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Big goals, big challenges: what we think about when planning the transit network

The 17 UBC out and about in 2010. (The route is now the 14 UBC, but it's still a great photo of one of our buses out in normal traffic!)

This post is first in a series about Managing the Transit Network: all about how TransLink plans transit service in our region. See all the blog posts in the series here.

By Tina Robinson

Since I started working at TransLink, many of my friends and family have told me what they think is wrong (and right) with our transit system. And I’ve been told all the solutions as well: “You guys should just run a few extra buses on that route.” Or, “All you have to do is run more buses in the morning that way and more buses in the afternoon the other way.” And, of course, “I would take transit more if the bus came more often where I live.”

What I’ve come to realize is that managing a transit network isn’t so simple, especially when resources are limited. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding where transit should go and the level of service to provide. TransLink’s new Managing the Transit Network primer  describes what our planners think about when they design services and what makes a transit network work well. We’re going to break down the primer over the next few weeks in a series of blog posts.

In this post, we’re looking at the objectives we think about when we design and manage the transit network. And, more significantly, the challenge we face in balancing all three.

Objective 1: Maximize Ridership

Maximizing ridership involves meeting existing demand for transit service.

We want people to use our transit network. After all, what would transit be without riders? We not only want people to use transit, we want lots of people to choose transit.

That’s basically what we mean when we say we want to maximize ridership. This is for all the usual reasons. It means more people can get where they need to go on transit and fewer people need to drive cars, with all the related benefits (reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and congestion, for example). Happily, more people using transit also means more fare revenue to pay for it.

Right now, we maximize ridership in many ways. For example, we provide reliable and predictable service (and more or better service when needed), make transit connections better, and put service where we know there are lots of people who use transit.

Objective 2: Encourage Long-term Ridership Growth

Encouraging long-term ridership growth involves building capacity to meet future demand for transit service.

We want lots of people using transit today, but also in the future. We aim to design service that will help many people one day use the transit network – this is why we encourage long-term ridership growth.

A good example of this is building rapid transit infrastructure, such as the Canada Line or Evergreen Line. It can take a lot of time and money to build, and we don’t expect it to pay for itself right away. But we expect ridership to increase over time, as communities develop around stations.

Our frequent transit network is another example. Establishing a network where people know there is frequent and reliable service can support the development of communities where people will be able to make good use of transit.

Objective 3: Provide Access to Transit Service Across the Region

Providing access to transit service across the region involves maximizing the coverage of the transit network and ensuring a basic level of service is available to most people for most kinds of trips.

The first two objectives may seem to be common sense. Of course transit needs riders, now and in the future. It makes sense to put service where there is existing or future demand.

But TransLink also runs service in areas where demand is low, such as low-density areas or places where transit service has to cross big distances to connect places.

The reason we do this? We are a regional transportation authority with a mandate to provide access to transit service across the region.

For that reason, we provide some transit service to most of the communities in our region. In this way, we help keep communities connected and make sure that people all over the region have access to transit.

In this region, just over 90 per cent of homes – which represents more than 2 million people – are within walking distance (400m) of some form of transit.

Balancing these objectives isn’t easy

We sometimes make tradeoffs as we try to balance all three objectives.

In places where there is low demand but where we provide transit access that meets our third objective, we get fewer riders and, therefore, less fare revenue. As a result, these “coverage” services are the most expensive in our system.

And therein lies the challenge. To what extent do we meet our mandate to provide these services, when we know the resources used to provide them could perhaps go further toward growing ridership (objectives one and two)?

This is where we get different opinions. I think your perspective on balancing these objectives depends a bit on what you think public transit should be. Some people believe that better transit access across the region outweighs the costs (because it’s expensive, remember!). Others think a hard-nosed business model is the way to go – that transit should pay for itself and therefore we should maximize ridership even if it’s at the expense of access for all.

These are things our planners think about, and they help explain some of our transit planning decisions. We don’t scale back or increase service willy nilly. We think carefully about – and get public input on – the impact of our decisions on the other parts of our system – and the inevitable tradeoffs.

Key challenges

Keep in mind too that the cost of providing transit service is high, higher than most people realize.

And, with respect to cost, not all transit service is created equal. Cost also depends on the physical characteristics of a route (length, shape, etc) and how many people use a particular service.

