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.

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.

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)

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.

Transit field reports, January 29

Bus #9497, signed as 25 Brentwood Station, with bonus ad-wrap for the Canucks' 40th anniversary.

Part of an ongoing series of observations during my frequent forays on transit.

Not one, not two, but three items of note during a single bus ride earlier today (Saturday), onboard a eastbound 025 on King Edward:

  1. It was a cold and damp kind of day. I have no idea why anyone would open one of the bus’ windows. Sitting near the back, the drafts from that open window were obvious. It certainly wasn’t cool to keep all the passengers cool.
  2. King Edward at Granville Street is designated as a location for driver shift changes. Ideally, the shift should be seamless, as the incoming driver simply sits down and drives away. That is, if the new driver is actually there to relieve his colleague. Everyone on the bus today was in a state of confusion when the driver finishing his shift just walked away from the bus. After about two minutes the driver walked back (supposedly from his car), and two minutes after that, the new driver showed up. (A just-as-interesting shift-change story is found here.)
  3. Just as frustrating as not having the shift change done on time is the fact that the bus was already late getting into Granville in the first place. On an observational basis over the last few weeks, and even before that, I can surmise that the scheduling for the 25 on midday Saturdays doesn’t leave enough running time between timing points, especially between the busiest section between Granville and Nanaimo Station. I say a change is needed.

Photo credit: dennistt @ flickr.