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Translink Buzzer Blog

Q&A with Geoff Cross, Senior Manager of Policy, TransLink Strategic Planning & Policy

As part of the release of the draft 2013 Base Plan, Jhen and I produced some videos that attempt to answer the bigger questions about transit in this region.

This first installment in this series asks what part TransLink has played in the region over the past decade. Geoff Cross, Senior Manager of Policy with TransLink’s Strategic Planning & Policy division, mentions some significant figures when he speaks about transit and Metro Vancouver.

This infographic and plan on a page is another way to look at what Geoff is referring to.

Draft 2013 Base Plan infographic about the region

These videos are meant to provide a quick overview of themes within the draft 2013 Base Plan. Our hope is that these videos will compel riders and the public in general to read through the document and form their own opinions about our plan and transit in region moving forward.

The conversation on the draft 2013 Base Plan started on Monday, and it’s been a lively and informative discussion so far. Let’s keep it going, everyone! Update: The draft 2013 Base Plan questionnaire is now available to be filled out. Make sure you do so between now and October 12.


  • By Sheba, September 20, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

    Hmm I notice there’s nothing about the accident that happened by Main Street Station on Wednesday. An article on transit and accidents (and what to do to avoid them) would be an interesting read.

  • By Robert Willis - Buzzer Editor, September 21, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    Sheba: I believe the accident is still under investigation and we’re waiting to get the report from the police.

    Your idea about safety around transit is an interesting one. I’ll take a further look into it.

    Thanks for the idea! We’re always looking for new ones.

    Oh, and while I have your attention, any thoughts about the video?

  • By John, September 21, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

    Hey Robert W.,

    I may not be your typical rider, as I rarely use transit … anymore. I use to though.
    Anyway, I have noted some of the issue that have kept me from using transit, and I was wondering if Translink has addressed or will address these issues:

    Back in the summer of 2001, Vancouver had a transit strike, and the air in Vancouver had never been better!! It made me hope for more transit strikes.
    Now considering everyone was having to drive their cars now, it seemed surprising to me. But according to some air pollution chemists I knew at the time, it was because the Vancouver busses mostly used diesel fuel and the exhaust of this fuel is worse the gasoline exhaust. This may not be correct any more (, but never the less it was so amazing to me that a Transit strike would improve the Vancouver air quality so dramatically. This suggests that we really need our transit system to use the cleanest fuels out there.
    Q: So, what fuels to most of the Transit Buses use now? Is it different (better) then the fuels used back in 2001?

    Goodwill is a major force in encouraging people to use a product or service. That said, I have experienced a few bad transit rides in the early 2000s due to Transit Cops, even though I did not do anything wrong. And this has left me lacking in goodwill towards Translink.
    Things like being forced off the skytrain while I looked for my transit ticket among the many pockets of my Taiga jacket. They could have just let the train go, and traveled with me for 1 stop while I found the darn thing. And then to top it all off, they didn’t apologize after I found it for them. Still angers me a bit.
    Q: So what would be the policy now, for the situation I described? And is this kind of attitude still acceptable for the Translink Cops?

    Basically, during peak times many of the buses / skytrains are *over* crowded! This should not happen if you want to encourage *new* users to use transit. After all, most people have to travel at the same times, morning rush and afternoon rush, and the *new* user will typically have to travel at that time as well. Making them miss a bus/train just reduces their goodwill towards the system. Having them pressed up together like cattle does the same. This all gets worse in the winter with the wet and umbrellas. This is one of the main reasons I avoid using the Transit system; I hate feeling like cattle.
    Q: So will Translink do anything to address this issue, since with current state of things this is still an issue?

    Another main reason I don’t use transit is because I get sick more often when I use transit (especially in the winter) then if I just use my car (or even bicycle). I have experimented with this over the years, and how much better using my car was is striking.
    Now this issue is directly related to the density of people stuffed in the buses/trains. Any health professional can corroborate this. More people, more exposure, more chance to ‘catch something’. And every day I am sick costs me money in lost wages, which can’t be made up by the savings of not using my car in favour of transit. Not only that, it costs the companies that we work for money. And beside, being sick sucks.
    Q: So my question to you is, will this health issue be addressed. Translink could reduce the max density of people on any one bus/train (my preference, since it addresses (3) as well)? Or perhaps some air filtering or better materials used on poles and seats could be implemented?