This, in turn, depends on the land use, density and level of activity where a service runs. (More on this in future posts.)

A key thing to take away here is that if you want great transit service, where you choose to live, work and play makes a big difference.

For example, while you might have some service in a low-density area, you can expect better service in a higher-density community or somewhere located near a transit hub or along a frequent transit corridor.

It’s just a reality we face, given the costs of providing transit service.

Note: this is a summary of pages 3-7 in the Managing the Transit Network primer. Read the primer for more detail.

Put your planning hat on: questions for discussion

Senior planner Peter Klitz has put together a few discussion questions based on this section of the primer. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

1. If you were in charge of TransLink, what proportion of transit resources would you dedicate to each of the three objectives described above (maximizing ridership, making proactive investments to support future growth, or providing coverage services)?  Why?

2. What would the transit network look like if TransLink spent the majority of its funding on one of the three objectives at the expense of the others? What would be the impact on different parts of the region and the productivity of the transit system?

3. We know that the cost of transit and land use impact the type and level of transit service we can provide. What are other challenges you see in the design of transit service in this region?  How would you address these challenges, and what are some of the impacts and tradeoffs you would have to consider?

Looking forward to hearing what you think!


33 Comments

  • By Allen, July 6, 2012 @ 9:10 am

    Take out bike lanes and stop building bike lanes. Replace those with dedicated bus lanes which will increase reliability and efficiency.

    Bikes are green, but they are as inefficient as vehicles when it comes to moving people. (See: http://i46.tinypic.com/a3e7lv.png) In the amount of space of a 60 foot TransLink articulated bus, only 6 people can be moved by bicycle compared to 115 on bus. 77 people on a 40ft bus compared to 4 people on bicycle.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, July 6, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    An interesting perspective! Got any thoughts on the three discussion questions we put out above?

  • By Robert, July 6, 2012 @ 11:01 am

    Two quick and unrelated thoughts:
    1) You indicate spatial aspects of transit coverage but there are also temporal aspects. For example, should Translink put more of their resources towards meeting the crush demand in peak period services and negotiate businesses in the entertainment area of downtown Vancouver to contribute towards NightBus services?
    2) In assessing future additions to rapid transit infrastructure the amount of traffic crossing a route needs to be considered; much cross traffic indicates a preference for (more expensive) grade-separated options such as RRT whereas less cross traffic would favour (less expensive) street level services such as LRT.

  • By Chris M., July 6, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    I’d say with goal number 3, I guess try to shift as much of the demand as possible to bicycles and serve the remainder with demand-response service. (for those that can’t ride because of physical limitations). Provide decent bike parking at connections with the FTN since it’s a lot cheaper than car park and rides and can be dispersed throughout the length of the line using existing publicly owned land.

    Perhaps 70:30 for ridership to coverage, but that’s pretty arbitrary and I actually have no idea what I’m talking about, so don’t listen to me.

    @Allen
    I would kindly disagree with your view. Research seems to suggest that bicycle lane flow rates can be about double that of automobile flow rates with spacing and width taken into consideration. I think the bicycle can be considered complimentary to transit, able to serve short to medium distance travels faster and cheaper than transit.

    But if you’re concerned about efficiency and flow rates, there is something that has a lower flow rate than bike lanes and general automobile traffic lanes- on street parking.

    reference:
    Winai Raksuntorn, S. I. (2007). Saturation Flow Rate, Start-Up Lost Time, and Capacity for Bicycles at Signalized Intersections. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board , 1852 (2003), 105-113

  • By Sheba, July 6, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

    I think there’s too much emphasis on Vancouver at the expense of the rest of the lower mainland. Sure lots of people take transit in Vancouver – just look at how many of the routes are on the Frequent Transit Network. Then look at the rest of the map and see all the gaps – no wonder people there drive.

    So I’m heavily for “Objective 2: Encourage Long-term Ridership Growth”. How are we going to encourage people in fast growing areas outside of Vancouver to take transit when what’s there is spotty at best.

    As for bikes – most of the routes are not on major streets, therefore making little impact on how many people can be moved in a fixed space. People are already cycling (some in a saner manner than others) so there’s a need to provide somewhere safe for them to ride. Whenever I ride I’m reminded what it feels like to be an invisible moving target. One of my friends rides a bike all the time and drivers still don’t see him – despite him wearing a neon yellow safety jacket with reflective strips on it.

