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TransLink’s draft 2013 Base Plan

The draft 2013 Base Plan

Today, TransLink has released a very important document that lays out our plan for the next three years of transit in Metro Vancouver. Our draft 2013 Base Plan is a blueprint for transit planning, funding and servicing.

We’ve talked about the financial challenges TransLink is facing of late on the blog. The 2013 draft Base Plan provides specifics on how,

Translink’s Board of Directors remain focused on delivering the best possible transportation system to the public, while making the most of every dollar we have.” – Nancy Olewiler, Chair of TransLink’s Board of Directors.

I encourage everyone to read the draft for a thorough description of what and why we are proposing the following measures:

TransLink will proceed with:

  • The Evergreen Line project
  • 109,000 new hours of transit service. Some of these hours were implemented in April 2012
  • Rapid Bus service on Highway 1 over the Port Mann Bridge from Carvolth Transit Exchange in Langley to SkyTrain in New Westminster, every 10 minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes during off-peak hours
  • B-Line service every seven to eight minutes on King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue between Newton and Guilford
  • Upgrades to Expo Line stations including improving capacity and accessibility at Main St. and Scott Road, Metrotown, Commercial-Broadway, Surrey Central, New Westminster and Joyce-Collingwood stations

TransLink will not proceed with:

  • Implementing approximately 306,000 hours of planned  increases of bus service hours
  • Expanded SeaBus service to provide 15-minute service on Sundays and holidays in fall, winter and spring
  • Restoring original funding for cycling programs and the Major Road Network
  • Ten-minute, off-peak frequency on the Highway 1 Rapid Bus service
  • The White Rock Centre extension on the King George Boulevard B-Line service

This document is meant to serve as the start of the conversation about the future of transit in Metro Vancouver–a conversation that includes The TransLink Board of Directors, the Mayor’s Council, the Province, stakeholders and the public.

Part of this conversation is to inform the public of what we’ve done in the region to date. We’ll be posting questions about what we’d done so far until the Base Plan is submitted to the Mayor’ Council for approval on November 1, 2012. Here’s the first one (hint, you might want to check out our 2011 annual report for the answer): Update: The answer to the below question is 232 million. Thanks for taking the poll!

In 1999, TransLink provided 46 million rides on transit. In 2011, how many rides did we provide?

  • 232 million (51%, 50 Votes)
  • 106 million (38%, 37 Votes)
  • 82 million (10%, 10 Votes)
  • 33 million (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 98

I’ll provide the answer to this question tomorrow on this post. As usual, we’d love your comments and thoughts on the plan below!

Update: The draft 2013 Base Plan questionnaire is now available to be filled out. Make sure you do so between now and October 12.

 

 

 


31 Comments

  • By Langdon, September 17, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    Today on a 143 bus the driver announced in December thousands of service hours will be cut. Is this true? Will it be mostly on SFU or UPass bus routes?

    If Highway 1 rapid bus and King George B-Line are to be implemented in December, service cuts in other area are reasonable. But, I don’t want more difficult school commute!

  • By Anon, September 17, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    @Langdon, Check out page 15 in the 2013 base Plan. Unfortunately, the Hwy 1 Rapid-Bus is out, along with a portion of the King George Blvd B-Line.

  • By Reva, September 17, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Sooo… Last week the Sun had an interview (referenced in Sept. 11 Buzzer Blog entry) with the same person, where she stated that thousands of service hours would be cut, and that customers should expect crowding and delays. Funding is tight so there will be no improvements. But here she states that they have found millions of dollars of efficiencies, so they can proceed with the above-mentioned improvements (although granted, not as many improvements as they would like). So which is it?

    I am also bothered by the statement “109,000 new hours of transit service. Some of these hours were implemented in April 2012″. How can you include a past improvement in a list of future improvements? Why such a misleading statement? The full equation with proper figures is 109,000 new service hours in total to be added this year, minus 40,000 new service hours already added in April 2012 (per http://www.translink.ca/en/About-Us/Media/2012/January/TransLink-looks-ahead-to-2012.aspx), for an actual number of 69,000 new service hours to be added later this year. How difficult would it have been to say that?

