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Public Transit: What is the Question?

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Jarrett Walker at SFU 17 January 2012

Jarrett has a blog (HumanTransit.org) and makes a living as a consultant in North America and Australia. He is currently resident in Portland OR and has just published a book – also called Human Transit, and the evening was the first stop on his book tour. It is in paperback, costs $35 and is based on his blog. I did not buy a copy.

Because Jarrett has a blog, I am a bit reluctant to use this blog to simply write out what he had to say. At the same time there is very little that he said that I would take issue with, although I think it is worthwhile to note that he is in the business of promoting transit use in a society where many of the leaders are both unfamiliar with daily use of transit and somewhat inimical to “social engineering”. For instance, he is careful not to promote the health benefits of transit, as that might be seen as saying “using transit will make you walk more and that will be Good for You”. He also said that as he has a deep, powerful voice “when I say things people think I am giving them orders”. Throughout his talk and the question and answer period, he stressed that he is not about prescribing solutions but rather suggesting the questions that need to be asked. He also stated that he was “thinking out loud” and wanted to promote discussion.

He opened by stating “you will hear a lot of answers” offered by transit experts, but very few of them agree on exactly what the question is that they are trying to tackle. For example, much transit discussion circles around choice of technology (rail or bus, subway or streetcar). Partly this is because choosing a transit system is often thought to be like deciding what kind of car to buy. But that is a false analogy. People actually care little about the transit vehicle they are going to use compared with questions like “Will it take me where I am going?” and “How long will it take me to get there?”

If you ask people “What is the essential task of the police?” the answer is obvious – law enforcement. But if you ask “what is the essential task of transit?” the answers are many and overlapping. They might well also include notions like “fun” (see Darren Nordal “Making Transit Fun”)

Jarrett’s answer is the provision of “Abundant personal mobility without a personal vehicle over distances that are too far to walk“. He also made the  point that abundant transit is efficient transit. While transit delivers pedestrians over distances that are too far to walk, there are also other concerns which include “coverage services” – transit for places that will never have enough ridership to justify service, but have people who need the service. He also said that “transit leads development” – which I think should have been expressed as a normative rather than a descriptive statement. We too often insist that transit cannot be provided until there are enough people to justify a service (SkyTrain to Coquitlam, or the Scarboro LRT to Malvern) or that having provided a high capacity service we do not wish to see increases of density along the line (Expo Line through East Vancouver, or the Bloor/Danforth subway in Toronto).

He also introduced the idea of “symbolic transit” – like monorails and cable cars. He did talk about the San Francisco cable car – which is now simply a tourist attraction, not a regular transit service – but did not mention the F line streetcar, which is as (or more) important as a people mover given the lack of capacity on the cable cars, and the number of tourists moving between downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf.

He was very impressed with the accessibility maps now available on walkscore.com. These maps are not just about transit but rather the overall journey time from any point in a city. It is a tool that produces a “map of freedom” – “How much of the city is available to me?” Freedom is important – and walking is an essential part of transit. He produced images of isochrone maps – “blobs” that showed how much of the city could be reached within 15, 30 and 45 minutes from any one point. I do not see how that type of map can be produced from that web page – maybe someone else can illuminate this for me.

One of the issues for transit is how to measure how much transit service you have. There are five variables:

frequency, span (hours/days of service), speed, reliability and capacity (a critical issue for many Vancouver transit users).

Much of the discussion about transit is about the last three issues – when frequency may be the most significant for any regular transit user. It is a concept that is very hard to grasp for any non-transt user and is hard to illustrate – but waiting time and uncertainty are two of the biggest deterrents to transit use.

Commuter rail is perhaps the best illustration of what happens when it is held that speed is the most important concern for transit. Most commuter rail service is so expensive to provide that it runs infrequently, only at peak times and in peak direction, and ends up being very little use except to those who can make a regular appointment to use it. There is almost no opportunity for spontaneity – and very little concern about people’s overwhelming need to “get on with their lives”.

He did become prescriptive when he started to talk about the virtues of the grid network for transit systems. He said “don’t pick favourites” i.e. that transit planners tend to “tell stories” about where and when people travel, and design routes around those major flows. The grid provides connectivity “everywhere to everywhere”. He also stated that the optimum was 800m spacing and noted that services in Vancouver along 4th Avenue “compete with” Broadway.