  • By Cliff, July 6, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

    The city of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Richmond have fantastic transit service and its easy to see a culture of transit use being cultivated in those four cities. They have SkyTrain, frequent bus service, and good density. It would take an incredible action of irreparable harm to damage this culture.

    So why are we trying to maximize ridership by catering to these areas? People here are already using transit and they’re not going to change because service improves.

    We need to cultivate the same culture of transit use outside these areas. By doing so, transit use as a whole will increase exponentially. There’s so much room to improve outside of those four cities. When SkyTrain finally arrives in the tri-cities, bus service needs to be improved alongside it, not left to stagnate like it was in Surrey. This means bringing local bus routes back up to 15 minute frequencies as it was in the past. It means promoting the use of park and rides. And it also means having an efficient road network to allow all this to happen.

    When it comes to cycling… Cycling needs to be promoted in such a way that is is not at odds with other forms of transit. That means returning many bicycle lanes to general use or HOV and promoting cycle use away from major roads where they are a hazard to themselves and/or others. Education needs to be paramount and laws enforced when it comes to bicycling.

    I know Vancouverites are going to cringe when I say this, but I’ll do it anyway. You guys need a highway system. A real one. Your residential streets are choked with traffic that doesn’t have anywhere else to go. No other city does what Vancouver does. That means building freeways with freeway speed limits and keeping them separated from local streets. They can be tunnelled if need be.
    One little freeway from the edge of Vancouver to Langley is hardly adequate. Highway 99 needs to be completed between the Oak Street bridge and the Upper Levels. The SFPR needs to be turned into a freeway. Highway 10 from 91 to 1 needs to be upgraded. Highway 91 at 72nd Avenue needs to be completely grade separated. Highway 7 Between Coquitlam and Maple Ridge needs to be upgraded to full freeway, as does the portion between North Road and Barnet. So does the Mary Hill Bypass. As does the NFPR. Freeway is not a four letter word.

  • By Chris M., July 6, 2012 @ 6:11 pm

    @cliff

    That would be paradise =) If we had a great un-congested freeway system, I’d immediately take advantage of the lower housing prices in Langley and continue to work in Vancouver. And I certainly wouldn’t take transit just because of the “transit culture” here in Vancouver if driving was four times faster than everything else. Make sure there’s enough parking in Downtown though, to handle the exponential surge in demand. Certainly keep bikes off the main roads as well.

    Just kidding. I’m glad there are actually professionals in charge of transport and land use planning. It’s probably good not to make transportation in general too free or too good because transportation is a derived demand. Increasing transportation won’t necessarily make life better, in fact, our average commute distances are quite unacceptable to most European standards already.

    But I think we digress.

  • By mike0123, July 6, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

    I think it might be useful to discuss the two main types of bus route network design in Metro Vancouver: the grid network in Vancouver and the exchange system in the suburbs.

    Vancouver has a grid of well-spaced bus routes (i.e. about 800 m apart) that have sufficient ridership to support at least 10-minute headways most of the day. In general, Vancouver’s bus routes cross the entire city east-west or north-south without making unnecessary turns or loops. Transfers between bus routes are not timed and don’t require detours to reach a loop.

    Other municipalities have bus routes that operate through a series of exchanges, like Phibbs Exchange or Coquitlam Recreation Centre or Ladner Exchange. Many routes converge on these hubs, often taking complex or indirect paths. The routes are designed to arrive at the exchanges at the same time and with the same frequency to meet the pulse. A delay of a few minutes has to be added to all of the bus routes in each pulse at each hub to ensure reliable timed transfers.

    If buses come every 30 minutes, the exchange system saves time overall by making transfers efficient and predictable. If buses come every 15 minutes, the grid system with normal street-side bus stops saves time by eliminating all the fuss with entering exchanges, extra turning movements, delays to wait for the pulse, etc.

    Some of the other municipalities, including Burnaby and New Westminster, already have the ridership and service hours to support an efficient grid of well-spaced frequent bus routes. The design of the bus route network around exchanges, like Metrotown, and the front entrances of major public buildings, like City Hall, wastes service hours on long detours, unnecessary turning movements, and closely-spaced routes near exchanges. Instead of a 15-minute grid, Burnaby and New Westminster have a 30-minute rat’s nest.

