack, with each having 15-minute service in PM peak.
  • Late-night services that operated as 242 now run as N24. The 242 essentially becomes a Sunday early-morning service.

The one that intrigues me most is the improvements to the 2 Macdonald-16th Avenue, particularly the bit where its schedule will be coordinated with the 22 Macdonald. TransLink’s press release indicates that such coordination will only occur during peak hours. I’m more concerned with the not-so-coordinated scheduling that will continue for the 2 and 22 outside peak hours.

On a spreadsheet, I compiled all the departure times for the 2 and 22 during the 2’s hours of service at two locations: northbound Macdonald at Broadway, and southbound Burrard at Davie. I then combined them into a single column and calculated the length of time it requires to wait for the next bus. Focusing outside of peak hours, there is clearly some improvement needed to provide better coordination along the shared corridor between Kitsilano and Downtown Vancouver.

The root cause is the different headways of the two routes: the 2’s is 15 minutes, but the 22’s is 12 minutes. On a very simple level, if two buses are scheduled to depart at 12 noon, then during the hour, buses will appear at 12:12, 12:15, 12:24, 12:30, 12:36, 12:45, 12:48, then two buses appear again at 1:00pm. Not very coordinated, is it? It gets ugly for service to downtown after 5:30pm. The northbound 2 and 22 depart Broadway within 5 minutes of each other, meaning there can be as much as a 14-minute wait between buses at that stop, for two routes each with 15-minute headways.

The same also applies on weekends, in both directions, because the midday frequencies are the same as Monday to Friday. Even when the frequencies match, as on Sunday, southbound, between 4:00 and 5:00pm, the buses leave Burrard at Davie at essentially the same time.

The only reasonable compromise to ensure a coordinated schedule during the midday is to increase the headway of route 2 to 12 minutes, thus guaranteeing 6-minute service along the shared corridors on Macdonald, Cornwall, and Burrard. Given TransLink’s current service optimization program, that might not happen right away. If nothing else, some coordination of the two routes should at least happen when they have the same headways. TransLink has started improving the busy Kitsilano corridor, but it’s far from finished.