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Riding the 531 to Willowbrook

The #531 sets off toward Willowbrook

This morning marked the launch of the new #531 White Rock/Willowbrook bus route, connecting Langley with White Rock. To mark the occasion and experience the trip themselves, three TransLink planners headed out for an early-morning ride along the full route, joining a few transit riders and commuters eager to try out the new route.

Bus bay 9 at White Rock Centre

Bus bay 9 at White Rock Centre

One of those transit riders called the new bus route “awesome” because it probably shaved off at least half an hour from his daily commute, which would normally have required a less direct route and multiple transfers. The route has generated a lot of interest among transit passengers – one of our Facebook followers told us today, “I’m truly grateful, and so is my mom about the new bus in White Rock to Willowbrook Mall.”

The new #531 route was identified by local communities as a key link in the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan. It connects two regional town centres (White Rock Centre and Willowbrook Mall) as well as growing residential areas and business and industrial parks.

The route operates every half hour in each direction, from early morning until mid-evening seven days a week. It serves the busy areas along 24th Avenue at 160th Street and goes by Campbell Heights Business Park, an industrial area in Surrey that’s set to become a popular commuting destination. The 531 even offers service along the busy 200th Street in Langley with several stops along the way from 32nd Avenue to Willowbrook Drive.

Total time from one end to the other? Just 44 minutes.

As for our planners, they enjoyed the ride, had a quick breakfast, hopped on the #502 and then switched over to the Expo Line at King George to head into the office. Richmond to White Rock to Langley to Burnaby all on transit—with only three transfers!

Author: Tina Robinson


  • By JKKT - Kyle, April 23, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

    Had to work today, or else I would have joined you geeks. Bet you had fun riding with those 3 translink planners! Was that ride to willowbrook, or to Langley?

    Finally, I can complete an express metro Vancouver bus loop: 160-701-595-531-351-Canada line. I can’t wait. I think that the C63 service should be cut back, with the 531 routed along 192-28th-200th to serve the missing bus link. An ideal situation would have the bus go straight on 24th to 200th.

    Also, on the other side, the C53 can be shortened to only serve Cranley, or serve as a connection to 152nd. Just putting some ideas out.

    I’m curious how the new bus schedule timetabele map for Surrey will look in june.

  • By Dain, April 24, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

    ^The 531 is not express. it makes every stop along the way. and it doesn’t go down 28th it goes down 32nd. And the c63 is only once an hour and serves a lot of places the 531 doesn’t go… so no it shouldn’t get cut back. Willowbrook is IN Langley btw, not a seperate place, it just doesn’t terminate at Langley centre, rather at Willowbrook mall.

    By the way, if anybody from the planning department is reading, the 531 is great, except for the huge gaps in stops between 53rd avenue and Willowbrook Drive. A southbound stop at 56th avenue, a northbound stop at fraser highway, north & southbound stops at either logan avenue or (ideally) Highway 10 and a southbound stop at 200th and Willowbrook drive would make the 531 MUCH more convenient (I’m aware that it’s the city’s decision as to where the bus stops are located, but it might be worth while to talk to the COL, seeing as there’s multiple transfer opportunities lost as a result of the lack of bus stops, unless one chooses to walk 3 surrey-length blocks).

  • By Tina Robinson - Buzzer Contributor, April 26, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    Dain: Thanks for the comments. I’ve forwarded them on to our planners – here and at CMBC – for consideration.

  • By Taylor, April 25, 2012 @ 6:59 am

    Just curious, but why was white rock centre chosen as the route’s west terminus? I might be part of the minority here, but why couldn’t the route end in Crescent Beach via White Rock Centre (16-148-24ave-128-crescent)? As of right now there aren’t any buses that serve 24th west of 152nd. But is there even any service demand in that area?

  • By Tina Robinson - Buzzer Contributor, April 26, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    Taylor: I asked one of our planners the reason and he said that routing the 531 to Crescent Beach via White Rock Centre doesn’t really work. One of the reasons is that Crescent Beach already has lots of service and we don’t want to duplicate what we already have in place. Another reason is that routing the bus down to White Rock Centre then back up to 24th Avenue makes the route circuitous and confusing. That said, the issue of transit service on 24th Avenue was raised in the South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan, but will likely mean the addition of another new route sometime in the future.