  • By Gary, September 17, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    I totally agree with Reva. Lots of smoke & mirrors here. TransLink needs to tell the truth. They are not offering 109,000 of new bus service hours. Oh, and they conveniently leave out the fact that we will lose about 48,000 in SkyTrain service hours. Overall, total system wide service hours, including the bus, SkyTrain and HandiDart systems, drops when comparing 2012 to 2013. They think people are stupid and can’t read. This unelected and totally non-representative TransLink Board should be fired.

  • By Reva, September 17, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    Also, I would be interested to hear any comments on this story: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Security+guards+assigned+control+frustrated+riders+Metro/7245424/story.html

    What I want to know is, what would be the cost per run of putting on an extra trip each night, compared to the cost of hiring security guards to ride both on the bus and follow behind the bus in a car for the duration of the route? I cannot believe it would cost that much more money to just add one extra bus on the busiest routes on the busiest nights. Nightbus is obviously a service that desperately needs improvement and would cost less to do so than many other types of service upgrades, and is needed NOW.

    If it has gotten to the point where Translink needs to fight hoards of people away from the precious little service that already exists, YOU NEED TO IMPROVE THE SERVICE. The riders who need it will pay the money. Implement zone fares on the Nightbus if you have to. Don’t treat your customers like animals!

  • By Eugene Wong, September 17, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    @ Anon

    The Hwy 1 bus is being reduced, not eliminated. It said that the full version is out, but in the left column, it says that Phase 1 is in.

    @ Reva

    The 40,000 hours was not mentioned in the 2012 plan, which was probably released in 2011. The April changes were probably added while the 2013 plan was being developed, and was probably inlcuded as part of it. I’m just guessing, though. Don’t me wrong.

    Regarding Night Bus, I agree. I’m surprised that they need more funding to do it, when there are passups. There should be enough funding from the passenger revenue.

    @ All

    I won’t comment much in this discussion, because I’m super frustrated. It’s not because I think that you guys have nothing meaningful to say. It’s because I’m tired of being angry at transit.

  • By SS, September 17, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    Interesting thing I’ve found that they cut 45,000 annual hours from SkyTrain and in page 77 of the plan it says it can save about 0.5 million from doing it. So does this mean that they only saved about $11 per hours by cutting them?

  • By SS, September 17, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    @ Reva, Eugene

    The 40,000 hours is not in the 2012 base plan, but are in the 2012 supplemental plan, as with all other items listed in the proceed with/not proceed with section. I think that section is just giving a summary of which parts of the supplemental plan are going ahead and which parts are not. All of the ones that are proceeding could be seen as “improvement” over the 2012 base plan. Although in either way, it is still an “improvement” over 2012 service level since they were never existed for the first 3.75 months of the year.

  • By Reva, September 17, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    @ SS : That makes sense, but I think it is important for them to spell that out in the report, instead of presenting the figures in the unclear manner above.

  • By Sheba, September 17, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

    I skimmed through the report (90 pages is a tad too much to read through quickly) and I wonder who decided that the items that are going to happen are the most important ones. For instance…

    Seven Expo Line stations are being upgraded. That sounds good but Commercial/Broadway (again), Main and Metrotown are three of them, and it’s going to be really expensive to upgrade those stations. It’s probably possible to upgrade all the other stations on the list (Joyce, New West, Surrey Central, Scott Road) for less than the cost of doing any one of the first three stations listed. Drop one of the top three for a future budget and a lot of the Expo Line stations could have the mesh replaced with glass panels and maybe even extend the roof to cover the entire platform. Sometimes quantity has to win out over quality.

    Meanwhile “station area upgrades – walk, bike and road connections” are not being upgraded while stations themselves are? Yes the road part would be expensive but the walking and biking part wouldn’t have to be.

    Plus the Bicycle Capitol upgrades is being dropped yet again. The BC Parkway (the bike path that follows along a lot of the Expo Line) meetings were in 2008 and next to nothing has happened since then as that money hasn’t been there since then. The costs for that are a drop in the bucket compared to the other costs listed (for example more is spent on IT).

  • By Norbert, September 17, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

    Seems the original skytrain’s are staying around for another 15 years after some mid life retrofitting.

