Eric Chris’s Broadside At TransLink

Transit advovate, Eric Chris, again tackles TransLink on various trolleybus related issues in the City of Vancouver.

Electric buses are quiet, pollution freeAi??and able to tackle steeper grades than diesel buses, are used on many Vancouver transit routes.

Haydn Acheson, President and General Manager, Coast Mountain Bus Company:


Coast Mountain Bus Company (CMBC) under TransLink will no longer operate diesel buses on the designated trolley bus routes in Point Grey.Ai?? I trust that the City of Vancouver Mayor (Gregor Robertson), Point Grey MLA (Christy Clark), Quadra Federal MP (Joyce Murray) and City of Vancouver Chief Engineer (Peter Judd) all agree with the use of trolley buses on the designated trolley bus routes in Point Grey and with the prompt removal of all diesel buses operated by CMBC on the trolley bus routes in Point Grey.


Three roads in the east and west directions are used by CMBC for transit to and from UBC in Point Grey; they are West 4th Avenue, West 10th Avenue and West 16th Avenue.Ai?? Both West 4th Avenue and West 10th Avenue have trolley bus lines installed and are intended to be diesel bus free.Ai?? If any diesel bus service is required to supplement the trolley bus routes in Point Grey, the diesel buses (including the 99 B-Line and N17) to UBC will operate along West 16th Avenue which does not have trolley lines installed.Ai?? Unless, there is a catastrophic event such as the loss of electrical power for the trolley buses – no diesel buses will operate on 4th Avenue or West 10th Avenue.


It is unethical for CMBC to sacrifice not only trolley bus service in Point Grey but also conventional transit service in Surrey, Langley and Delta to spend wildly and foolishly on unconventional SkyTrain such as the proposed Evergreen Line.Ai?? As the attached article on the Edmonton engineers behind LRT shows, engineers in Edmonton choose LRT over BRT (bus rapid transit such as 99 B-Line diesel buses) and SkyTrain (elevated and automated trains, without drivers) to lessen the financial, social and environmental impacts of transit.Ai?? Moreover, as a percentage of the population, Edmonton with LRT which is more user friendly than SkyTrain has more transit users than Metro Vancouver focused on SkyTrain.


Engineers working for the City of Edmonton plan, model and design transit.Ai?? In Edmonton where the climate is harsh resulting in substantial costs for the winterization of transit, it still costs about 33% less for the engineers, running transit in Edmonton, to put someone onto transit than it costs the accountants, economists and others running TransLink (in mild Metro Vancouver) to put someone onto transit (refer to Figure 4-9 on page 27 of the TransLink efficiency review by Shirocca Consulting completed for the TransLink Commissioner, Martin Crilly, in March 2012):


In 2011, TransLink spent approximately $900 million to operate transit, and if engineers were operating LRT, instead, in Metro Vancouver, $300 million would have been saved in 2011.Ai?? Financially, SkyTrain by TransLink is an abysmal failure.


Costing next to nothing, a handful of engineers could easily turn transit around quickly in Metro Vancouver and could accomplish far more than the hundreds of costly administrators at TransLink ever could.Ai??Ai?? Most, if not all, of the existing overhead and administration incurred by TransLink could be done by existing staff of the GVRD under Metro Vancouver to potentially save $300 million annually.Ai?? This would end the financial crisis created by TransLink spending too much to maintain a large group of redundant administrators directed by provincial government to expand SkyTrain.Ai?? Moreover, it would reduce transit expenses sufficiently to make additional taxes (gas or property) unnecessary to fund transit for the foreseeable future:


Transit would operate smoothly and efficiently if engineers were given the responsibility to plan, model and design transit in Metro Vancouver with the mayors and councillors in Metro Vancouver setting the transit priorities and spending limits of the engineers.Ai?? Councillor Jaimie McEvoy of New Westminster recently alluded to this:


The efficiency review of TransLink, by Shirocca Consulting, for the TransLink Commissioner makes it clear that at grade transit (LRT, trolley bus or streetcar transit) with frequent stops attracts much more ridership for less money than bus rapid transit with infrequent stops and SkyTrain lines with infrequent stops.Ai?? After the efficiency review by Shirocca Consulting, Martin Crilly was not forthcoming about TransLinkai??i??s performance which is the worst of all the transit organizations compared – by a significant margin.


