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Ask TransLink: transit planner Mary Riemer talks bus bunching, route numbers, inspirational cities, and more!

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From April 15 to May 10, you can Ask TransLink! We’re spotlighting one TransLink staff member every week and inviting you to ask them questions about their work. Find out all about the series.

Mary Riemer, transit planner!

Mary Riemer, transit planner!

We’re winding down on our week asking questions with Mary Riemer, transit planner extraordinaire—and here’s a recap of what she’s been up to in her Ask TransLink post!

Why do buses “bunch up” at bus stops?

Mary took on a question from Sheila about why buses sometimes arrive very close together at bus stops!

I am curious why, between Alma & Granville, the #9 and the #14 always come at the same time?
It would be much more helpful to have them spaced. It is very disappointing to miss them both when the traffic light is against me as I try to cross Broadway at Vine or Yew.

Hi Sheila. I can relate to how missing your bus can be frustrating! While the #9 and the #14 are scheduled at different times, they are subject to a multitude of external forces such as unpredictable traffic patterns, resulting in bus bunching! (arriving at the stop at the same time – I touch on this a bit more in my answer to Eric about the #20 ) In this case, it is largely due to the fact that they are both frequent services, serving a high demand corridor with destination anchors at either end and high turnover along the route. The good news is that these are characteristics of an effective and productive service, and we can work with our operating company to address any chronic bus bunching between the #9 and #14 to make them work even more efficiently together!

How do we choose route numbers?

SS asked about how we pick numbers for new routes. Here’s what Mary said.

I’m also wondering about how route numbers are determined for new routes.

This is an interesting question. Historically, streetcars in Vancouver were named for the corridor or street that they served. As they were replaced by trolley busses, they maintained these service numbers. Across the region, most services are numbered for the destinations that they serve. We also try not to reuse numbers for new routes that have been used in the past. As for community shuttle route naming, TransLink has recognized that the vehicle type is not necessarily tied to the level of service provided, and therefore are moving away from the #CX naming.

How are we dealing with population growth South of Fraser?

From our Facebook live chat, Haruo Chikamori asked about how we are dealing with the growing population in the South of Fraser area. Here’s what Mary had to say.

How is Translink going to deal with the influx of population growth on the South Side of the Fraser? It seems as though the transit situation there is regressing there rather than moving forward. Surrey is one of the fastest growing population centers in the Lower Mainland. The Transit Plan has not been finalized, the extension of the Skytrain into Langley has been planned, but not finalized. Buses are driving by full while people wait on the sidelines and buses have been cut.

Hi Haruo! We know that the South of Fraser is growing rapidly and we have been doing as much as possible to increase service. We recently issued the Surrey Rapid Studies, looking at different alternatives. You can check them out here.

Through our Service Optimization program we have been increasing service in the South of Fraser as much as possible given our funding situation. We recently introduced the #555 Port Mann Express and later this year we will be introducing the 96 B-Line on King George Boulevard! -mary

What transit systems can Vancouver learn from the most?

And also from Facebook, Brandon Yan asked a great question.

I think Vancouver has a fantastic transit system but do you have any city in the world where you look to them and go “yeah, they get transit”? Who could Vancouver learn from the most?

Hi Brandon… Metro Vancouver has some unique characteristics, some cities we can look to and learn from include Hong Kong, Portland, and San Fransisco. While there are cities with fantastic transit systems like London, it is hard to compare their system with ours because there are so many differences between their urban fabric and ours. – mary

Get your questions in by noon today!

If you’ve still got questions, Mary will be available to answer until noon today, Friday May 10, 2013! Submit your questions on her Ask TransLink page, and she’ll get the answers for you.


2 Comments

  • By Sheba, May 10, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

    I read one of the questions that came up on Facebook about the lack of air conditioning on buses, and I thought of the question about heating that Brian was asked (basically why does it get tropical on the bus in winter) and needing to run the heat to defog the windows.

    I was wondering if the heater on buses is similar to a forced air system. If so maybe they could be upgraded to cycle between heated and unheated air to keep the bus from getting too warm in winter, and the rest of the year only unheated air. Admittedly it wouldn’t be as good as air conditioning in summer, but it would still be better than the oven that buses become.

    Of course if the heating system isn’t forced air…

  • By ;-), May 20, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

    Global news made a comment on how people are able to Skype on Everest now….. how long must we wait for cellphone service in the Dunsmuir tunnel? It works great in the Canada Line tunnel, why not Dunsmuir after all these years?

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