  • By Sheba, July 8, 2012 @ 10:18 am

    I’ve been going on about the need for a more grid-like setup for more than Vancouver for awhile, so I like hearing someone else say it as well. How efficient can it be to have routes like the 110 loop around? http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Route_Files/81/routemap/r110.ashx

    I saw this and “Objective 3: Provide Access to Transit Service Across the Region” suddenly came to mind. “Aldergrove locals buy trolley to cure transport woes” http://bc.ctvnews.ca/aldergrove-locals-buy-trolley-to-cure-transport-woes-1.870202

  • By mike0123, July 8, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

    The 110 between Metrotown and Sperling is a good example of a bus route that is slow, indirect, and illegible. It scores in the bottom 25% of bus routes for productivity most of the time it operates. A well-spaced grid would have a straight bus route on Royal Oak from Royal Oak Station instead of the route following Bond, Nelson, and Willingdon from Metrotown Station. This would space the routes at about the same distance as Cambie and Main in Vancouver.

    Another good example is the 28 between Canada Way and Burke. According to Google maps, it takes 12 minutes to drive the existing bus route and it takes 5 minutes to go straight up Boundary. The detour to reach the front door of Burnaby Hospital makes the route take several minutes longer, yet it duplicates the 129 while making the detour and so covers no new ground.

    It is these kinds of decisions that give Burnaby it’s useless-to-nearly-everyone 30-minute headways instead of useful-to-a-lot-of-people 15-minute headways.

    Translink has a maximum walking distance threshold and aims to put nearly everyone within this distance of transit. There are many places where the arterial grid is spaced at just over twice this threshold. Where this is the case in Vancouver, bus routes follow the arterial grid even if it results in a small strip of land that falls outside the catchment of either arterial bus route. It seems like the strict adherence to the maximum walking distance threshold might be one reason for the mangled, closely-spaced, infrequent routes in parts of Burnaby and especially in New Westminster.

  • By JKKT - Kyle, July 8, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

    Regarding the 3 points:

    1) Maximize Ridership. That’s Clearly what the “Service Optimization” plan is, and is what the “business” take on transit. This part almost always is put more importance by the public than #3. Even the commissioner wants to sacrifice #3 for more ridership and profitability. But if that’s what the government wants, then what should translink do…?

    3) Transit will never be profitable in Canada. It’s a fact. Routes Like C63, C12, C90 etc were never designed for profitability. Their removal will result in equivalent savings with their operating costs. Yet these services account for a large portion of translink’s “Coverage”, meaning they serve areas that would in other cases not be served due to their unprofitable terrain. These are designed for the most vulnerable of users, and straphangers that don’t have other means of transportation.

    Point 2 is a Non Point. Long term ridership growths will not happen without short term increases. Short term ridership increases are mainly created by expanding #1, decreasing #3. The opposite, Long term ridership decrease will happen when transit is deemed unreliable, insecure, or “bad”. “Long Term ridership Growth” can be guaranteed by investment in long term rapid transit services, (the most long term of those but the most cost demanding is heavy rail).

    You say that “FTNs will encourage long term growth”. This is correct, but another valid point is that “Maximizing ridership (point 1) will create routes on the FTN.”

    In conclusion, I think that #2 point is a subsidiary of #1, while #3 is the opposite of #1. A successful transit system will find balance between #1 and #3; this will result in #2 being achieved.

  • By Marvin B, July 9, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    I think it’s odd when I read this and see the 3 points, one being making sure everyone in the region is connected (#3).

    Translink is willing to accept losses in low density/low demand areas to achieve this objective. I have no issue with this as I believe transit is a service rather than a business and this should lead to future demand as the population increases (and builds up areas into higher density areas). With this in mind, it baffles me to no end that the rapid bus over the new Port Mann is being postponed. This will be a major bus line that will connect areas of the region in a huge way. And this line will be profitable! It’s these kinds of lines that help fund other lines in the system (the 99 B-Line is another). Without this line, I have to say Translink is not following the objectives above and throwing money out the window. The new line will serve all 3 objectives. No brainer to continue in my mind even if it means a short term cash injection from the province. We can’t afford not to do this!

  • By Eugene Wong, July 9, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    [I'm a bit upset. I'm just warning you.]