Martin Crilly danced around the real reason for TransLinkai??i??s pitiful performance – TransLink is operating too many extra diesel buses to shuttle passengers between the distantly spaced stops for SkyTrain and BRT, such as the 99 B-Line.Ai?? SkyTrain and BRT are relatively inaccessible due to their stops being kilometres apart and CMBC must operate extra buses in high frequencies to get passengers to 99 B-Line diesel buses and SkyTrain cars.Ai?? This has resulted in the dreadful utilization rates for CMBC buses and is indicated by plummeting passengers per hour on buses and the rising cost per passenger for buses as shown in Figure 5-4 on page 48 of the efficiency review by Shirocca Consulting:


It is specious of TransLink to claim that express 99 B-Line service or SkyTrain service with distantly spaced stops is faster than LRT, streetcar or regular trolley bus service with closely spaced stops.Ai?? SkyTrain or 99 B-Line service requires transfers from CMBC buses and results in longer overall commuting times for most passengers in relation to LRT, streetcar or trolley bus service (doing away with transfers along the route).



Silly UBC Transit

On April 23rd, 2012 TransLink suspended the #9 trolley bus service along West 10th Avenue to UBC and increased the 99 B-Line diesel bus service along West 10th Avenue to UBC (please refer to the timetables attached).Ai?? Typically, articulated diesel buses pass residences every one to three minutes (either east or west direction) along West 10th Avenue.Ai?? Wailing, shrieking, polluting and unwelcome articulated diesel buses operate 22 hours daily (in service or out of service) from 6 am to 4 am along West 10th Avenue.


Presently, there are 13 transit routes to UBC (#4, #14, N17, #25, #33, #41, #43, #44, #49, #84, 99-Line, #258, #480).Ai?? Along West 10th Avenue, there are empty 99 B-Line buses passing empty #14 trolley buses which donai??i??t even belong on West 10th Avenue in Point Grey and are operating on the #9 trolley bus route.Ai??Ai?? Including the 99 B-Line buses, three-quarters of the seats on all the CMBC buses going to UBC are empty and there is far too much transit capacity even though the 99 B-Line is occasionally over crowded.


Over crowding occurs on the 99 B-Line route because CMBC is operating the 99 B-Line buses at exceedingly high frequencies every two to five minutes, generally, while CMBC operates other buses at low frequencies – every 10 minutes to 15 minutes, for the #14 trolley bus route, for instance (see attached bus timetable).Ai?? This forces transit users onto the 99 B-Line and off the other buses going to UBC to make transit use much greater on the 99 B-Line than on the other bus routes.


If TransLink operated all buses to UBC at the same frequency (10 minutes during daytime and 20 minutes after 7 pm) empty 99 B-Line and other buses would not be prevalent.Ai?? Existing buses would be more than adequate for the demand to UBC and over crowding on the 99 B-Line buses to UBC would not be occurring.


TransLink has cancelled desperately required transit service for Surrey, Langley and Delta to maintain 10 unnecessary diesel bus routes to UBC.Ai?? Approximately 100 diesel buses including all the articulated 99 B-Line diesel buses could be freed up for use in Surrey, Langley and Delta if CMBC operated the trolley buses which TransLink is not using or under utilizing on the trolley bus routes in Point Grey.


Politically, the 99 B-Line service is intentionally being made to operate with too many riders for TransLink to make a spectacle of the over crowding on the 99 B-Line buses in order for TransLink to obtain funding to expand SkyTrain to UBC and elsewhere.Ai?? Over crowding on the 99 B-Line route could be fixed easily by simply tweaking the bus routes to UBC to make better use of the available buses.Ai?? Over crowding on the 99 B-Line route would have been resolved long ago if CMBC and TransLink wanted it resolved.