    Does anyone know if that means air conditioning?
    I truely hope so!

  • By Jeff, September 18, 2012 @ 9:17 am

    @ Norbert — did you know that those SkyTrain cars were given the option of air conditioning when they were built? Instead, Grace McCarthy opted to have the trains carpeted instead to give SkyTrain a “world class look”. If I’m correct, the carpets only lasted until 1992ish.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 18, 2012 @ 9:31 am

    Langdon: I can’t speak to what that driver said, but I can add a little perspective. This draft Base Plan was created with the assumption that the temporary gas tax the Mayor’s Council voted in favour of actually happening in 2013. There’s a good chance that this won’t happen. If so, we’ll have to draft a Supplemental Plan which could look at deeper cuts to this system to make up for the shortfall in funding.

    Riva: As always, thanks for the comment. I’ll tackle your first comment first.

    Base Plans and Supplemental Plans are a complicated business. We’re legally required to follow the last plan we released. We had planned on implementing more transit improvements as laid out in our 2012 Supplemental Plan. We started some of these improvements in April 2012 (why we reference that some of these increases in service started then), however it became evident at that time that some of the funding the Supplemental Plan was contingent on would not be available in the future (suggested fare increase being nixed, Provincial Audit calling for 30 million in savings etc.).

    Knowing that we are going to be dealing with a significantly smaller budget, we got to work on finding ways to deliver the service we have now with less funding.

    Gary: We appreciate you commenting, but I’d like to add that we value the public very highly at TransLink. I can tell that Jhen and I try our best to give you all the facts we have at our disposal. We’re truly interested in sharing this info and think the Buzzer community has some fantastic perspective and ideas. We share them with fellow employees and our executive as often as possible. As far as governance goes, this is an issue that is best addressed by your Provincial representative. We operate under the mandate we’re given to the best of our abilities.

  • By Sheba, September 18, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

    While I don’t doubt the sincerity of some at TransLink, I do wonder what it is that they’re thinking sometimes. Over a decade to slowly fix up bus routes to better match with the Network Design Themes and very little has changed. The Expo Line stations should have begun upgrades when the Millennium Line was opened and nothing happened. Can you see a trend?

    Now they’re talking about upgrading the Commercial/Broadway station “to accommodate projected Evergreen Line-related ridership increases” – increases that were expected when the Millennium Line opened, and *now* they want to upgrade the station when the increases won’t happen until after the Evergreen Line is opened in 2016?

    Meanwhile the rest of the Expo Line stations could stand with some basic upgrades (like what I mentioned above) and most of them will have to wait. Instead of adding much needed entrances on some of the stations, Edmonds station is having it’s much used second entrance closed permanently.

    It seems someone is trying to trying to save a few pennies now but it’ll cost more to fix the mistakes later.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 18, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

    @ Sheba

    If I understand the Commercial-Broadway upgrade, the cost would have been the same no matter what. The upgrade will be mostly for moving Safeway, and building another platform where Safeway used to be. Trains are supposed to pull in, and then passengers exit towards the former Safeway site. Then the doors close, and then other doors open, and then passengers board the train.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_solution
    That page lists Commercial-Broadway as planned for it in anticipation for the Evergreen Line.

    We already use this concept with the SeaBus.

  • By Sheba, September 19, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    I have no issues with the concept Eugene (I clicked on your Wiki link) – what I have a problem with is the timing of it. For many years TransLink hasn’t done basic upgrades, and now they want to do another upgrade to the Commercial/Broadway station that isn’t needed asap. Meanwhile most of the other Expo Line stations really need work done on them and they’re being ignored.

  • By Scott, September 19, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    What this plan fails to address is the crazy overcrowding on several routes. All one has to do is read twitter daily to see how bad it is. I’ve seen people post that they have been passed up anywhere from 3-10 times on routes such as the 25,41,44,49,84,99,130,135,143 etc. Management at translink should be directly forwarding this to the transport minister and pressuring them for a long term funding solution (Increasing property taxes isn’t an option). It isn’t fair that people get passed up that many times in a row because the demand for transit is there. Passups give no incentive for people to get out of their cars and take transit and reduce GHG emissions.