    Okay this is more a complaint about wasting my tax money with what I presume is a mistake in foresight, but still makes me less inclined to support the transit system.

    a) The Cambie & Broadway (Canada Line) SkyTrain station is too short to accommodate a longer Canada Line train. This is fact. I assume the other Canada Line stations are the same. This just frustrates me, as it flies against common sense and being able to fix the crowding issue (3). And the crowding issue on this line will just get worse when more people start using this line, which I am sure Translink would like to see.
    Q: So, what can or will Translink do about the too short skytrain stations and crowding?

    b) And then there is the new Fair Gates.
    Take a look at this picture and notice its a handy-cap gate (wider then normal) and the size of the person going through the gate:

    The normal gates are *much* smaller (less wide) then the handy-cap gates. And this little guy going through is a kid.
    I don’t know about everyone else, but this just aggravates me. Why would Translink make the gates so narrow? Sure I know, more gates. But we aren’t cows, man! And some people, but not me yet, are not that narrow. Having more gates is no rational, in my mind, for making these gates so narrow. Its all about Goodwill! It should be anyway. You want more people to use your system? Then make it Comfortable and Personable and Healthy and Timely (another issue I won’t go into). If Translink did that, then it would get more riders… including myself.
    Q: So, can or will Tranlink change to the width of these Fair Gates to make the wider and more comfortable to use (make them all the width of the handy-cap gates!)?

    These are serious questions, to me anyway, so I hope for a serious response. But in any-case, thanks for reading.

  • By Sheba, September 22, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    Well I suppose it’s good that it’s a short video (I’m not going to load up something that’s 20+ minutes). But it isn’t telling us anything that we don’t already know about on the blog.

    I’m sure it would be good to show the general public – many of whom still seem to think that TransLink only deals with public transit.

  • By Cliff, September 22, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    I have to respectfully disagree with much of the video. So many of the improvements are focused only within the city of Vancouver or involve it directly. The reason that transit use is increasing is because people who chose to drive are punished through the use of extortion like gas taxes, civic planners waging a war on the automobile, and through costs associated with the monopolistic ICBC. My friend, a police officer, has to walk to work because not only is driving too expensive, but transit in his area is abhorrent. People are using public transit because they are forced to, not because they want to. Then to pat yourselves on the back because transit use has increased? That’s not the hallmark of a healthy transportation system; it’s the hallmark of an oppressive one.

    I must also ask one very important question. Why is the goal merely to keep commute times at the same level? That’s not a very lofty goal at all and says quite a lot about how the war on the automobile is hurting the region. Bicycle lanes continue to be underutilized and are virtually deserted in areas outside Vancouver or even downtown Vancouver. This speaks volumes about how the money Greater Vancouver throws at poorly planned infrastructure is squandered instead of spent wisely like in other cities. Vancouver is not a sandbox for city planners to Europeanize. It is a bustling metropolis with a growing population that needs concrete solutions, not the pipe dream of becoming the Amsterdam of North America. And by occupying themselves with these questionable projects, they often become inundated with everybody who wants their share of the pie. The best part is the facade that the city puts up when encountered with livability studies. It’s as if nothing east of Boundary Road exists when these studies come a-knockin’.

    The city I live in, Edmonton, currently is working to reduce commute times, not merely keep them the same. I am able to freely travel between where I live and where I work and play without pulling my hair at the all the traffic around me. In fact, many complaints here are because of bad traffic light timings, not congestion! Edmonton is embracing public transit and has several LRT lines under construction and in the planning stages. It doesn’t take 20 years to build a metro. I drive a vehicle here but if I need to go downtown, I won’t hesitate to use the free park and ride lots located along the LRT line. By the way, out here we’re expanding our lots to encourage more use, not making people pay to discourage them.

    I routinely travel between both cities. It is night and day between here and there. Vancouver is a beautiful city but hardly livable. I don’t think I’ll ever see rapid transit to Abottsford or even Langley in the next 20 years. In Edmonton, we’re going to have LRT from the Airport in Leduc all the way out to Fort Saskatchewan in that time. The people in charge really need to ask themselves why that is and why this juxtaposition is acceptable.


    @Sheba/Robert, While the report concerning the accident is yet to come out and with conflicting eyewitness statements that seem to disagree with one another, it is not too early to consider improvements to both Vancouver intersection design and Coast Mountain Bus Company Policy & Procedure when dealing with congested or complicated intersections such as this.