    Why is Translink so interested in having us discuss this? Are they actually going to be changed as a result of our comments? I can’t recall a single time when our comments have achieved anything related to planning. It’s like voting.

    I respect a lot of comments in this discussion, and I believe that I benefit from reading what you guys have to say, but I sense that we are wasting our time by responding to such posts.

    I’m still thinking of the #326, where Translink has never bothered to seriously look at it, as far as I can tell. Before, it wasn’t a high priority, because the #388 was being planned and implemented. Now that it has been done, Translink has other excuses to ignore the #326.

    I assume that Translink planners consider themselves experts with nothing to learn from the masses. Getting feedback from us for proposed changes is fine. It’s a completely different ball of wax. Asking us for our thoughts on these issues seems to be crazy.

  • By Chris M., July 9, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    @Alex,

    Presumably one of the goals of this is to prime politicians and voters like you and me to think about the transportation network as a whole- about how the development of one transport mode affects the others, about how land development patterns affect the efficiency of transit and about how to create the most good for the most people with limited resources.

    I think by default, most people (me included) think that the service they use the most is the most ignored by Translink and deserves the most improvement. By having us read this and then discuss, hopefully some of us think more objectively before voicing their opinions to others- or voting.

  • By JKKT - Kyle, July 9, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

    I second Eugene.

    Is this a distraction to keep us away from the devastating suicidal cut to the Port Mann Rapid Bus! Is this a distraction to keep our thoughts away from Translink’s spending of Cash on a ‘Planned Completion of the Pattulio’ by 2015?

    I am worried and suspicious that priorities are on the wrong place here. No Transit, No Bridge.

  • By Cliff, July 10, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    I don’t think I could have found a more relevant link just mere days after my post. I said there wasn’t enough highways. I said traffic was pouring onto local streets. Well, well, well. For all the nay-sayers, I give you this, dated TODAY:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/07/10/bc-traffic-congestion-vancouver-ranking.html

  • By Sheba, July 10, 2012 @ 10:37 pm

    I just saw that link and was going to post it here as well!

    I would hope TransLink planners see some of our comments and consider them. As Eugene said “Why is Translink so interested in having us discuss this? Are they actually going to be changed as a result of our comments?” There’s also the TransLink Listens panel, which I get next to nothing from nowadays. How do they get info to make their decisions??? Spreadsheets won’t show you everything.

  • By Xerxes, July 11, 2012 @ 12:37 am

    Cliff, the solution to congestion is not more highways that just creates induced demand. The solution is congestion pricing like what Singapore or London has.

    http://youtu.be/gyJdfY4d3eM

  • By Cliff, July 11, 2012 @ 1:52 am

    You can’t charge for what you don’t have.

    If you build a highway from the Grandview interchange and charge people five bucks a day to use it, it would recoup its cost in just a few years. In fact, five dollars probably isn’t enough!

    If you try to charge people the same five bucks just to enter downtown without improvements of any kind, then people will think you’ve been getting your groceries on the corner of Main and Hastings. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Charging people to use an already existing transportation system that doesn’t work and then telling them they’ll derive a benefit from them is insane, political suicide, and just flat out wrong.

    The transportation system in Vancouver is decades behind the times. We’re past alternatives. We’re past band-aids. We need upgrades to the core of our transit system. This means building freeways. Toll for them, I don’t care. But we need physical, tangible infrastructure!

  • By Eugene Wong, July 11, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    On the way out, on Tuesday, I felt pretty happy with the transit system, and was planning on writing a clam response. However, after stewing in frustration again, I changed my mind.

    1 thing I considered was the fact that even before the Internet was accessible to the public, we already had access to the transit companies. We could phone in ideas. We could mail them and fax them, too.

    In those days, I even got some of my ideas changed. The #328 used to be longer. It was shortened because of me. Remember when the #318 used to not interline with the #322? They changed that because of me.

    All those ideas bore fruit, because the ideas had merit [whether I was right or wrong], and because the planners actually listened, and because the system allowed them to make those quick and simple changes.

    What about now? Will it make a difference if we phone in? Twitter? Fax? Canada Post?

    Their unwillingness to stop spamming the Twitter feed with redundant announcements, shows how little they are willing to listen. Twitter is free. They could make another feed, and get people to sign on there, but nope.