TransLink Gravy Train

Transit by TransLink is set up to benefit the administrators providing transit rather than the transit users riding transit.Ai?? Almost one-third of the revenue ($1,382 million in 2011) collected by TransLink from taxpayers and transit users goes to pay for TransLink administration and TransLink bureaucracy (refer to pages 81 and 82 of the efficiency review by Shirocca Consulting and Appendix 2A on page 60 of the 2012 Supplemental Plan and Outlook by TransLink):


Transit in Metro Vancouver would definitely be much better and less costly if municipal engineers modeled, designed and planned transit to eliminate TransLink, which is a superfluous organization serving no real purpose in the day to day operation of transit.Ai?? Positively, if TransLink were eliminated, municipalities in Metro Vancouver could easily operate transit directly.Ai?? Of course, the elimination of TransLink does not appeal to TransLink.Ai?? Rather, TransLink is raising transit fares by 10% and canceling transit service to Surrey, Langley and Delta.


Youai??i??d expect the CEO of TransLink or the President and GM of CMBC to be highly qualified, maybe holding an electrical or a mechanical engineering degree requiring tons of calculus, statistics and science as well as a second degree in the humanities for good communication.Ai?? This would allow the CEO at TransLink to evaluate transit specifications intelligently and to pick the best transit for the money while it would allow the President and GM of CMBC to evaluate bus specifications intelligently and to pick the best bus for the money and the application.


Unfortunately, the CEO of TransLink, Ian Jarvis is an inept accountant.Ai?? He is making four times his market value and is bent on mucking up transit further in Metro Vancouver with another SkyTrain line to Coquitlam (Evergreen Line).Ai?? Moreover, you as the President and GM of CMBC are ai???not an engineerai??? and lack the qualifications to operate CMBC efficiently and prudently.



Transit in Point Grey

There are only three roads for transit to UBC in Point Grey.Ai?? Rather than operate 13 transit routes on the three roads to UBC with few riders on most of the buses, for most of the day, CMBC can consolidate the 13 routes into three bus routes along the three roads to UBC (West 4th Avenue, West 10th Avenue and West 16th Avenue) in order to free up buses for use where the buses are required in Surrey, Langley or Delta, for instance.


TransLink is currently by-passing downtown Vancouver to operate the 99 B-Line service.Ai?? TransLink will stop this at once.Ai?? TransLink will operate three trolley bus routes from downtown Vancouver to UBC to provide transit where the transit is required and to make better use of exiting buses going to UBC in order to free up diesel buses for Surrey, Langley and Delta.


Surely, no transit company in Canada other than TransLink operates an express ai???articulatedai??? diesel bus service (99 B-Line) every few minutes late at night until 2:23 am followed by an early morning ai???articulatedai??? diesel bus service until 3:36 am to university in the summer on an existing trolley bus route when the university is in recess and there is no demand for it (see attached 99 B-Line and N17 timetables).Ai?? Is everyone at TransLink daft?


Noise and vibration levels from diesel buses are amplified, at residences, by structures along West 10th Avenue and are too intense.Ai?? Particulate matter emissions from the 99 B-Line and N17 soot blowing diesel buses are trapped by elevated structures along West 10th Avenue are too high.Ai?? If CMBC canai??i??t operate trolley buses 100% of the time on existing trolley bus routes in Point Grey, CMBC can stay out of Point Grey -Ai?? the City of Vancouver engineers can operate transit much better for a lot less money.


Residents in Point Grey are being harassed by diesel bus noise and the health of residents in Point Grey is being impaired by diesel bus emissions.Ai?? This will not continue any longer.Ai?? Remove all the diesel buses operating on the West 4th Avenue and West 10th Avenue trolley bus routes, immediately.




