TransLink is moving forward with a wide spectrum of measures that will make existing and planned new B-Line routes run more quickly and efficiently and improve the passenger experience.
New features that will make the B-Line routes a true ‘rapid bus’ service include new special bus shelters with real-time information screens displaying the current time and time of arrival of the next buses, accessibility elements such as yellow tactile pads, extensive traffic signal priority measures, bus-only lanes, and queue jumpers.
There will even be improvements to the articulated three-door bus vehicles that all B-Line routes will use, such as onboard Wi-Fi, dynamic onboard wayfinding, line diagrams on buses, and a new exterior bus livery that clearly identifies the B-Line as a superior bus service.
“We are working to bring a unique look and feel to the service so that it stands out and can really become a part of people’s mental map of the transit network like people have for the rail lines,” Sarah Ross, the director of system planning at TransLink, told the Mayors’ Council during a public meeting today.
All of this is in addition to the B-Line’s existing features of having limited stops and high frequencies.
However, the implementation of the features will be performed in varying phases over multiple years, with the essential features launched in 2019 when four new B-Line routes go into service.
For instance, every B-Line stop will be provided with at least a basic bus shelter in 2019; on the current B-Line routes, only 86% of the stops have shelters.
“Our work will not stop on opening day,” continued Ross. “We will continue to work and upgrade the B-Line corridors, enhancing the stops, customer information, and more importantly the extent of transit priority measures on the streets so that these buses get priority treatment and don’t get stuck in traffic.”
Many of these described features will be similar to the now-defunct 98 B-Line service that ran on its own separated bus lanes on No. 3 Road in Richmond.
TransLink says the plans for the new and improved B-Lines with all the added features and amenities have been generally well received by the municipalities.
But all municipal governments with a B-Line service will need to cooperate with TransLink, as features like traffic signal priority and queue jumpers require the municipality’s willingness to remove road space uses such as bike lanes and revenue-generating metered street parking.
“It’s absolutely critical that the measures that are necessary to be able to ensure the B-Line can move quickly through a municipality are put in place from the very beginning,” said Burnaby mayor and TransLink Mayors’ Council chair Derek Corrigan.
“So much is in the hands of municipalities… They have to supply the ability to make this effective. Cities can make transit cheaper if they work hard with TransLink to produce a good result and do everything they can to make transit a priority.”
Corrigan asserted that municipalities should not receive their new B-Line service if they are unwilling to take the necessary steps to optimize the B-Line routes, and that TransLink should take a “principle stand” to ensure the B-Line standards across all municipal jurisdictions are consistent.
As well, Corrigan also hinted his disappointment of the City of Vancouver’s failure to optimize Broadway for the 99 B-Line, the region’s busiest bus route.
Ross said transit staff have been “deeply engaged” with municipal staff for the past year, and public consultations for the new and improved B-Line services begin next month.
Metro Vancouver currently has three B-Line routes – the 99 UBC/Commercial-Broadway; 96 Guildford/Newton, and 95 SFU/Burrard Station.
Another four lines will be added next year on 41st Avenue in Vancouver between UBC and Joyce-Collingwood Station, the North Shore on Marine Drive from Dundarave to Phibbs Exchange with a connection to the Lonsdale SeaBus terminal, Fraser Highway from Surrey Central Station to Langley Centre, and Lougheed Highway from Coquitlam Central Station to Maple Ridge.
And beyond the current plan, the region could see six more B-Line routes, including routes that cross the Lions Gate Bridge, cross Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, connect Metrotown with Richmond City Centre, run along Willingdon Avenue to connect Metrotown with Brentwood, and reach White Rock.