    That and the response to route/schedule suggestions is awful. I posted some suggestions for the 320/502 on the blog a month ago and sent it into CR last week and haven’t gotten any reply. These are the same suggestions that I have sent in many times before and they get brushed off.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 19, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    Hi everyone. I’m working on getting answers to your questions. Here’s some more follow up from Sheba’s comments:

    Sheba – “I skimmed through the report (90 pages is a tad too much to read through quickly) and I wonder who decided that the items that are going to happen are the most important ones. For instance…

    Seven Expo Line stations are being upgraded. That sounds good but Commercial/Broadway (again), Main and Metrotown are three of them, and it’s going to be really expensive to upgrade those stations. It’s probably possible to upgrade all the other stations on the list (Joyce, New West, Surrey Central, Scott Road) for less than the cost of doing any one of the first three stations listed. Drop one of the top three for a future budget and a lot of the Expo Line stations could have the mesh replaced with glass panels and maybe even extend the roof to cover the entire platform. Sometimes quantity has to win out over quality.”

    Here’s what our planning department had to say – The stations identified for upgrades include those with the most significant capacity or accessibility deficiencies. TransLink completed a comprehensive Expo Upgrade Strategy in 2010 to look at the long term requirements to meet growing demand on the original Expo Line and is prioritizing investments accordingly. Over time, as funding allows, we hope to pursue additional station and exchange upgrade projects.

    Sheba – “Meanwhile “station area upgrades – walk, bike and road connections” are not being upgraded while stations themselves are? Yes the road part would be expensive but the walking and biking part wouldn’t have to be.”

    And from our planning department – Walking, bike and road connections in station areas are important to providing access to the transit system. These improvements are always done in partnership with the local municipality. We had hoped to establish a program with funding to allow the local municipalities to do more, but our financial situation did not allow for establishment of the program. We’ll still work with municipalities to identify the most critical access improvements so they can be implemented as funding allows.

    Sheba – “Plus the Bicycle Capitol upgrades is being dropped yet again. The BC Parkway (the bike path that follows along a lot of the Expo Line) meetings were in 2008 and next to nothing has happened since then as that money hasn’t been there since then. The costs for that are a drop in the bucket compared to the other costs listed (for example more is spent on IT).”

    from our planning department – TransLink is working on designs to improve safety and accessibility on key areas of the BC Parkway. We expect to do construction on some of these projects next year, as funding permits.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 19, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    SS: Here’s a response to your following comment, “Interesting thing I’ve found that they cut 45,000 annual hours from SkyTrain and in page 77 of the plan it says it can save about 0.5 million from doing it. So does this mean that they only saved about $11 per hours by cutting them?”

    From our planning department – 45,000 hours of reduced Expo/Millennium service will save us $500k. The dollars saved per service hour is small because it represents savings in power and vehicle maintenance only. There is a limited ability to achieve labour savings and overhead costs through frequency changes on the automated SkyTrain system.

    I’ll add that TransLink staff have been looking very hard to find savings over the past few months. Decisions like reducing frequency aren’t made easily, but seen as necessary to save as much of the service we provide today for the future.

  • By T, September 19, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    The original plan to implement the 399/96 B-line was to cut back hours on the 321 and discontinue the 394 entirely. But, this was decided when everyone was under the impression that the B-line was going to white rock. Now that it will only be going to Newton exchange, will the 394 still be cut?

    Also, I’m not really sure if this question can be answered, but I’ve heard rumours(?) that the Hwy. 1 rapid bus routes will be serviced by highway coaches (Like the 351, 601). Will you be receiving new buses for this route, or will you be taking the Orions from other routes?

  • By Sheba, September 19, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

    Robert – I appreciate your passing on our comments and posting replies from the various TransLink departments. However when I read some of it the words ‘form answer’ pop into my mind.

    The most obvious one to me is about the BC Parkway. I was at those stakeholder meetings in 2008. The first one talked about what had already been done (the bit I remember was about removing bushes and replacing them with ground cover and regularly spaced trees – much better for public safety) and ideas on what to do next. Then we broke into groups and covered maps (in my case Burnaby) with notes about what needed to be changed.

