When you’re waiting for a bus, time slows down.  People perceive, (according to some study) that it takes 1.35 times longer for the bus to arrive than it actually does – or something on that order. 
It can be stressful.  Let’s say you have a choice: wait for a bus or walk to your destination.  The bus will be faster (or dryer), but only if it arrives in the next few minutes.  So you have to do a risk assessment: wait or walk. 
If you walk, you know what will likely happen: the bus will show up, but you’re probably between stops so you miss it.  If you wait,  well, time slows down so it seems like it would have been faster to walk.  And that’s why you’re pissed off, no matter what you do, and another reason why people prefer to drive.
What you needed to know was simple but unavailable: how long until  the next bus shows up.
Now, at last, a solution – at least for those with cell phones:

Here is how it works:

1. locate the 5 digit unique bus stop number, in yellow, in the upper right hand corner of all bus stops (or look on the TransLink website)
2. text the five digit bus stop number to 33333 from your cell phone
3. receive the times and route numbers for the next six buses at that stop

If you just want times for a particular route, text the 5 digit stop number followed by the route number with a space in-between and you will be sent the next six times that route will stop at that location.

Even better would be a GIS system and a readout at the bus stop itself – real time info at a glance.  You can go to the TransLink website to try to find the number of your closest stop here – but it didn’t work for me.  Not even “Georgia and Gilford Streets.”  And Google Transit doesn’t have the stop numbers on its site.
That’s the transit challenge in this world of instant information: everything has to work all the time for every individual’s needs.  And because the single-occupant vehicle seems to do so, it’s generally the first choice. 
But transit is catching up.


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November 26, 2007

Peter Berkeley, the bike guy from Brisbane, is in a good mood these days.  Here’s why:

“Kevin Rudd (the newly elected PM of Oz) is my local federal member, and Shayne Sutton (in red) who is my local city councillor and switched on to the value of cycling, worked for Kevin years ago and is good friends.
“The photo is from Ride to Work in 2006. “

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November 10, 2007

With each action, the Falcon style becomes clearer:
He travels and sees something exciting (highways in Shanghai, turnstyles in London.)
Back home, a quick announcement and a done deal.

From the Sun: “Malcolm Brodie (chair of TransLink) said he met with Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon a few weeks ago about the plans for the system but did not know the full details of the plan or when an official announcement would be made. He said he understood Falcon had devised his plan for the rapid transit system after visiting the London Underground.”

The politics is populist; facts are secondary to perception.  If the public thinks there’s a problem, that’s all that counts. 
Jurisdiction is irrelvant.  It doesn’t matter what municipal politicians say or think – so long as they don’t get in the way.
Someone has to pay, but the cash flow will go to the private sector.  Tolls will pay for bridges; fares will pay for the turnstyle operators.
The problem: priorities are distorted and opportunities are lost.  If the tolls on the Port Mann go only for road infrastructure, a source of revenue for transit is lost.  If fares have to be increased to pay for the turnstyle operations (including the personnel) or if the money could otherwise go to expanding service, transit riders lose.
And as jurisdiction shifts from a regionally rooted board to the office of the minister, transportation planning for the long term becomes secondary to populist whims.
Some are catching on.  The latest sign is “Keep Translink Public” – a group raising the flag on Bill 43, the act to reorganize TransLink. 
Take a look.

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Info VP at TransLink, Bob Padden, has some follow-up to the Google presentation:

… the partnership with Google is just the beginning of an extensive push to ensure that TransLink has an engaging and effective web presence. 
Over the last year I have been leading a corporate-wide initiative called “E-Revolution” that has generated a comprehensive strategy that will see us rolling out online fare purchases, a system that will provide next scheduled bus, initially, and real time bus arrival as soon as the GPS and new bus communications system is installed (branded as MyBus), actual congestion information that estimates wait-time and finally, personalized travel alerts that will let you know if West Coast Express is delayed or there is a problem with your bus connections. 
In addition to the customer information, we will be engaging stakeholders and the public in on-line dialogue for policy development and project consultations (“TransLink Listens” now has over 5,000 subscribers across the region and its representation mirrors the accuracy of telephone surveys). 
Hey, we may soon be relevant in the cyberworld that is the 21st century.   