    I had such high hopes for this blog. After all, I thought that our discussions would be directed the people who could make things happen. I thought that all ideas would be weighed based on the merit of those ideas.

    What does really happen? We have our suggestions filed away, after a quick disapproval by computers and committees.

    #326 suggestion? Filed away! Computer says “Does not compute!”.

    Support either of the perimeter roads? Was it your idea that set it into action? Did it start before or after your first supportive comment?

    Oppose either of the perimeter roads? Any luck with that?

    Park-and-ride suggestions? Anybody accept our ideas?

    More buses and trains only in Vancouver and nowhere else? ;^) Are you getting those improvements?

    More of everything in Surrey and boo-oo-oo to everybody else? ;^p Are we getting anything even close?

    Equal amounts of improvements to all locations, no matter what? Happening yet?

    New roads, and less buses? Are roads really being built because of your suggestions?

    Are *any* of you getting *any* of your suggestions approved? I know that we can be forgetful and ungrateful when we are upset. However, I can’t think of a single thing that any of us have “received” due to this blog. We must have learned from each other, and we’ve probably had a few laughs. We have seen some delightful general interest stuff, but I can’t think of a single thing. I’ll accept any response, as long as the idea was directly initiated from this blog.

    I’ll even accept responses telling of bribes. I can’t even think of a single idea that was accepted due to a bribe. Every decision seems to have been based on Translink and the government.

    - parking taxes [provincial government opposed]
    - realignment of the Millenium Line
    - way finding
    - fare gates ["Feedback, please? Okay, we'll go ahead and do it!!!1!"]
    - fare increases ["Feedback, please? Okay, we'll go ahead and do it!!!1!"]
    - increases in bus service

    Let’s not forget our tax dollars paying for big wigs to tour the system to get feedback, because obviously, people haven’t been making enough suggestions.

    What could be wrong with Robert and Jhenifer passing on our ideas to the other departments? Well, if the departments aren’t going to do what we suggest, even when we have had a long discussion with genuine merits and legitimate compromise, then why are taxpayers paying Jhenifer and Robert to do that? They could literally go home early, at the end of the day, and still get paid the same monthly salary/wages, and still have enough time to do some actual productive work.

    I like those two enough to approve of it.

    I think that that Twitter feed is the canary in the mines. If they can’t even handle something that is free, then how are they going to deal with something more complex? They obviously didn’t listen when people complained about paying for text messages that were redundant. The important thing to Translink was forcing those text messages upon people who need actual service alerts, but didn’t want to pay for redundant news via texts. Oh well.

    To fix the problem, Translink really *must* remove the redundant messages from the alerts, and then hold themselves accountable. They should post all ideas, in a meaningful way to show how the ideas are being acted upon. Even if they showed us a list of only the ideas that were acted upon, which were *only* *initiated* from blog discussions, then that will be an improvement. If they try to compromise on it even a little, then it will all be a public relations lie.

  • By Eugene Wong, July 11, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    Oh, by the way, thanks for your support, both of you.

  • By Cliff, July 11, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    It’s been decades since the #333 provided regular service across the Port Mann.

    Not providing this service is like throwing money away. Bringing back this route would be one of the few services that TransLink operates that actually brings in money. I can see the cross-Port Mann service being expanded in the future to Coquitlam Centre, BCIT, and even Vancouver once we have more conclusive data on where people using such a service end up after they ride it.

    The new Port Mann bridge was one of the reasons I was vehemently against the NW option for the Evergreen Line. A Lougheed Highway SkyTrain would have had the option of being linked up with a future Surrey SkyTrain line to Guildford and points further. Now, due to service duplication, it is unlikely that a rapid transit line will ever cross the bridge in our lifetimes. It should have been SkyTrain from Lougheed Mall via Lougheed Highway with stations at Millardville, Schoolhouse, United Blvd, and Como Lake up to Coquitlam Centre. Then an LRT from Port Moody to Maple Ridge a few years later. It could have then been expanded to New Westminster and even Vancouver along Marine Drive after 20 or 30 years. But the NW option kind of threw everything off.