He told the story of the cancellation of bus route #305 in Los Angeles as “symbolic transit”. This was the bus route that connected Watts to Hollywood – the line that domestic servants from the poorest neighbourhood “needed” to get to their jobs cleaning the homes and looking after the children of the rich and famous. In fact the route was slow, infrequent and indirect and the regular “grid” services provided better penetration of neighbourhoods at each end (both Hollywood and Watts are large areas) and with one transfer most journeys were quicker and more convenient. The system was more efficient without the #305 and service overall was better. That did not stop the media from making a song and dance over the perceived attack on the poor.

He also was sharply critical of bus routes that run on one way couplets (or those have large one directional loops at the end of the route) “We need to get back too!” A one way couplet actually has a smaller service area in terms of the 400m walk distance from both directions of travel.

“Be on the way.” Transit works best on a straight line route with destinations like beads on the string. Every diversion to serve an off route destination slows travel end to end. He cited both SFU and UBC campuses as classic errors in land use planning – major destinations at the top of a mountain or the end of a peninsula cause major service issues for transit. He also cited a new development at Laguna West near Sacramento, CA.

This new suburban centre is shown on the map above as a red dot. The map does not show the railway line that runs between I5 and Highway 99 and passes the centre to the east. The designer who put the new town centre on neither route ensured that it was a cul de sac – and thus would never develop as a transit way station would – with service in more than one direction.

He also said that transit must complement walking, not compete with it. In other words, bus routes should not be too closely spaced, nor should stops, as neither produces an attractive and efficient service.

Having initially dismissed the discussion of technology, he ended with an illustration of a new type of bus (that looked very like a light rail vehicle)  that provides level boarding with the sidewalk and with an exclusive bus lane at the curb (parking has to removed to somewhere else) makes transit part of the street. He said that it did not matter whether this was a rail or rubber tire vehicle, but also talked about how bus designers are working to improve their vehicles while LRT has remained largely unaltered since the introduction of MAX to Portland. He had also earlier shown a “massive” european tram (streetcar) with multiple sections that had a very much larger capacity than any bus I know of. I think in terms of technology while some South American cities use double articulated busses for their BRT systems, that is the current practical limit for steering and control, whereas multiple section trams seem to be able to be extended indefinitely.

UPDATE One day after I wrote the above China announced its own double arctic bus  82 feet long, 40 seats, 300 passenger capacity

I did not make notes during the Q&A session as it moved faster than I could scribble on my Palm Tungsten. I do better when I remember to bring an old fashioned dead tree notebook. There was quite a heated exchange with Richard Campbell over the speed of all vehicles through pedestrian environments – and reaction too to his (Jarrett’s) criticism of the proposed closure of Robson Square to transit.

I do recall that one questioner asked if real time information made any difference to perceptions of convenience when frequency is reduced. Jarrett answered that it didn’t, but that was based on the very drastic reductions in service frequency now common on US transit systems under financial pressure.

Another asked if ride sharing could help make up for the loss of transit service – and he said that the mathematics of vehicle occupancy and street space make that an unworkable solution in city centres, but might work in low density suburbs.

I would also liked to have understood why the event was an hour earlier than usual. It seemed to me that the room was less full than usual – which also might have had more to do with the weather than the time.

REACTION

I think it is a bit unfair of me to nitpick over some of his statements for what he did not say, since in any 45 minute presentation much will be left out – and he was trying to sell a book. He also speculated on what a follow up book might look like – if anyone has a grant available to fund it. (If he had a grant to write the present one, he did not mention it nor is it credited on the UBC Press order form). Obviously geography and topography are important; and, as he mentioned with reference to San Francisco, are the major reasons for the discontinuities and diversions of Vancouver’s street grid. It is also important to state that operating transit requires  there be space for adequate terminal facilities – storage space for vehicles to ensure reliable service and the simple human needs of the operators (washrooms, refreshments). A major constraint on planning bus transit in downtown Vancouver (and formerly the airport) is the premium on curb space.

