Buses in Vancouver should make fewer stops

“лучше на ракете, но больше всех на свете после Бабы Веры я автобусы люблю”

My list of minor local political grievances just grew from leaf-blowers and helmet laws!

Except for the 99, which is perfect, the vast majority of the buses in greater Vancouver have two main problems: they’re too slow, and they don’t come often enough. One reason for buses being slow that is incurable without a lot of money is that buses are often stuck in traffic. One curable reason is that on most buses (the 99 blissfully excepted) you have exceptionally slow pay-as-you-enter. Happily, Translink appears to be phasing in a new, faster system. But I think an underappreciated third reason for the buses slowness is that they stop too damn much. For example, the closest bus stop to my house, and the next stop on the bus line which it is serviced by are 190 metres apart. That is too close. Because of such short distances between stops, buses waste a lot of time stopping, starting, opening and closing doors, and rarely if ever go at traffic speed. As a result, they are slow and people don’t like them. And if they don’t like them, they ride them less, meaning less money for transit. Making less frequent stops would allow buses to save a lot of time at no extra infrastructure cost. In fact, it would also help reduce infrastructure cost, and free up driver time (a little bit) – which can then be put back in to increase service. Faster buses, more money for transit, it’s a win-win.

Now I understand that I am able-bodied and can walk relatively long distances, for one thing, and enjoy walking for another, so my desire for sparser bus-stops may not be universal. But by no means are these stops standardized to help the less mobile or anything like that. For example, it so happens that to go to work I relatively often take bus #135. The two stops nearest to my house are separated from one another by over 2 km (Main-Commercial). However, in other places, the distance is under 200 metres (Kootenay-Boundary, Ingleton-Macdonald-Gilmore, etc.).  It’s not a good idea – especially since I’m pretty sure the first interval is more dense than either of the subsequent ones. For my part, I think a distance of about 400-500 metres (5 mins walk) is reasonable between consecutive stops for local buses, 1-2 km for express buses, more for buses which use the highways. But the specific number isn’t necessarily well thought through. I think that should probably be found out by surveying passenger preferences. All I know is that the current system is suboptimal.

My sense is that this isn’t a Vancouver-specific problem, either. I would have the same complaint about at least some transit lines in San Francisco, Seattle, Paris and Amsterdam, for example.

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