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It was one of those days.  TransLink launched their new trip-finder service with Google – the first city in Canada to do so – on the day the media had some raw meat to feed on: bus driver assaulted by teenage girls; bus burned.  TransLink execs paid big bucks for car use. 
And so a very cool new service gets lost in the buzz.  Cynicism increases.  
But let’s go back and check out what Google Transit can do.  I’ll use the demonstration the nice young man from Google showed us.
Let’s say you’re from out of town and have heard about the “Giant Crab of Doom.”  Forget Stanley Park; you want to see the giant crab.   How do you get there when all you know is that somewhere in the city, there’s a large, ominous crab?
You go to Google Maps – here.  And you type in “Giant Crab of Doom.”  Really.  Go ahead, try it out.
Because Google Maps is now integrating home-made ‘community maps,’ you’ve come across Danielle’s personal list of “Great Fountains of the World” as the first entry.  And to the right: a map specifying the location of our very own doom-like crab.  But still, how do you get there?
In the box on the map to the right, after “Get Directions,” click on “To Here.”
Now type in your own address in the blank box, assuming you’re in Vancouver, or, if not, try “SFU Harbour Centre.”  Click “Go.”
Google Maps will have given you default directions to go by car to the Vancouver Museum.
But now the good part: On the upper left, under “Search Results,” second line down, you’ll see after “Drive There,” the option to “Take Public Transit.”
Which, of course, you will click so you can get this:

Now you have walking directions to the nearest transit stop that will get you to the closest place from which to walk to said crab.  Of course, there’s the name of the bus, the route, the schedule, and the option to get all the details for the reverse trip.  You get the travel time – 20 minutes in my case.
Up near the top of the box on the left, there’s “Options” to choose other dates and times, as well as alternate routes.
You can zoom in on the map to get a closer look, and change to “Satellite” or “Hybrid”  to see details of the urban fabric. 
It doesn’t tell you how much the trip costs – but there is a link to “TransLink” at the bottom.
Altogether, a very cool way to get to meet your crab of doom.

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I spent all day yesterday at a Stakeholder Transportation Forum – part of the public consultation process for Transport 2040, to help shape TransLink’s 30-year strategy.
And lest your  eyes glaze over and your brain turn numb when contemplating such a wonk-fest, be assured, this was one of the best such processes I’ve attended – certainly the best use of the Wosk Centre I’ve ever seen – where the feedback was immediately transcribed, refined by a ‘theme team,’ projected for all to see and vote on, and the senior staff of the agency were all present to listen.
Of course it was also a bit of a farce.  It doesn’t much matter what we think: the real 30-year plan will be devised in Victoria, by people we have never heard of, who never attend sessions like this, who are accountable to basically one man – the Minister of Transportation.
Under the proposed restructuring of TransLink, the provincial government establishes the 30-year vision for integrated transportation from Pemberton to Hope; it sets “clear goals to guide TransLink and other transportation agencies in preparing their respective plans.”
Regardless of what the citizens of the Lower Mainland may prefer, TransLink’s strategy and plans must be consistent with the provincial government’s.  If Victoria determines that the Lower Mainland is to become the loading dock of North America, then the priority will be the roads and bridges and rail lines needed to achieve that, and that’s where the money will go.
In any event, much of the discussion that filled the Wosk Centre simply isn’t relevant to the Ministry of Transportation.  It’s policy branch, for instance, is described as “responsible for planning the future of the highway system and for implementing large scale capital projects.”  No menton of land use, transit, climate change, sustainability, blah, blah.  These boys build roads.
I keep waiting to hear when stakeholder consultation will occur with the Ministry of Transportation – really, the only people who count, since they will be the ones shaping our future.  I understand they meet with the Gateway Council, with those whose vision is consistent with the Minister’s, but what about all those who spent a day at the Wosk Centre? 
Perhaps the policy-makers in Victoria will get a PowerPoint presentation and a pdf file.
   

