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TransLink 101: What is an express and pick-up/drop-off only bus?

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We’re going back to basics again with TransLink 101—explaining TransLink and its operations!

One of our buses carrying an 'express' designation

One of our buses carrying an ‘express’ designation

Express and pick-up and drop-off only are both stopping procedures for our bus routes.

“Express for the most part in the Lower Mainland really means limited stop. There are large gaps between the bus stops, such as on the three B-Line routes,” explains Katherine McCune, Manager of Service Planning at Coast Mountain Bus Company.

“These buses stop at major transfer points for customers, but do not stop at every stop located on the corridor. They offer a travel advantage over local service.”

Bus routes, such as the 160 and 503, are pick-up and drop-off only provide directional express-type service.

“Both these routes offer local stops along a portion of the route to collect customers and then at a point they become express and only drop off at major transfer points,” Katherine says.

“The reverse trip only picks up on the return trip. This ensures that customers to a particular area will have space on the bus to get there. Customers in the area the bus is travelling through are then encouraged to use the local services already available so they do not fill the bus and exclude those customers that are destined for the terminus.”

Katherine continues, “For example, someone wanting to go from Surrey Central to Clayton Heights has several travel options to get between the two locations. A customer from Aldergrove to Surrey Central does not have the same options and has only the one bus to rely on.”

What does it mean when I see an ‘Express’ designation on a route such as the 135 or 49?

“The buses are programmed to show 135 SFU / Burrard Station, but some operators like to add the express to make sure customers are aware that it is slightly different from a regular route,” Katherine says.

The 135 is different because it serves local stops between Simon Fraser University and Renfrew Street in Vancouver, but beyond that, it becomes a limited stop service all the way to Burrard Station.

On the 49, select trips are an ‘Express’ because they do not serve the Champlain area on 54th Avenue. These are extra trips put in to allow us to better serve and meet the demand of Langara College and the University of British Columbia during the school year.

Still have questions about why your bus says ‘Express’ on it? Ask our awesome drivers!

Author: Allen Tung


  • By Ric, November 4, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    I often see the 430, 620, 480, 403 and 301 routes say epress on the destination signs while at other times they do not. Any reason for that?

  • By Joe, November 5, 2014 @ 12:02 am

    Well the 430 is technically an Express, it’s limited stop the entire route.

    620 has 12 stops on the entire route, seems like an Express also. Same with 301, 15 stops. Seems like all 3 should display Express at all times.

  • By Kyle Z., November 5, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

    There are actually 2 routes for the 620. The express doesn’t stop at Ladner exchange (or any stop between bridgeport and tsawwassen), and the non-express is local service for the entire route.
    The express only runs during peak times, (eg long weekends)

  • By Allen Tung, November 5, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

    Hi Ric. I’d imagine it’s a similar situation as the 135 where drivers put up the ‘Express’ designation to denote to passengers that their route is a little different. The routes you listed are all limited stop services. When in doubt, ask our drivers! :)

  • By Ric, November 5, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

    Dont see how the 403 is an express route and yet sometimes I see the 403 say express on the sign still.

  • By Kevin W, November 5, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

    May it be because the bus was running on the 480 before and the driver forgot to remove that line from the program? Just guessing.

  • By Juan, November 5, 2014 @ 11:29 pm

    I have seen instances where drivers just place the express PR as an escape route out of being late. Saw it on a 320 Langley center running 30 minutes late. This saw 2 langley center 320s running down 152 street with the one in front with an express PR.

  • By David M, November 7, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

    SO why allow the operator to add “express” – shouldn’t the signage on the bus be consistent regardless of the operator. I agree that indicating “express” is a good idea but it should be applied consistently, not just at the whim of the operator.

  • By Allen Tung, November 10, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

    Hi David M. CMBC tells me operators have the ability to add ‘Express’ and other blinds like “Amber Alert,” “Sorry Bus Full,” and “Training Vehicle” for emergency purposes such as if they need the bus to do a bus bridge etc. so it can’t be removed. In some cases, the operator might have just entered the wrong code – entering the code for ‘Express’ instead of the one for bus full.

  • By Jon, November 7, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

    Why don’t the 210, 211, or 214 display that they are drop off only on the way to Burrard Station and pick up only on the way from Burrard Station to Phibbs? It causes a lot of confusion among passengers.

  • By Allen Tung, November 10, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

    Hi Jon. Here’s the answer from CMBC:

    The 210 etc. have the standard suburban pickup drop off procedures. It was the same for the 488, 491, 492 etc. in Richmond when they existed. Local pickup and then express and drop off only when they got into Vancouver. The 160 is the only route that states drop off only. This is because its stopping procedures on this route had changed several times with a period of pickup and drop off and then back to drop off only. It was exceedingly confusing so we had to put it on the blinds.

  • By riles, September 15, 2019 @ 4:58 pm

    What are the drop off points from downtown to north van on the 209 and 210? Thanks

  • By Ric, November 11, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

    I have noticed that the drivers use to be able to put special messages on the destination signs such as Go Canucks Go, Go Canada Go, etc. However, chatting with the drivers I have been told that they are no longer able to do that, as the codes have been removed. Any reason for that?

  • By Tim, February 15, 2017 @ 10:05 am

    Do the express busses make timing stops? Because it seems that the #44 is always at least 5 minutes ahead or behind schedule

  • By Adrienne Coling, February 17, 2017 @ 6:57 pm

    Hi Tim, most buses, including the express routes, have certain scheduled stops. That means the bus, even if early, will wait until that specific time to leave the indicated stop. If you look at the NextBus times for a stop, these types of stops are indicated with an asterisk (*). I just checked out the 44 and it does seem to have a few scheduled stops. For regular bus timings, however, we do recommend being at the pole of the stop with at least 5-7 minutes early because if it is not a schedule stop and no one is waiting or getting off, the bus will keep going. I like to use NextBus when I’m heading to my stop because of the GPS available letting me know exactly when the next bus (and the next and the next!) are heading my way. I hope this helps. Thanks!

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