    Busy intersections in many major cities often require pedestrians to use an alternative method to cross the street. The closeness of the other intersections in the area, namely Quebec at Terminal and Station at Terminal presents both a problem and also a solution.

    A solution I’ve been thinking about is to simply cease all pedestrian traffic at this intersection. This would also permit buses to not have to wait behind right turning vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians and would also allow left turn movements to be made without the risk of pedestrians who chose to cross late or start early.

    North and south travelling pedestrians can cross at Quebec or Station Streets while east and west pedestrians can cross using the SkyTrain Station itself as a pedestrian overpass. The new faregates may present a setback to this issue, but it is one that can be fixed by construction of a new pedestrian overpass using a walkway mounted to the SkyTrain station and/or the installation of a pedestrian activated crossing just north of Terminal that could also be synchronized to the nearby intersection.

    In the future, such a structure mounted to the station could even be extended to cross over Quebec Street allowing the enormous amount of people visiting Science World to cross in safety after leaving the SkyTrain. The walkway(s) can also easily be connected to the lobby of the station, allowing both easy access to SkyTrain and accessibility for the disabled through use of the elevator.

    The intersection’s traffic woes are only going to get worse if the viaducts are taken down and the Malkin connector is not built. While these are city of Vancouver issues, the end result of this style of traffic planning is very clear.

  • By Chris M., September 23, 2012 @ 1:11 pm


    I have to respectfully disagree with what you disagree about. The market for transit will always be exponentially larger in the economic centre of the region- that’s just a geometric fact. Whether we choose to build quality mass transit to serve this market or whether we build in the suburbs (perhaps to Abbotsford as you suggest) is a value judgement, but it is a geometric fact that per dollar of investment, you will have higher farebox returns, and serve more people if you build in the core.

    The cost of driving is expensive, but who said it was supposed to be cheap? It costs real money to build roads and drill for oil. It costs real money to provide parking instead of housing. At the end of the day, transportation of any kind is a derived demand- all else constant, you should be trying to decrease transportation because it’s a non-value added cost.

    As I recall from your previous comments, your vision is for an extensive congestion free high capacity highway system that links the whole region and for driving to be cheap, but you seem to also want transit to reach the suburbs and be well utilized. History and research has shown that these two conditions cannot co-exist. A free economy works with rational decision making and price signals- and that means you must choose between cheap and plentiful driving or high transit ridership- or something in between. You cannot have the best of both.
    And cycling? The growth has been explosive throughout the region- somewhere along the lines of 200 percent in the past decade- even with the current spotty sparse network of bike lanes with potential for much higher growth as a full network is built on or parallel to every major street. Building a market for cycling takes time and it would be a terrible idea to abandon the project by impatience. The benefits (including non-transportation) of increased non-motorized transportation are too significant to ignore, especially given the dirt cheap capital and maintenance costs of building bike infrastructure.

    The region is aiming for European levels of transit service and mode share. I’m confident that this goal will never be realized if automobile roads are continually expanded to be abundant and free flowing and if driving is cheap.

    Luckily you don’t live here.

  • By Cliff, September 23, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

    Why advocate for one extreme when the other is just as bad? Use of vehicles is not going to decline while the population grows. Sure, it may slow down and maybe even decline over some short periods, but in the long term expecting that vehicle usage is going to decline while the region gets larger is simply delusional.

    I advocate for both a highway system and proper transit in the suburbs. Why not? As it stands we have neither. It’s been that way for years and seems it’s going to be that way for years to come. A sprawling highway system is not what I advocate for. This works in Edmonton, but wouldn’t work in Vancouver. It would be too expensive and a political nightmare. But bicycle lanes instead of grade separated expressways is the other end of this extreme. Bicycles are great, sure, but at what cost?

    The other issue is to stop thinking of transportation like a business. It’s not. It’s a taxpayer funded system that needs to be able to move people everywhere, not just Vancouver proper. You could probably run an another dozen routes in Vancouver and get better return than a handful in Coquitlam, but that’s not the goal of running a transportation system.

    I do live in Vancouver 3 months out of the year. My career demands it and while my managers and co-workers continue to protest this, every year we are given the keys to a rental vehicle and told to ‘enjoy’ ourselves in Vancouver. And every year it’s the same thing, transition through the five stages of grief as I enter the Lower Mainland and traffic gets worse and worse until I’m facepalming myself in downtown.