There is also a need to take into account the diversity of population. US transit providers are currently engaged in studying how to accommodate people who are now much larger (on average) than when current standards for seats were determined. An aging population, and one which is reluctant to exercise, also influences decisions about route and stop spacing. It is also the case that “too far to walk” is an indeterminate distance. It varies by individual, time of day and journey purpose. I am quite happy to walk further when the environment is pleasant and I am not in a hurry, and unencumbered by luggage or shopping. People will walk further to a transit stop that has better service (more frequent, longer span, more reliable, faster). They will actually go out of their way and travel in the wrong direction just to be assured a seat. When people cannot drive their needs must be considered by transit planners, or those people lose all mobility.

I agree with him that securing an exclusive right of way is critical to successful longer distance transit service – or indeed reliable transit service over any distance in congested areas. However, the allocation of street space between the two building faces is a much more complex issue. And the quality of the pedestrian realm is as, if not more, important than transit – to city planners if no-one else. I have often heard it argued that parked cars can offer a safety barrier to cyclists and pedestrians from faster moving motorized traffic. Merchants, of course, believe that parking in front of their store is indispensable: I believe they are wrong about that – but that does not make persuading them to give it up any easier.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

24 Responses

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  1. “. . . you will hear a lot of answers” offered by transit experts, but very few of them agree on exactly what the question is . . .

    Here is the question: Is your journey really necessary? UK, WWll, every railway and bus station had that plastered on the walls.

    I have not read Jarrett Walker’s book nor have I attended his lectures. But I do wonder why we need an expert who lives in Oregon and practices in Australia and North America to tell us what bus to catch!

    I lived in Vancouver some years ago, but I have family there. Lately we did the Canada Line catchment. Whatever the passenger load, and I hear it is appropriate, the traffic in the Oakrdige/Cambie/Douglas Park area is as grueling as ever; far worse than before we wasted C$2bn on that shiny trinket (to say nothing of the disruption).

    We have a massive bureaucracy and infrastructure devoted to getting us from over here to over there. No one asks why can’t we just stay over there? I must say, I question the value of the huge civic administration given every day, ground level, work/live conditions! (No, Stephen, I am not a right wing sledge hammer: just a small town architect looking for a better way!)

    Vancouver is ideally suited to urban villages but that never seems to arise in the local TX conversation. We just accept that development follows the money and that money is not our money!

    At the risk of “oh no not again”, check out the latest Vancouver Re-boot in process . . .
    http://www.theyorkshirelad.ca/1yorkshirelad/vancouver.re-boot/Vancouver.re-boot.html
    . . . Vancouver pop is not diverse, nor big, enough for fancy gadgetry and BC cannot afford it.

    Evergreen NOT!

    Roger Kemble

    January 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  2. […] his precis of the Jarrett Walker lecture:  Public Transit: What is the Question? Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  3. Actually Roger that question did come up in discussion – thank you for reminding me. The “do not make trips” option is one that is firmly rejected. Attempts to create a place – say Kitsilano – that no-one ever needs to leave, will firstly be doomed to failure, but secondly neglects to recognize why people move to cities in the first place. I understand that you chose to live in a small town and that is your privilege. I chose to leave London, but not because I did not enjoy what it had – has – to offer. I still like visiting places Like London, Paris and New York but every time I return to Vancouver I feel really lucky that this where fate brought me. All cities are, to some extent, a collection of villages – but they are also much more than that. And as many people as possible should be able to access all that the city and its region have to offer at reasonable cost and convenience. Not just those who drive cars.

    I also dispute your claims about “massive bureaucracy” and “huge civic administration”. By most objective, comparative standards we are actually reasonably efficient: and the constant harping on about finding administrative savings at Translink is becoming tiresome because it is so ill informed.

    The amount of traffic in any city is exactly the same. Traffic congestion expands to fill the space available – and that is true everywhere. The fact that people continue to make trips in single occupant vehicles shows that they accept congestion – even though they might complain about it. For however bad the congestion might be it is not enough to deter them for their journey purpose. Those who can’t stand it, move or do something else, and are replaced almost instantly by others happy to join the line-up.