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October 23, 2007

 The Times of London got their hands on the proposed transport plan for the 2012 Olympics:

Olympics chiefs set to ban all car travel
The team organising the London Olympics in 2012 is adopting the most aggressive anticar policy ever applied to a major event in an attempt to deliver a permanent shift in people’s travel habits. The eight million spectators will be banned from travelling by car and forced to take public transport, walk or cycle….
All spectators travelling to an event in London will receive a free all-zones travelcard. Those from outside London will be able to buy discounted, flat-rate rail tickets from any station to the capital.
In an interview with The Times, Hugh Sumner, the ODA transport director, said: “We have a very aggressive programme to make it the greenest games in modern times. We want to leave both a hard legacy in terms of infrastructure and a living legacy in the way people think about transport and about how they travel to sports and cultural events.”

Vancouver’s legacy (in addition to the Canada Line) is just the opposite: a major commitment to highway construction to ensure that you will be able to drive – at least to and through the region.
Downtown, however?  I can’t imagine that anyone will be able to use Expo Boulevard since it actually runs under B.C. Place.  And rumour has it that Robson Street will be closed off to vehicles from the stadium to Denman Street. 
But what happens afterwards?  Do we just return the streets to the cars, pretending that nothing has or will change to our happy-motoring nirvana? 
In truth, things are changing already.  The number of vehicles coming to the downtown peninsula continues to decline:

What this chart shows is that the number of vehicles entering the central business district has declined by 7 percent over the last ten years, even as the number of trips by all modes has increased by 22 percent.
That’s so counter-intuitive, given the growth on the peninsula, that people don’t really appreciate the change.  It’s also the reason why we’ve been able to remove so much lane space for the construction of new buildings and the Canada Line on Granville and Davie without gridlock catastrophe.
The downward slope in that chart is likely to continue, particularly given the change from cars to transit that will occur with the opening of the Canada Line. 
Just as Expo introduced Vancouver to the pleasures of urbanity when properly done, so will the Olympics offer another opportunity to change the use of our public spaces after the games are over.  It’s another way we can take advantage of the investment in both the celebration and the investment. In fact, if Council doesn’t plan now to reallocate road space in the post-Olympic period, it will lose a critical moment of opportunity – and the real benefit that comes with our billion-dollar subway.
Even better, it won’t be embarrassed when London shows how it should have been done.

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Business interests dominate new TransLink panel
By Jeff Nagel
Black Press
Aug 22 2007
The province has taken its first step toward installing a professional unelected board of directors to run a radically reformed TransLink. A screening panel of five people that critics say is too heavily weighted in favour of business interests has now been chosen to nominate prospective TransLink directors.
The panel consists of:
•Graham Clarke, chosen by the province. He is chair of the Vancouver International Airport Authority, governor of the Vancouver Board of Trade and owner of the Clarke Group of Companies.
•Former NDP premier Mike Harcourt, nominated by TransLink directors and Metro Vancouver mayors.
•Hugh Lindsay, chosen by the BC Institute of Chartered Accountants, is president of FMG Financial Mentors Group Inc.
•Dave Park, nominated by the Vancouver Board of Trade and that organization’s chief economist.
•Bob Wilds, nominated by the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. He is the council’s managing director and is on the board of the Business Council of B.C. and a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade.
The five panelists are to propose 15 qualified candidates, from which a group of area mayors will select nine directors who will form the new TransLink board in January.
The panel is expected to begin its work soon on orders of transportation minister Kevin Falcon even though the legislation to overhaul TransLink introduced in the spring has not yet become law.

Note, these are not the people on the new board; they will choose those who will be, after being vetted by the region’s Mayors.  
The easiest question to ask of them is, of course: do you use transit.  But that’s a cheap shot. 
No, the critical question is this: name the place you’d like us to be more like.  Tell us about your vision for Vancouver and the Fraser Valley – and how you anticipate the investment we make in transportation will help achieve this vision.
Since we’re turning over city building in this paradise (to paraphrase the title of Mike Harcourt’s new book) to the Board of Trade, we need to know what their version of paradise is like.  So we won’t be surprised.

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Planning Director Brent Toderian thinks Vancouver’s designers should take this New York challenge to heart.
It’s in this issue of Metropolis.

We’re poised to build the sustainable twenty-first century—as Mayor Mike envisions in his 127 proposed projects, many of them impacting the design community: the creation of parks, retrofitting buildings, making schools community-friendly, new transit, and more housing. …
Will the design community respond to the challenge of building the twenty-first-century city? Will they rally around the mayor’s plan? Will other leaders be able to see beyond their own egos?

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