  • By JKKT - Kyle, July 15, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    Talking about Ideas for improving the transit system, here are a few: http://cityinaction.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/potential-changes-to-vancity-transit/

    @ Cliff, lets keep this ON TOPIC. What translink is saying here, is Objective 1) ridership, or Goal 3) Coverage? As the “star” of transit planning Jarrett Walker Wrote in his book “Human Transit”, transit can be considered a social service or a business.

    Currently, when citizens like you complain about empty buses, yet other areas like Gloucester in Langley want Service, a balance has to be found.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    Eugene: wow! That’s a big comment to take in.

    To be honest we’ve not heard the same complaints that you have about our Twitter account having redundant alerts. In fact in a year we’ve grown from ~10,000 to 22,000 followers, and virtually all we hear from Twitter customers is how much they like the messages and interactions with the account.

    With your concerns about suggestions and this blog — well, all I can say is that we do in fact send your comments on to our colleagues at planning, and I know firsthand that your thoughts are considered, incorporated, and answered as fully as possible. And our phone lines, fax lines, and in-person events still exist and you are more than welcome to continue your feedback through those channels, much as you have in the past. Change on some things cannot always happen overnight, and I don’t have an exhaustive list of your requests that I can match to actual changes in policy or practice—but I do know that throughout all of our conversations here on this blog, you have always been levelheaded, practical, and persistent with your suggestions, and those continued efforts to make change have certainly been heard.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, July 24, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

    PS: I have passed this whole thread on to our planning team. Responses soon! They ARE listening :)

  • By Eugene Wong, July 27, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

    @ Jhenifer

    Thanks for the response. I see that you have written so many of them. I thought that my newsfeed reader was digging up old comments.

    I used to think that I would outgrow posting comments that I would regret, but apparently not. Next time, I’ll try to Abraham Lincoln thing, where he wrote something, and then let it sit for a while.

    That being said, I do stand by what I wrote. If ideas are incorporated into Translink’s products and services, then that’s great. That means that we don’t have anything to worry about.

    :^) I’d like to say that giving me compliments won’t work on me, but apparently your nice words do butter me up a bit…

    Regarding Twitter, are you able to keep all alerts to 1 account, and then ensure that no other comments/announcements are in it?

    For example, this is meaningless.
    https://twitter.com/translink/status/229043221387431936
    We are unable to follow the discussion, because that customer keeps his tweets private.

    This is just an ad for other means of contacting Translink.
    https://twitter.com/translink/status/229041001870811136

    These are essentially repetitions.
    https://twitter.com/translink/status/229040368811917314
    https://twitter.com/translink/status/229040100946870272

    This is not an alert. It is a discussion.
    https://twitter.com/translink/status/229039459482628096

    I don’t mean to pick on ^jkd. ^jkd just happens to be the only person on the page. It’s a problem with everybody.

    @translink can continue to be used for other discussions, and for receiving messages. If customer service staff prefer to pass on news, then they can copy from @translink to the alerts account.

    Maybe it could be called @TLAlerts.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, July 30, 2012 @ 10:15 am

    Eugene, I hear you and the examples you provide are valid as “non alert messages”. However, as I mentioned above, we hear very very little feedback saying that people dislike this kind of messaging or interaction—in fact, yours is the only one I can recount since I’ve been back, and Robert hasn’t mentioned any feedback along these lines during his tenure here. And with 22,000+ followers not complaining, it doesn’t seem to make sense to radically alter the account now based on one person’s preference.

    However, this is not to say that the account won’t evolve in the future. Media alerts and other targeted messaging could benefit from alternate accounts. And it’s not to say your feedback isn’t valid either — it is good to know what you dislike about the account, as it is grounds for improvement. We just need to take your complaint in context of the larger customer base as a whole, and come to a decision that satisfies most.

    As well, depending on how you access the Twitter account, you may not see these @reply messages that you have highlighted. If you’re solely accessing the RSS feed of raw tweets, you will get everything — however if you use Twitter apps, you will tend not to see our @reply messages, and only the ones that TransLink sends out broadly to its entire follower base.

  • By Chris M., July 30, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    I second Eugene.

    A long time ago, I signed up for mobile text alerts as well, but most of the time, I just get alerts about elevators out of service and a minor bus stop being skipped due to construction. Once in a while, I get an alert about a bus being delayed or cancelled, but usually half an hour to an hour after the event. I haven’t un-signed up for the alerts yet, but I probably should since most of them are of little use to me.

    I do find the new mobile site to be much more useful.