    Stephen Rees

    January 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm

  4. Roger wrote: “No one asks why can’t we just stay over there?”

    Commuting will be necessary for as long as housing in the City of Vancouver remains too expensive for a substantial proportion of the people who work there. And as Jessee Donaldson observes in his piece in “The Dependent”, it will probably ever thus be so: http://thedependent.ca/featured/land-destiny-history-vancouver/

    Sean Nelson

    January 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm

  5. Stephen. Thanks for the article! Just for the record, Human Transit was written entirely on my own unpaid time — over 600 hours of it in the course of ’11. I’m glad I did it, but it really cut into my life and I won’t do it that way again. All the best, Jarrett

    Jarrett Walker

    January 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  6. Stephen, you said you wouldn’t attend and did; I said I would, and didn’t. Glad to have your presentation of the lecture.

    I spent my first eleven years in Montevideo riding buses & cabs, and in the last 2 years or so bike rides and bus rides alone with my older brother. It is remarkable how much that seems to have informed my “transit sense”. My college years in Coquitlam riding the bus to SFU sold me on the idea that suburbs should qualify for bus service, and suburban dwellers should use 2 of their 11 daily trips to get to and from the transit hub. Though I wax nostalgic when I imagine a software application that creates bus service on the fly for low density areas. You just sign on and walk out to get the bus that is already on its way and communicating with you real time about it. I have too many memories of missing the bus by 3 minutes, and having to wait around another 30… One more, in my humble transit fares are too high in our region. Drop them and see use go up.

    Grids, regular stops like beads on a string, BRT, curbside for transit, Curitiba loading already paid, all this—within degrees—seems easy to implement in Vancouver, and I often wonder why not. Why not an express bus on the freeway all the time? But, those are just gut instincts.

    From an urban design point of view, what we can ask from transit? That we recognize that transit plays a key role in sustainable or ‘good’ urbanism, and design it that way.

    My recent work, now nearing completion, on the Vancouver Historic Quartiers have helped me look and think about at the Hastings and Main Street corridors in great detail. Here is a list of what VHQ is asking from transit:

    1. Take commuting trips off the road. One of the things that makes the DTES un-livable is that there are 90,000 ADT on Hastings-Cordova-Powell-Prior (a distance of one-quarter mile or 400 meters separates these streets). Not just that, but that since Cordova-Powell are a one-way coupling, the impact of high volume traffic on fronting residences is the equivalent to twice as much as on a two-way street with equal volume. Upgrade the B-Line system on Hastings, use Jarret’s 800 m catchment, and see the local streets return to social functioning.

    2. An explanation is owed, because Voony and others have pointed out that transit implementation does not necessarily remove car trips. I have something much more bloody-minded in view. I meant to give over lanes on Hastings and on Main to transit. Removing cars for me is a function of either dedicating lanes to transit, or taking the lanes and giving them over to some other use (including bikes, tree medians, local access lanes, etc). So, this is a different argument from #1. Here, and on the next point, there is simply less road space given the car.

    3. Revitalize arterials through transit implementation. Responders on this blog will have to educate me on this point. However, I see the possibility of separating LRT/BRT from car lanes with tree medians 1.5 to 2 m wide. The trees are a carbon-sink boon for the location. Then, on blocks where transit stops are required, the median space would be combined on the centre of the street and the stops would be on medias 5 m wide (doors on the left side, I guess, or we cross the tracks). On transit stop blocks, narrower lanes would help calm traffic. I’m interested to hear back whether LRT/BRT can make the adjustment of some 2.5 m over the course of an intersection, either approaching or departing a stop (i.e. slower speeds).

    4. Build Livable Streets. Turn arterials not serving transit into local streets with fewer than 20,000 ADT. Here the provision of extra capacity on paralleling arterials makes it feasible to redesign the street section and take away thru lanes. Show the percentage decrease in pollution not just on the street, but in the home too.

    5. Build public realm (squares, urban rooms, parks) within earshot of transit stops. Use the same name for the urban room, the transit stop, and the district served. This supports all the things Stephen said about getting on with life, and Jarrett’s ideas about a grid-dispersion concept, rather than linking discreet destinations with service.

    6. Trigger redevelopment on, and within easy walking distance, of transit-served urban spines.

    That’s a list of some things I would assign to transit, which I feel in my gut transit would deliver without much trouble. It would require that the planning, the engineering an the social functioning all be considered at the same time. In other words it would require “urbanism”.

    lewis n. villegas

    January 18, 2012 at 10:02 pm

  7. Lewis has a grand vision, but the current political climate will never support it.

    We’ve tried reducing transit fares (U-Pass) and watched demand exceed our ability to supply service. The money has to come from somewhere.