  • By Eugene Wong, April 27, 2012 @ 1:22 am

    Too bad we didn’t have any celebration or fanfare about it, like we did with the Canada Line.

    I can’t wait to try it, even though it’s quite a distance away.

  • By JKKT - Kyle, May 2, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    After riding the 531 today to WRock @ 3:47, I have some comments: Used D40fl NF buses, Very low ridership (3 peoople) until 24th at 160th. The bus is 8 minutes early at the business park at 192@26th, the bus is 11 minutes early at 24@160, 8 minutes early at WR. No wonder why people miss the bus all the time.

    oops, Typo, I meant Willowbrook or WhiteRock.

    Has Tranlink considered Flag stop on 32nd and 24th between 192 and 164th? With so many houses there, It might make sense for those houses to be served with transit. The 511 used to be flag stop on 240th.

  • By Tina Robinson - Buzzer Contributor, May 3, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    Hi Kyle: Glad you made it out for a ride on the 531! It is a new route so we’ll be monitoring ridership to adjust accordingly, though we don’t have any spare community shuttles right now. We may be able to convert to the smaller buses at a later date. We are monitoring the travel times for the bus and will be adjusting them in the future. When we introduce a new service on roads not used by current service, we can only estimate the travel time, and once we have comprehensive information on the actual time we are able to adjust. Travel times also vary by time of the day, day of week, direction, traffic incidents etc.

    The times on bus stops are estimates only and we usually advise people to arrive early to ensure they make their connections. Also, as I’m sure you are already aware, the beauty of our new mobile site is that people who have smartphones can look at real-time predictive times for their stop, and plan accordingly.

  • By Tyler, May 14, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    I would also agree with Kyle that additional stops are needed along 24th and 32nd as many people are missing out on a chance to ride the bus hopefully they can implemented in the future.

  • By Allan K, May 15, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    I forgot to mention that I was casually riding on the 531 as a “tourist” and did note the lack of stops in some areas. Of course, there is technically little point to put bus stops in the middle of farmland, but certain intersections with houses fronting them could deserve a stop at say the middle of the intersection, like what exists on the 100 via Trapp. At the same time Surrey should also help TransLink out and build some proper bus stops with pull-out bays and sidewalks, as I’m pretty sure some drivers may be annoyed at waiting.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, May 15, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    @ Allan K

    You are suggesting that buses pull out of traffic to let car and truck drivers go by? Really?

    I suggest that buses never do that ever again, in rush hour or non rush hour, and even when an elderly lady is taking 10 minutes to walk on.

    The bottom line is that transit riders get out of cars or don’t buy cars, which reduces traffic congestion, which saves drivers time. We resent being made to wait to get back into traffic.

    There has been a bit of a movement to create bus bulbs [or bulges?], which stick into traffic. The bulbs create a parking lane, and allow the bus to stop without pulling out of traffic, and let riders walk right up to the bus. Since these bus bulbs are good, we should avoid doing anything to pull buses out of the traffic.

    My suggestion to drivers is to suck an egg. The governments are already build several roads and highways, while we quarrel over tiny crumbs [i.e. Surrey Rapid Transit, Evergreen Line, Broadway corridor, etc.]. It is disgusting! Drivers have some nerve. Perhaps they should suck 2 eggs.

    I really do hate to be rude to drivers, especially since driving a vehicle is important, but not waiting for transit is just beyond reasonable.

    @ Jhenifer and Robert

    Please note that I also resent bus drivers giving the right of way to truck and car drivers. As it is, we wait so much. I hate it when bus drivers deliberately let a car cut in front of the bus!! Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • By Meghan, June 12, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    the 531 is a step forward but they need to put in a stop somewhere between 168th and 192nd
    32 BLOCKS WITHOUT A SINGLE STOP. most people in this area have little to no access without a car to get to the bus stop, and a minimum 45 minute walk to the one at 168th and 24th is still not very good….
    Hopefully something can be done about that soon there are lots of people wanting to take the buses

    And to what Tina said, yes the bus times are an estimate, but that doesnt mean that buses should be showing up 10-15 minutes off a time. Commuters (students/elderly/people going to work) plan our transit according to those times and it is unfair that a bus that comes every half an hour that can be 15 minutes early or late. We depend on those times!

  • By Eugene Wong, June 14, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

    Hi all.