  • By Chris M., September 23, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    If we can achieve the goals set out in Transport 2040, what you think is “delusional” is actually going to become reality, but if we continue to try to out-build congestion, there is no way automobile usage will decline as you suggest it won’t.

    With both unpriced and uncongested highways, you will never have cost effective frequent transit. If cost effectiveness is not your concern, then perhaps it would be okay to pay double and achieve your vision. But in the end, the highways will get the most patronage, and we are certain to have lots of traffic, lots of parking and wide streets that are more dangerous and more difficult to cross.

    I see how we are different though. You seem to want transportation to fully be a taxpayer funded system, and you want a big system complete with many highways and rapid transit lines. I, on the other hand am a fiscal conservative. I want to grow the economy and save costs by encouraging efficient use of transportation infrastructure through traffic prioritizing measures and road pricing. In fact, I want driving to be kind of expensive… expensive enough that I benefit from making choices that actually benefit society and reduce the need for extra road space- carpooling, taking transit, travelling during non-peak hours or living in a smaller apartment closer to work, but not so expensive that I can’t use a car when I really need it.

    I find surprising though that you are so vehemently against investing in bike infrastructure. For the cost of one port mann bridge, you can build a useful bike network that parallels every major road- and you could probably get more than 10 percent of all trips to be on them while keeping motorized traffic unobstructed. They’re practically free to build if you consider the healthcare savings. I lived in Copenhagen for half a year, and even on the rainiest days, I preferred to bike because the infrastructure was there, and it was cheap and efficient. And the government liked it that way too- because serving cyclists was cheaper than providing additional transit capacity and certainly cheaper than providing extra road and highway lanes.

    Of course, all this doesn’t really matter, because this public consultation is really about how Translink should allocate its resources when funding for expansion is being starved. So it is really about fiscal responsibility and getting the region bang for the buck- which means exactly running transportation like a business. I think the 2013 base plan does that pretty well.

  • By Eugene Wong, September 23, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

    @ Cliff

    I agree with Chris M.: More transit in the core is the way to go. We have to accept the idea that reducing transit in Vancouver is punishing Surrey riders, because we go there. It would be bad to make it all the way to Metrotown, and then have to wait for a bad connection to Vanouver.

    If I understand the statistics correctly, last year, transit ridership grew and car use declined, even while the population grew.

  • By Alan, September 24, 2012 @ 8:20 am

    @Cliff “pipe dream of becoming the Amsterdam of North America” Based on the smell of Vancouver we’re already there, and thus the quoted text is a great pun. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

  • By Cliff, September 24, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

    You caught me, Alan. Have some internets!

    The issue is that bicycles are being touted as a replacement for vehicle trips when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, bicycle infrastructure is both cheap to construct and maintain, but it seems like it’s being done as an easy out for those in charge. After all, what sounds better? That “I increased the number of bicycle lanes by 50%” or “I added a lane to a highway entering the city”? Because of this, infrastructure is pushed forward at the expense of vehicles with disastrous consequences. Burrard Street is one victim of this style of planning. And look at Hornby! Many hardcore cyclists that use Hornby refuse to use the bicycle lanes for a slew of reasons, one of which is that they are too slow!

    Sure, bicycles will be great for trips within individual cities and trips over short distances, but bicycle lanes are simply not going to reduce the need for a proper road system that goes in and out of downtown and connects the suburbs effectively.

    So where does that leave us? Well, out in the suburbs we have neither transit nor proper highway (though Gateway is a major step forward in this regard). How can people here be expected to change modes when no proper alternative exists?

    Build the infrastructure. Toll it if that’s what’s going to be required to get the concrete on the ground, but for crying out loud, don’t leave it as is and toss us a handful of bicycle lanes and say you accomplished something.

    Bring Lougheed Highway up to freeway standard from Maple Ridge to Cape Horn. Build the Malkin connector and begin planning for an improved way to funnel that traffic to Highway 1. Use urban planning techniques like the green wave to promote speed limit compliance and reduce congestion. And do away with Vancouver’s inane policy of no additional lanes in and out of the city. Introduce counterflow up and down Granville Street for peak hours and streamline flow and improve safety by banning left turns onto residential side streets and introducing the San Francisco left turn as an alternative. Increase speed limits to be more in line with what is realistic and then enforce the heck out of them. That means introducing things like speed on green cameras in addition to the red light cameras already in place so that police can deal with crime and not have to hide in people’s front yards to catch people speeding. Introduce road tolling for peak hours. People will pay a premium to get downtown, but not if the infrastructure is lacking.