    The neo-conservative mindset in control of most of the western world doesn’t see public transit as a worthwhile recipient of any more money than it currently gets. In fact most places are raising fares and cutting service. They believe everything other than senior levels of government must turn a profit or at least break even. Their balance sheets and statements of profit and loss cannot properly account for gains in one ministry or department helping to offset losses in another. They cannot understand how an improved environment leads to lower health care costs. Non-monetary social benefits don’t count for anything in their world. Only in Bhutan does the government care whether people are happy or not.

    David

    January 18, 2012 at 10:32 pm

  8. I’d like to add that reducing transit fares hasn’t taken cars off the road, just changed who’s behind the wheel and where they park.

    1. Never could afford to drive. Always took transit, still do.
    2. Transit was always a good use of their time and money. Always took transit, still do.
    3. Transit improvements have made it a good use of time/money. Now take transit.
    4. Transit crowding has made it less attractive. If they can afford it they’ve found other transportation for at least part of their journey thus offsetting out some of #3.
    5. Transit never was and still isn’t a good use of time/money. They still drive, but only part way now. Reduced parking availability on campus combined with the U-Pass has resulted in a flood of cars seeking parking on streets close to campus. Once parked they crowd aboard transit for the last few km.
    6. They can afford to park on campus and will always drive regardless of the cost.

    Group #5 is most illustrative. They continue to clog the routes to/from campus and they simultaneously clog the buses to/from campus. This group can afford to drive so they either have low housing costs (live at home) or they have enough money to choose their housing. The latter group, along with #6, is unreachable. You’ll have to pry the steering wheel from their cold, dead hands. Ideally they are your cash cows to help fund alternatives, but politics prevents it.

    David

    January 18, 2012 at 10:58 pm

  9. “…LRT has remained largely unaltered since the introduction of MAX to Portland…”.

    The newest Max has 2 long sections with a short one in the centre..this is already somewhat old fashioned compared to the Alstom Citadis that have 5 to 7 sections that are all nearly similar in length thus allowing the tram to bent easily around sharp curves. (the front and back sections are longer, with a custom made front unique to each city )

    “..He had also earlier shown a “massive” European tram (streetcar) with multiple sections that had a very much larger capacity than any bus I know of..”

    Siemens has a tram that is made of X modules of 9 metres long. The shortest one is 18 metres long, the longest one is 72 metres long (8 sections of 9 metres each) and has a capacity of 450 to 510 passengers, depending on the width. Truth be told, none of these behemoths has been sold yet as it is more practical to have shorter frequent trams than a huge on that would necessarily come less often.

    Red frog

    January 18, 2012 at 11:05 pm

  10. Transit for London encourage Londoners to walk….http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/walking/default.aspx.

    Red frog

    January 18, 2012 at 11:09 pm

  11. […] Stephen Rees’s summary of the Jarrett Walker lecture:  Public Transit: What is the Question? Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  12. . . . proposed closure of Robson Square to transit.

    Close Robson behind VAG . . . best place to happen downtown in a long time!

    DO IT!

    Roger Kemble

    January 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm

  13. “. . . proposed closure of Robson Square to transit.”

    I do not understand why the closure of Robson Square to vehicles, including transit, has provoked such opposition. The arguments that rerouting bus routes around Robson Square for two years 9from 2009 to the September 2011 led to confusion for riders and reductions in ridership seem unbelievable to me. I do not believe that Vancouverites are so stupid that they cannot figure out route diversions. Perhaps Translink needs to improve its PR.

    Anyway, since the 800 block of Robson is Vancouver’s best option for a downtown city centre public square, this issue warrants much more public discussion.

    Adam Fitch

    January 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

  14. Agreed – that section was closed for years due to the Robson Square re-membraning and the Olympics without major issues that I saw.

    It’s really a transit issue – because no sane driver would ever take Robson Street to cross the downtown when you have parallel streets with synchronized lights. On Robson, you hit every single red light – whether in a car or as a pedestrian.

