TransLink 2017 - Part 3: Kevin Desmond wants to speed up Metro Vancouver's buses

Dec 30 2017, 12:35 pm

‘TransLink 2017’ is a six-part Daily Hive end-of-year series on the state and future of Metro Vancouver’s public transit system, based on our recent extensive interview with TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

Part 3 discusses Desmond’s vision of how B-Line bus routes can be sped up on the road and improved with upgraded passenger amenities.

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Kevin Desmond wants Metro Vancouver’s public transit authority to push the envelope harder when it comes to the speed and reliability of the bus system, particularly arterial bus routes like the B-Lines.

In an interview with Daily Hive, the CEO of TransLink says while the B-Line model is highly successful as a high capacity and very frequent service, in effect it is just a high-capacity, frequent bus with not much else.

Desmond wants to further refine the layered bus network by adding bus rapid transit features on arterial bus routes, such as traffic signal priority to provide advance green light time, which will increase the travel speed of the buses and reduce overall travel times.

“Here is a region that embraces transit and wants more and more people to take transit, but really we are not anywhere close where the industry is in large metropolitan areas when it comes to traffic prioritization measures,” he said.

“If you save a couple of minutes on the trips, psychologically people notice that. Time is money on transit as well as if you can actually create an additional cycle for improved speed and reliability, you save a bus. So you’re doing two things, as you’re making the service more cost effective and you’re attracting more riders.”

During his tenure with Seattle’s King County Metro, he pioneered the RapidRide bus service, which is similar to the B-Line as a limited stop, frequent service. But RapidRide also has bus stops that look more like light rail stations, with digital displays providing real-time information on bus arrival times, automated voice announcements announcing the arrival of buses, off-board smart card readers, and larger bus shelters.

“You [need to] bring other creature comforts,” said Desmond. “I learned this from my time in New York, and I’ve carried this forward. Rail transit stations, whether it is light rail, streetcar, or even heavy rail, have all these amenities.”

“With RapidRide, we stepped that up and created a different station environment… you create a different brand, which replicates what light rail and streetcar have.”

Currently, real-time digital displays at bus stops can only be found on Main Street in Vancouver. This was also a feature for the now-defunct 98 B-Line, which was replaced by the Canada Line.

“People say people won’t take buses, only trains. But if you step up your game a little more, what you find on rapid will make a huge success,” he continued.

Desmond plans on working with municipal governments to introduce these measures during Phase 2 of the transit expansion.

At the moment, TransLink operates three B-Line services – 95 Burrard Station/SFU, 96 Newton/Guildford, and 99 UBC/Broadway – and plans on introducing four more routes by 2019. This includes a 41st Avenue B-Line from UBC to Joyce-Collingwood Station, North Shore B-Line from Dundarave to Phibbs Exchange, Fraser Highway B-Line from Surrey Central Station to Langley, and Lougheed Highway B-Line from Coquitlam Central Station to Maple Ridge.

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