    And yes, I’m going to say this. Promote cycling by promoting their use for short trips and introducing better bicycle designated roads so that unsafe streets like Marine Drive, Granville, Main, and Knight, among others, can be made safer for all by banning cyclists from them. These roads are simply not designed to handle cyclists and are not much different then trying to ride a bicycle on the highway. When cycling is finally realized as a solution for short trips and not as a fix to every problem under the sun, then better and more focused infrastructure can be built for them. Reward cycling by tolling vehicles, then rewarding the same person by reducing what they paid when they ride a bicycle in their city with the same technology. Imagine if when people came back home and chose to use their bicycle to make a quick trip to the store knowing that a dollar would be knocked off what they paid to get into the city that day. That’s how you get the best of both worlds!

    Many of the things TransLink is doing is certainly good, but I wonder sometimes if they’re trying to take the easy way out and then pointing to pseudo successes in an effort to stay relevant.

  • By Sheba, September 24, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

    Now I’m going to have to disagree with you Cliff. With bike racks on the front of buses and being able to take bikes on the skytrain for most of the day, people are more likely to combine cycling and transit more than ever before.

    That’s just the more casual cyclists. One of my friends rides a bike as if it was a car – he routinely rides from his home in Vancouver to south Richmond (about 18k each way). He’s not the only person around who rides like that either. Before you ask, he avoids major streets as much as possible.

  • By Cliff, September 24, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

    So the consensus is that the suburbs don’t need anything whatsoever besides more and more bicycle lanes.

    Really? Really….?

    Cycling works well over short distances because how dense and flat Vancouver proper is. Expecting the average Joe to cycle up Mariner as part of his commute to Austin and Linton is absurd. That’s the kind of bike ride you go on once a week or so to work out with, not commute every day.

    Bicycles are not feasible over long distances or for trips between cities. And when you bring up the transportation system and say hey, people can put their bicycles on buses and SkyTrain. Great! Wait, where the heck are those two things out here anyway?

    So we’re back to square one. We have horrible transit in the suburbs that continues to be pecked away because service in Vancouver would yield better returns than in the suburbs. Then, the answer is to turn around and say well, use a bicycle!

    Come on, that’s ridiculous. We need solid transportation options. Not pedal bikes. Why should I ride a bicycle because TransLink chooses to cut service in the Tri-Cities yet again. I wasn’t too far off with my oppressive statement the more I think about it.

    If you think this is sustainable or acceptable, I challenge you to commute like I and so many Tri-City residents have had to and still do. Tell me the fastest way to get from Cape Horn at Mundy to United Boulevard at Fawcett. Tell me how with a bicycle.

    Now tell me how long it takes with a car. See why I’m ranting and raving now? And this is all without taking into consideration the frequencies of the routes.

    I want to use transit, but outside Vancouver it’s just not feasible. I learned this at a early age and despite being a transit affecionado, got my driver’s licence the day I turned 16 along with driver training to reduce my learner’s period to 3 months and never looked back.

    We need to realize that the suburbs have been starved for attention for all these years. The suburbs are not an area that planners can cherry pick for bus hours for Vancouver proper. It is an area with people that need effective public transit and/or a road system to move people. Not pedal bikes.

    Bicycles are not going to get me from Maple Ridge to Downtown Vancouver everyday. They’re not going to get me from Abbottsford to Langley Centre. They’re not going to get me from Surrey Central to Coquitlam Centre. Buses and highways do that.

    If planners want to keep using the suburbs as an all you can eat buffet for improving transit west of Boundary Road, it may be better if we had our own transit system run municipally or regionally, separate from Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Richmond.

  • By John, September 27, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    Umm, I left a multi-point post here on Sept 20th and now it is gone! It seemed to have been posted as I viewed it for a number of days. I had addressed it to Robert W.
    So did it get deleted, or was it never posted because Translink filtered it for some reason?

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » True or false: TransLink hasn’t cut any costs in the last three years — September 24, 2012 @ 8:01 am

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