  • By Eugene Wong, July 30, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

    @ All

    If you’re looking for an example of something that Translink did due to a Buzzer blog suggestion, then this seems to be an example.
    http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2010/11/heads-up-translinks-twitter-pilot-project-for-november/#comment-106880
    Reva suggested that tweets be posted on the web site, and it got posted. It wasn’t exactly what she suggested, but close. Kudos, Translink!

    @ Jhenifer

    I think that these comments represent a lot of concerns about having too much information from 1 Twitter account.
    http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2010/11/heads-up-translinks-twitter-pilot-project-for-november/#comments
    However, this comment really says it all.
    http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2010/11/heads-up-translinks-twitter-pilot-project-for-november/#comment-106921
    2 people commented afterwards [me included]. In that thread, you mentioned that it might be difficult to split the announcements up into hundreds of different Twitter feeds.

    I think that a reasonable split would be like this.
    ` service announcements for buses, trains, and Seabus
    ` elevators and escalators
    ` media announcements

    As for @reply messages, those are important, when they actually convey serious update information. Translink has been known to be not always be updated on missed buses, from what I have heard from other customers. Somebody had to actually call it in, using 1 of those station customer service phones. A bus was eventually sent out. For the Twitter feed, it is important that we get serious information in the form of a @reply, but I still request that Translink needs to cut the cruft and fluffy stuff. It would take a huge amount of discipline, but you could pull it off, via the use of direct messages.

    Here is another thread.
    http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2011/02/yay-our-translink-twitter-service-is-now-permanent/#comments
    At the top of the thread, a person from the previous thread is commenting again. He has 8 thumbs up. I just gave him another. Jhenifer, your following comment only has 1 thumb. I think that speaks volumes.

    This comment about battery life speaks wisdom.
    http://buzzer.translink.ca/index.php/2011/02/yay-our-translink-twitter-service-is-now-permanent/#comment-113440

    I think that 1 really telling thing is that I never recall a single Buzzer Blog commenter who was favourable to the way things are now, other than you, Jhenifer. That’s not to say that you’re wrong.

    I understand that you need to keep things simple for the customer service rep: we want to keep our costs down; budgets; work flow; etc. That’s all good.

    However, some announcements are not emergencies, by nature. Fun events, or trivia tidbits, are things that we want to be retweeted, but they do not *have* *to* *be*. Honestly, if 10 people didn’t know about “I Love Transit Night”, then we shouldn’t sweat it. If even 1 person missed out on a service update because of signal-noise ratio, then I think that that person’s needs can be prioritized.

    Our suggestions in those threads allows you to retweet fun announcements 1000 times per day–from the appropriate account. Customer service can dialog with followers accordingly, but if they miss a question, then it won’t be as serious as missing a service related question.

    I think that people who want the service announcements will find that they usually only want to receive information. You’ll get your occasional retweeter, and your occasional question, but people just want to “know” and not dialog. I’m obviously guessing.

    I’m curious about the work flow. Is each customer service rep responsible for knowing “all” of what is going on, or do some reps have specific areas that they cover?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, August 7, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

    For the items related to this post: I’ve sent on your comments above to our planning team, and they passed along this response. Sorry for not posting this sooner!

    Rest assured that TransLink planners are indeed reading the comments posted to this site. And we’ll be taking them into account through our ongoing Network Management program. This series of blog posts is not intended as a formal consultation on specific projects. Instead, our hope is to stimulate discussion and critical thinking on the challenges facing TransLink and to generate ideas for how we might do things better.

    So far this seems to be working well. Many of the observations made by readers have highlighted the need to make tradeoffs when deciding how to allocate TransLink’s limited service resources. The variety of perspectives also highlights the challenges TransLink faces in prioritizing these three objectives.

    If you have specific suggestions regarding a service change, we encourage you to fill out a feedback form, which makes it easier for us to track recurring themes/issues. Some of the ideas being expressed for more drastic changes to the transit network are better suited for consideration through the Area Transit Plan program. So be sure to get involved in that process when we’re looking at your sub-region. We’re currently wrapping up the North Shore Area Transit Plan.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » Guiding themes for planning a transit network — July 13, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Building a better transit line: how location and land use make or break good transit service — August 2, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » The final stage: making transit service decisions — August 22, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

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