7 Responses to “Eric Chris’s Broadside At TransLink”
  1. Thomas Cheney says:

    I like trolleybuses but the removal of B-line service would hurt ridership. The simple fact of the matter is that 99-B line carries 50,000 people per day, and appears to be the busiest bus route in Canada and the United States. It is significantly faster than the trolleybus due to the latter’s frequent stops. On Hastings Street, trolley wires exist to provide express service. Battery Electric buses with ranges up 250 kilometers per charge or 10 round-trip B-line trips are available. I understand you concerns, but I don’t think eliminating all or even a lot of express services to UBC would be in the public interest. Electrification using battery buses, yes, but the #99 route is a success and it would be a crying shame to have that cut. As for route simplification, perhaps the 44 and 84 could go, but the 99 should be maintained at 10-minute frequencies to encourage simple transfers and keep cars and pollution off point grey roads.

    Zweisystem replies: It would be silly to retain any buses on Broadway, if light rail or a subway were to be built. Modern LRT can easily handle present ridership and future ridership on a the route to UBC. The problem in Vancouver is the anti LRT rhetoric spewed by the city and TransLink for the past decade has made the world’s leading transit mode into seem like a museum piece.

    Modern LRT operating along Broadway to UBC, with stops every 500 metres to 600 metres, would have a service comparable to the present B-Line service at a far cheaper operating cost.

  2. eric chris says:

    Thomas, thanks for taking the time to comment. If ICBC counted drivers like TransLink counts transit users, there would be three to 4.5 million drivers for the 1.5 million registered vehicles in Metro Vancouver. On the 99 B-Line route on a good day, there are 20,000 people being recycled two to three times (60,000 trips daily by the 20,000 transit users). On holidays and weekends (30% of the time), maybe 10,000 people ride the 99 B-line. At the same time, the other 12 routes going to UBC have few riders, except for the #44 and #84 for a few hours at peak times, only.

    Edmonton, Seattle… Brisbane with conventional transit operating buses at “ghastly ~20 minute service intervals” with close-convenient stops every 200 metres to 300 meters have “much higher ridership” than “unconventional” transit by TransLink in Metro Vancouver. For the “vast majority of transit users”, having a nearby bus stop is much more attractive than an express bus operating every two to five minutes with the express bus stopping one to two kilometres away – requiring an infrequent milk run bus taking you to the express stop or SkyTrain stop – as is the case with both the B-Line or SkyTrain service.

    TransLink dropped the ball with not only B-Line transit but also SkyTrain transit. Both B-Line and SkyTrain are modeled (it is a stretch to say that anything by TransLink is modeled) the same way – distantly spaced stops with a host of under-utilized buses taking passengers to the SkyTrain or B-Line stops. This is terribly inefficient. The many traffic lights along Broadway result in the “express” 99 B-Line buses having to make almost as many stops as the regular trolley buses.

    If 99 trolley buses operated every two minutes like the 99 B-Lines, for the majority of riders traveling 14 kilometres or less along the 99 route, there would be a massive time saving as the transfer from the milk run buses to the B-Line would be eliminated. This would slash transit costs, too, by eliminating the need for the milk run buses used to transfer passengers to the B-Line/SkyTrain!

    Canadian Pacific operated many empty flights before it went out of business. Ironically, the GM of CMBC operating buses for TransLink is headed by a former Canadian Pacific pilot who you just know is right up there when it comes to operating transit. What you have along the 99 B-Line route is 90% to 100% of the 99 B-Lines operating empty (deadheading in transit jargon) from UBC to Commercial Drive in the morning when there is the greatest demand for transit. This is the ugly reality of “unconventional transit by TransLink (SkyTrain and B-Line)” promoted by developers who want to tear down homes to build condos supported by politicians who have gold coins in their pockets from the developers.