    The second meeting was a follow up to the first one, and it included updated maps. Sure there was a bit of tweaking to be done, but the vast majority of the planning was already done. Being generous, the final design plans were ready in 2009.

    So reading “TransLink is working on designs to improve safety and accessibility on key areas of the BC Parkway” now when I know that work was finished years ago is beyond annoying, esp as at the second meeting I asked for a general timeline of when the work would be done (no one would answer anything more specific) and was told by a TransLink representative that it would be completed in less than 5 years. That means it should have been completed already – instead the only section I’ve seen that’s been worked on is Central Park (and that was only because new pipes had to be laid and the bike path is now above them).

    Also, how can they say work is going to be done on “accessibility deficiencies” at Expo Line stations when Edmonds Station is losing it’s side entrance? That’s the entrance that most people used to go from the inbound (into Vancouver) train to the bus loop and vice versa. It was busier than the ‘main’ entrance. Now people are forced to use the main entrance and tend to bunch up there, which didn’t happen before. How is that supposed to help?

    I can understand that it takes longer for things to happen when you have other parties (such as municipalities, not keggers) who TransLink has to work with. That doesn’t explain why it’s taken 10+ years for work to even begin.

    So I think you’ll understand when I say that really do appreciate what you and Jhen do, but the rest of TransLink…

  • By Gary, September 20, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    The 2013 Base Plan is flawed because there’s very little in it for anyone. For transit rich cities north of the Fraser River, no new service is needed on badly overcrowded routes like the U-Pass ones. At the same time, they have to suffer service CUTS on SkyTrain to save $ 500,000. For a budget of over $ 1 billion, that’s almost nothing. For transit starved cities south of the Fraser River, those cities get a truncated B-Line and a Highway 1 Rapid Bus that no one really wants. In the interim, buses pass people by on the Fraser Highway. Those north of the Fraser River don’t want to pay more property taxes as there will be ZERO benefit from the 2013 Base Plan. Those south of the Fraser River don’t want to pay more property taxes so that they can wait 1/2 an hour for a rapid bus at a Park & Ride lot. And it makes matters worse when the Board Chairperson says that “People will just have to be inconvenienced by these cuts.” That’s like saying the little people, i.e. transit riders, just plain don’t matter to TransLink and their board.

  • By Scott, September 20, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    T: There are excess Orions sitting at OTC (Oakridge Transit Centre) that will probably be used.

    Another note about the Skytrain cuts. For this tiny amount of savings, this is probably going to make connections to buses even worse. Especially for those of us in Surrey who have 30min or hourly connections at night. The connections at night are already very poor due to bad scheduling.

  • By Sheba, September 20, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

    “SkyTrain service will run less frequently on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the Expo and Millennium Lines.” So it’s not as bad as it could be.

  • By T, September 21, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    Scott: Wow. I knew there were lots of Orions at RTC, but I had no idea they had even more at OTC/VTC.

    If anyone from translink is reading this. please invest more in suburban coach buses. They’re possibly the most comfortable buses out there, and they make transit so much more bearable :-)

  • By Greg, September 23, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    A few other significant points that were neglected include the renewal of all UPass contracts in Sept 2013 and Coast Mtn. bus drivers/maintenance workers labour contracts. Both of these will greatly affect revenue and expenditures in 2013. For example, with about 80 000 UPass students, even a $5 increase in the UPass per month will bring in over $3 million a year (80000*5*8 months). However, a 1% increase in wages will take all that revenue away.

Other Links to this Post

  1. TransLink briefing « Stephen Rees's blog — September 17, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  2. TransLink’s faregates and details on the upcoming Compass pass | CityHallWatch: Tools for engagement in Vancouver city decisions, creating our future. — September 18, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  3. TransLink’s faregates and details on the upcoming Compass pass | MetroVanWatch — September 18, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  4. Today’s Transit, Tomorrow’s Pipeline: Connecting the dots between the headlines — September 18, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  5. The Buzzer blog » Q&A with Geoff Cross, Senior Manager of Policy, TransLink Strategic Planning & Policy — September 19, 2012 @ 11:00 am

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