    It is interesting to see what I wrote in this thread. Just yesterday or the day before, I was moaning to myself because the bus driver allowed a truck to cut in during rush hour. I was angry. Fortunately, I didn’t stew on it.

    Regarding the #531, I finally got a chance to try it on Tuesday. It was quite a nice ride. For those of you looking for a fam trip, I highly recommend this route.

    I was coming home from Vancouver, so I connected to the #351 at Bridgeport Station, and then got off at 24 Ave in Surrey, because the routes didn’t leave enough time to connect at White Rock Centre. This means that I didn’t get a chance to ride it from the start, but I suspect that it isn’t a huge loss. The connection of the #351 White Rock Centre and #531 Willowbrook at 24 Ave left many minutes to spare, and was very stress free. Kudos to the planners and schedulers!

    But wait! That’s not all! It turns out that the terminus of the #531 connected cleanly with the C70 Cloverdale. It was also stress free and had many minutes to spare.

    It was interesting. When I got on the #531, a couple were already on there, and it turns out that the guy had a bike, which he put on the #C70’s bike rack. So, people really are using it to go places.

    Another interesting thing is was the “announcement” of the next stop. That display at the front of the bus said, “24 Avenue”. It made me scratch my head, because I did not know where on 24 Avenue the next stop was. I have a gut feeling that we can’t do anything about it, though, because of that long stretch, and because of the way that we label the next stop.

    I gave Meghan a thumbs up, because that stretch of road with no bus stops is not good. I was surprised that there were so much road without bus stops.

    It would be nice to see the marketing department bring advertising for the local businesses. Maybe they aren’t all that exciting, but if there was a brochure advertising the #531 and the businesses along that route, then maybe there could be a revenue source there. If Translink does not want to do that, then would Translink be willing to let us freely place brochures on the buses?

  • By Eugene Wong, June 14, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

    Here is another suggestion.

    Maybe allowing flag stops along that long stretch would be a very good opportunity to advertise the #531 and raise awareness of the right of way for buses. It’s relatively quiet there, so any misunderstandings will be kept to a minimum.

    Buses have the right of way, and people need to know that!

    As an example, an ad can say, “Drivers are required to give bus drivers the right of way. As an example, the #531 offers flag stops and drivers are required to wait or pass when it is safe. etc.”. The ad would have to be more tactful, but that’s the overall emphasis.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, June 19, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    Hi Meghan:

    I asked our Engineering department I found out that we’re
    We are working with the City of Surrey (the municipality that governs the stops) on adding more bus stops in that area. All new bus stops will require significant construction work to allow buses to pull out of the travel portion of the road. The average construction cost per stop will be around $25K. All new stops will be implemented as a part of the TRRIP program.

    The TRIPP program is a transit improvement cost sharing program TransLink has with municipalities.

    I also receive word from the City of Surrey’s Engineering Department who told me that they’re aware of the current services
    limitation. Furthermore:

    The implementation of the new 531 service is a huge step/change in this area with significantly more to be done. We will be improving the conditions of the existing stops later this year through the TRRIP program, with new stops added next year filling in these gaps between stops. The bottom line is both CMBC and the City of Surrey are limited by the financial resources available to the TRRIP program.

    I hope that adds a little more information.

  • By Allison, September 6, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    Are there any plans to extend any bus routes west of 152nd along 24th? We live near 24th and 160th and my daughter goes to school on 24th near 134th yet the bus route she has to take to get to school is close to an hour long with transfers. It seems pretty long and complicated just to get straight down 24th. This morning was her first trial on it, she was six minutes early to catch the but to White Rock centre but the bus had already come and gone early. I ended up having to drive her and be late for work.

  • By Tyler, September 6, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

    Have you tried the 855 Elgin Park Secondary Special bus? or possibly the 352 Ocean Park /Brigeport all though these routes are not perfect they may help to cut time and effort. Additional routes and stops are needed along 24th that is for sure.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 6, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    @ Allison & Tyler

    I do *not* recommend the #352, since it doesn’t seem to touch 152 St & 24 Ave. It doesn’t go into White Rock Exchange, either.

    Allison, I would suggest finding a carpool-like arrangement for her, if you could.

    Tyler, she probably got the daughter to take the #351, since that has a pretty close connection time.

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