    As far as pollution, the average diesel bus carries seven times the number of people of the average vehicle – however, the average vehicle has a fuel mileage of over 10 times the average diesel bus – pollution would plummet if the 99 B-Line diesel buses were replaced with trolley buses (powered by non-CO2 producing hydro-electricity in BC) even if everyone abandoned transit and drove, instead. As more riders would be expected without the “express” 99 Bees there would be a huge reduction of up to five million kilograms of CO2 if the 99 B-Lines were replaced with 99 trolley buses. At the same time, toxic diesel exhaust emissions from the 99 B-Lines (which do not go through AirCare) would be eliminated and so would the harrowing noise levels from the 99 B-Line buses. Hope this clarifies things for you.


  3. zweisystem says:

    Just a note, when Zwei lived in the UK in the mid 70′s, it was recognized that diesel particulate was a deadly carcinogen. To operate diesel buses on routes with trolleybus operation is just plain madness.

  4. Thomas Cheney says:

    Thanks for the clarification. However looking at the Commercial Drive to UBC times it seems tat there is 14 minute difference running between commercial drive and UBC. Also when the 98 B-line was introduced there was a large increase in ridership richmond–>downtown as far as I am aware of (I have not seen anything to counter that). I can see your transfer argument working Granville west, but commuters from Burnaby would suffer. As housing is extremely expensive in the west end this could prevent students from accessing university education while living at home. I can see cutting back on B-line services, or replacement with light rail. I support the phase out of diesel. BC Transit ran Express Trolleybuses down Hastings, Perhaps that could be a short term solutions with stops main,cambie,broadway, UBC. Also how much would a median light-rail system cost? I agree that alternative approaches to transit delivery (less skytrain) is worth looking into than greater detail than Translink did on the Evergreen Line. I think light rail or rapid trolley bus is a good approach for the Broadway Corridor.

    99 9/17
    Commercial Dr 7:27 7:31
    Alma 7:47 8:08
    UBC 8:00 8:18 +10 from Alma to UBC using 17 schedule,

    33 min 47 min

    Zweisystem replies: To answer the last question first, we could build a BCIT to UBC/Stanley park LRT/streetcar for as little as $20 million/km. to $25 million/km.. The foundation for LRT is there and the masts and overhead are in place. Commercial speed would be 25/kph to 35 kph depending on the degree of using reserved R-o-W’s and priority signaling. Overall commute time using LRT (based on other LRT/subway comparisons) would be 1% to 5% longer, but at a cost much less than a subway (minimum $250 million/km cut and cover). the Capacity of both LRT and a subway would be sufficient to carry the ridership loads for the next 100 years.

  5. eric chris says:

    Thomas, good observation on the travel times. The reason for the much longer travel time of the #9 trolley bus over the 99 bee is due to the very long recovery time of the #9 trolley bus.

    If you ever get the chance, stop by at Alma Street on West 8th Avenue, you’ll see the #9 trolley bus drivers standing around for 15 minutes at least, smoking a cigarette or surfing the net on their cells.

    If TransLink operated the #9 and 99 bee at the same recovery time, the express 99 bee would save no more than a couple minutes and as little as a few seconds over the #9 trolley.

  6. Emre says:

    One of the main things that imserspes me about the TTC is the design of a lot of the subway stations. I am from Montreal, originally, but lived most of my life in Vancouver (where I became a fan of public transit) and when I got here to Toronto almost five years ago, it amazed me that at a lot of stations, mostly outside of the downtown area, the buses enter right into the subway station. This didn’t happen much in Vancouver, and I am glad that the TTC is designing more of its new stations with this design feature. When this commuter has a sheltered place to wait for his bus or streetcar it makes it much more comfortable to make a transfer. I am glad to see the TTC invest more in this with the Station Modernization Prorgram as it will make even more of our stations have this design feature. It makes our stations a little more expensive to construct but I am sure it helps increase ridership. Also it is a lot colder here then my long-time home of Vancouver.I am grateful you are not ignoring buses, the bulk of the TTC’s ridership is on its large bus fleet, which helps feed the Subway/RT network.


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