TransLink’s CEO addressed the Real Estate Institute President’s luncheon this week with a general overview of regional transit.  And though much was familiar, there were still items worth noting.  Time for some bullet points.

Said Desmond: “This is the most exciting time to be involved in public transit in its history.”  I believe him, especially when you’re running the most successful transit agency in terms of ridership growth in North America.

How successful? Up 18 percent between 2016 and 2018, when almost every other system is flat or dropping.  And it’s not just because of SkyTrain expansion. It’s bus ridership that has led the growth in actual numbers, and it’s where the biggest growth is going to come in the next few years.

Big message to the real-estate industry: Don’t just think of development at the station areas; think transit corridors, especially the new Rapidbus lines.  (Why the change of name from B-Lines?  Because they were just big buses running more frequently with limited stops.  Rapidbus involves a redesign of everything from the stops, the signs, the lanes and the land use.)

Irony alert: many transit users can’t afford transit-oriented development. This is not just an issue in the burgeoning station areas like those along the Millennium Line or potentially along the Broadway corridor; it’s also an emerging problem along the new Rapidbus lines, where the housing may be too expensive for the target population the transit is meant to serve.

The desirability of high-density station areas was affirmed when Marine Gateway (along the Canada Line in Marpole) sold out in four hours.  That made the industry pay attention when the condo market seemed to be oversold.  (It shouldn’t have been that great a surprise: many of the purchasers would have been familiar with similar development in Hong Kong, Singapore or Shanghai – where metro transit and high-density housing are indivisible and desirable.)

The Capstan station in Richmond, paid for by the adjacent development, changes the political message about how we fund transit infrastructure.  More by the private sector, less by the public.

Expect Broadway subway service in 2025.  Construction starts next fall.

If the money is approved for the a Surrey SkyTrain extension, service to Langley could also start in 2025, which would otherwise be the starting date for service to Fleetwood, the destination without the extension.)

As public consultation on the Transport 2050 strategic plan continues (phase 1 here), remember the previous one: Transport 2021 in 1993.

Almost everything proposed and planned was achieved.  “We put it together and we stuck with it and we did it.”  (Despite the BC Liberals sabotage by referendum, which they have still not acknowledged or apologized for.)

The future: electric, connected and self-driving.  Autonomous cars may not be happening as soon as expected, but by the end of the next decade, 60 percent of the entire bus fleet could be zero emission.  That’s especially notable given that a lot of housing will be constructed along the Frequent Transit Network.

Desmond also emphasizes the mundane: maintaining assets in good repair, even as we try to understand and integrate the disruptive forces in transportation.


*Photo by thestar


  1. Any word on Broadway subway extension to UBC ie funding by Musqueams off Jericho Lands or UBC off their land ?

    Any word how to serve the new massive Squamish rental towers besides Burrard Bridge, say a new subway below Burrard bridge as it is actually designed for it already ?

    Good to hear we get those stinkin’ diesel buses off our clogged roads “soon”.

    Any word on priority signalling on Broadway or other frequent B-Lines / RapidBuses say 41st or Hastings to not have buses with up to 100 people in them stop for one pedestrian or 2 cars crossing on minor cross roads ?

    btw: Where have you ever seen a condo ad touting “close to a major bus route” ? [Spoiler alert: I have not. Have you .. anywhere ?] Maybe once buses are electric, quiet AND get priority signalling we may see that.

    1. You do know that Translink does not control any of those things? And what do you mean by “serve” the new Squamish towers? Do they need their own subway? I know they’ll be renters, but still…

      1. N ot much parking — the future renters will be transit dependent—– there is already a need for more skytrain capacity between broadway & downtown

  2. One potential way to expand the transit network — or would that be to ‘concentrate’ it — could be to create B-Line services to parallel the heaviest secondary arterial bus routes. I’m thinking specifically of bus routes that connect large destination nodes together, or that are routinely overcrowded on particular arterials

    The No. 25 is one such route that connects UBC to the Burnaby Hospital, BCIT and Brentwood town centre, with several major arterials and an additional SkyTrain station in between. I don’t have the stats but I suspect half or more of the riders at rush hours are travelling long-distance but have to endure milk-run scheduling on our typically horribly crowed buses. No 3, No. 19 Kingsway and quite a number of others could benefit from a parallel express service. Using articulated buses would be an option should express buses prove very popular, but perhaps maintaining the standard unarticulated vehicle profile but converting every second bus to express status on a tighter overall schedule with more buses may do the trick, at least until a dedicated express service is warranted.

    Reducing the milk-run service while increasing the express service could help balance or minimize any additional labour costs. Interspersing express fairly evenly between milk-runs will certainly address demand from both the longer-faster and shorter-slower passengers.

    There may be only one taxpayer, but there is certainly more than one kind of transit passenger.

    1. Or also look at thinning out the bus stops to something more like European spacing. Look at southbound Main from 12th to King Edward with stops at 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, King Edward. That’s six stops over 1270 m – 212 m apart on average. Or the 6 eastbound on Davie from Denman to Yaletown-Roundhouse station – 11 stops in 1.96 km for an average spacing of only 178 m! The impact of this would not be so great if a few could be skipped but on these busy routes that’s rarely the case. Compare say with RATP bus route 38, crossing Paris north-south from Porte d’Orléans to Porte de la Chapelle. 28 stops (excluding the origin) in 8.8 km, so an average spacing of 315 m – 50% greater than on our 3 Main example, and 75% greater than the #6 Davie. Working on stop spacing can speed everyone’s journey, all times of the day, maintain the legibility of the service, and help keep the zero-emission (at vehicle) electric trolleybuses moving. Of course limited-stop services have a place where journeys are long but on corridors with more linear demand (rather than focused at transfer points), addressing the local stop spacing might be more beneficial.

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