    I can see that there would be delays for the buses – replacing a couple hundred feet of road with maybe 4 times the length, 2 more traffic lights, 2 left turns and 2 rights turns – but how many people actually ride the Robson bus anyways? Maybe send it down Georgia or Alberni instead.

    It’s a shame that when the road surface was re-laid that it wasn’t redesigned to replace the curbs with removable bollards..

    Guest

    January 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm

  15. The way the Robson bus was routed via Smithe was slow, indirect, and confusing. I would like to see the pedestrianization of a stretch of Robson explored more, and the bus routing is one of the big things preventing it.

    The routing that makes the most sense to me is from Robson up Burrard past Burrard station then along Cordova/Hastings/Pender past the new entrance to Waterfront. This creates a connection to both the Expo and Canada lines. I imagine what prevented this routing during the re-membraning was the turn from Robson to Burrard, and I guess one way to fix this is extending the pedestrianization to Burrard to get rid of oncoming traffic.

    The downtown routings of both the Robson and Davies buses are illegible. I doubt many transit geeks could list off which streets they turn on. I think the way to fix this is by connecting the 5 and 6 into a continuous loop – through-routing them downtown instead of turning them around. There are a couple ways of doing this. One way is to push the Davie bus from Granville to Cambie so it connects to Yaletown on the Canada line and Stadium on the Expo line.

    There are probably some reasons this isn’t being done now. The trolley wire isn’t in place for one. It would be a little indirect for trips to downtown from Davie but the connections would be better.

    mike0123

    January 19, 2012 at 7:47 pm

  16. In many cities around the world a major shopping street like Robson would be car-free (from Hornby to at least Bute.)..it might even have a glass roof over it…

    But most of the merchants, unaware of what more enlightened places have done for 30-50 years, would have a conniption…Even though most of their customers park elsewhere..and walk up and down Robson.

    Red frog

    January 19, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  17. The problem of political will and the lack of a town planning tradition in the Canadian west—I recently suggested here I’ve found traces of it all the way back to Toronto in the 1880’s—are related. I have sketched out an analysis of the last trace of town planning in the colony of British Columbia in the Capital plan for New Westminster, and the CPR plan of some twenty years later here:

    http://wp.me/p1mj4z-n5

    It seems clear to me that something changed.

    David’s six transit rider profiles are particularly interesting thinking about the Broadway corridor where the issue of whether or not we plan with a comprehensive vision will have telling results (I’ll leave “grand” pour les français apparently once more under fire from the U.S. Conservatives).

    But, I hasten to put out another brush fire…

    In many cities around the world a major shopping street like Robson would be car-free (from Hornby to at least Bute.)..it might even have a glass roof over it…

    grenouille rouge

    In spite of what was a stellar performance, VANOC did not do so good with urban planning, or urbanism. Their treatment of Robson Street hurt the sense of being downtown during the Olympic Spring. I can only imagine what it didi to the merchants—conniption would not quite describe it, the place was dead the four times I visited. The site for the Olympic Flame was shown to be a bad decision during the agonizingly long television fiasco of the Great One riding a pick-up, torch in hand. Granville, and especially the wire trees decorated by children and turned into impromptu pedestrian drums, were rad. Yet, the Granville Spine was poorly balanced by a meaningful cross-spine (Robson), and the space in the centre—the zip-line equipped Robson Square—once again failed to function as an urban room. The ‘Gateway to the Bars’ meant that strolling on Granville was just that. Nothing else really to do except see it.

    Starting with partial closings, and growing from there, seems like the way the city will go, RF. Addressing the issues around the design of the urbanism of Robson Square, seems critical, but reality is in David’s camp and one seriously doubts it will happen. However, putting a street under a roof (also contemplated by the merchants in New Westminster in the 1970’s) will kill it.

    I know of no successful examples. Continuous rain cover from awnings is already there. What the place really needs is to create pedestrian passages or links to the paralleling lanes, and develop a new zone of synergy there, using more human-scaled design.

    A great opportunity was missed in the west blocks, when the site west of the Robson Market developed, but did not extend the central market atrium to the opposite end of the block.

    lewis n. villegas

    January 20, 2012 at 10:50 am

  18. Just to respond to the slagging of the Robson bus as a route that no one rides, its average daily ridership from Sep-Dec 2011 was about 9700 on weekdays, and not much lower weekends. While that puts it around 30th place in a list of TransLink’s bus routes ranked by weekday boardings, it is a very short route so highly productive. Its daily ridership on all days increased by about 1000 a day from Sep-Dec 2010 to the same period in 2011. As it returned to a more direct and legible route at the start of September 2011, this increase may not be entirely coincidental.

    Ian Fisher (@electricyvr)

    January 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm

  19. > I think the way to fix this is by connecting the 5 and 6 into a continuous loop – through-routing them downtown instead of turning them around. T

    Isn’t this what happens now? A Robson Bus becomes a Davie Bus at Denman & Davie, and they run in a loop:… Years ago, the two West End routes were not connected… 3 Main 5 Robson, and 6 Fraser 8 Davie.. rings a bell. or 8 Davie 19 Kingsway… (google) http://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Coast_Mountain_Bus_Company_route_6_'Davie_/_Downtown'#History

    The Other David

    January 21, 2012 at 12:57 am

  20. The Robson and Davie buses are only continuous at English bay. In the downtown, the Robson bus loops back on itself to end up on Richards, and the Davie bus loops back on itself to go up Granville.

    The downtown part isn’t as well used as the Robson part. The routes end there so ridership drops off, and the routes are loopy so it’s difficult to memorize where they turn and where they stop. Richards is strange place to put a bus route, too. It’s very close to Granville, and competes with it for many of the same short trips.

    Making the Robson bus turn into the Davie bus downtown could reduce the number of turns from the 8 needed to complete those loops and put the routes on 4 fewer streets downtown. That should make it go a bit faster and make it a bit easier to use.

    mike0123

    January 21, 2012 at 9:47 am

  21. “The Robson and Davie buses are only continuous at English bay”, but you will have noticed this “physical” continuity is not a “temporal” one: if you want do the trip across English bay in a timely fashion, you will be always better to change bus to go to the one ahead of the bus queue (there is always a queue of 2-3 bus) at Davie#Denmann, so you can easily conclude that this physical “continuity” brings no value to the customer.

    I agree with mike0123:

    the ridership on the Robson section seems to conceal a much bleaker picture for the downtown part, and I tend to be of the opinion that the routing of bus 5/6 is a bookcase to what not to do.

    Route 6 should be extended to Yaletown station (today that is serviced by the C23 shuttle: it is not good enough and the service duplication along Davie 6/C23 looks inefficient) – the routing thru Cambie is well thought


    Trip from Davie to downtown could become application of the Grid transit principle advocated by Jarret Walker: frequent bus on Davie connecting with frequent bus on Burrard and very frequent bus on Granville.

    And the WestEnd should be connected with the Northshore buses (#2xx): you can’t say that today.
    Both route 5/6 should be extended to Georgia street at Denmann, as suggested at the bottom of this post, http://voony.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/denman-street/

    The discussion seems to end up to conclude that connection are poorly thought (if any thought has been put in by our Transit agency?) and that seems the object of the post titled “transit reliability”

    Voony

    January 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm

  22. mike0123… I see what you mean.

    http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Route_Files/76/routemap/r006.ashx
    http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Route_Files/76/routemap/r005.ashx

    I often take the Davie bus down to Granville & Dunsmuir.. and never really thought about what it did after that, other than the 6 *to* the west end now runs on Granville (or Howe, which is a whole differnt topic) rather than Richards, as it did during the Canada Line closure of Granville.

    Sometimes I catch a 3 or 8 on the 500 block W Cordova… and see buses like “10 Downtown” stop. Where is this bus going to? Downtown? It doesn’t get much more “downtown” than Waterfront Station. (Yes, it’s a Granville.. though I still think 10-Tenth UBC)

    Agree about Yaletown station and the C23… that connection is busier than you might expect.. e/b C23 often empties at the station, w/b C23 sometimes leaves people behind.

    The Other David

    January 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm

  23. […] had a lot more to say; Stephen Rees’ summary of the event has more detail if you are interested in Walker’s thoughts on the grid, being “always […]

  24. On the bus question, I don’t see the problem with having a pedestrian oriented zone crossed by transit.

    lewis n. villegas

    January 26, 2012 at 9:38 am


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