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Hwy 1 Rapid Bus skips Surrey

Last week, the provincial government and TransLink proudly boasted about the impending arrival of the Hwy 1 Rapid Bus – now named route #555 – with service beginning December 1st. While it’s been long known that the route was slashed from a full service rapid bus to a commuter express service, nobody expected that the route would erase its planned connection in Guildford.

Yes, once again, Surrey gets the shaft. Not only was our promised King George B-Line pushed back to 2013, the praised return of transit to the Port Mann won’t even stop on our doorstep. Rather, the #555 will only have two stops, with the eastern terminus at the new Carvolth Park and Ride near 202 St in Langley, and the western terminus at Braid SkyTrain. This isn’t the route we were promised when the Port Mann project began.

Back then, the route was supposed to include a stop at East Guildford, near the site of the existing Park and Ride. The province specifically built HOV/Transit on and off ramps at the 156 St underpass to accommodate the service.

With the #555, TransLink is requesting Surrey residents from Fraser Heights or Guildford to catch a local bus, such as the 501, head in the opposite direction of their destination (east), and then backtrack on the “rapid bus”.

Here’s why this is a boneheaded decision.

1. Adding a stop is easy. The infrastructure is already built. Diverting off the Highway would add maybe one minute tops to the travel time. They already do this on commuter routes elsewhere, like the 351 in South Surrey/Richmond with stops at the South Surrey Park and Ride, Steveston Highway, and South Delta.

The riders from Guildford will either take existing routes to the Expo Line or the new #555 to the Millennium Line. Convenience is key.

2. You’re skipping half your riders. The only people who would take the #555 as it is planned are north Langley residents. Unless someone from Langley Centre or Brookswood is headed to Lougheed, it is easier and more convenient to take the existing connections on Fraser Highway to the Expo Line and beyond. Frankly, Braid/Lougheed is hardly a major connection for most people.

For east Surrey residents who live in Fraser Heights/Guildford, a local connection to the #555 would be the fastest route to SkyTrain. However, under the current backtracking scenario with reduced daytime frequencies, it’s still easier and more convenient to take a 10 minute ride to Surrey Central and transfer to SkyTrain there. Essentially, all the Surrey riders that might take the #555 under different circumstances will skip out on the route.

3. Langley can’t support the route on its own. When the Golden Ears Bridge opened, TransLink started an express bus route connecting Langley Centre to Maple Meadows over the bridge. It was touted as an alternative to paying the toll. Now, three years later, the #595 only carries an average of 13 people on each bus, only 36% of its capacity. In terms of annual boardings, the #595 ranks 112th out of 221 routes. Each rider costs $5.09 to service.

Let’s compare that to other routes. The popular #502 on Fraser Hwy carries an average of 37 passengers per bus. It ranks 26th for annual boardings among 221 routes. Each passengers costs $2.03. The #321 on King George carries an average of 30 passengers per bus. The route tanks 19th among 221 other buses, and each passenger costs $1.69. Even one of Surrey’s most circuitous routes, the #341, attracts an average load of 26 passengers. It ranks 45th among all routes, and costs $2.33 to service each passenger.

The point is that the #555 as planned won’t even service as many people as the #595, and that route is performing pretty poorly. A simple and easy connection at the 156 St underpass to the already built Guildford Park and Ride would be a cost effective and smart use of resources, ensuring that the infrastructure and bus service we’re all paying for is as useful to commuters as possible. TransLink’s decision to eliminate the connection at East Guildford is shortsighted and should be rethought.

Comments

  1. Tim

    Fully agree with you here. I thought a mini-transit exchange at 156 Street and Highway 1 would make the most sense in this case. Have the 96 B-Line extend past Guildford and turn up 156 Street to connect to the Port Mann Rapid Bus under Highway 1.

    • Simon

      Right!

  2. G.

    Within 6 months of launch you will see this stop added. That’s my bet.

  3. Actually what happens to this service within 6 months of launch will depend entirely on who wins the intervening provincial election. It seems likely to be the NDP. So do we expect them to immediately step in with some more funds for Translink? And if the 555 isn’t any more successful in attracting riders than the 595 surely they both get cut in order to provide buses and drivers for overloaded routes in – erm – other places.

  4. Going to and from the Park and Ride at 160th and 103rd may have necessitated a third coach and driver. If there are good connections right at 156, it is a no-brainer to stop the 555 there, but not if it has to go to the Park and Ride, which according to Google Maps could add 8-10 minutes to the trip.

  5. Jesse L Hausner

    As typical, Translink continues to think once you cross the Fraser River, it’s nothing but cows, corn, and farmland.

  6. Ralph

    But why would Translink put a bus out to Langley to serve “cows, corn and farmland”? Strange!

    Oh, I just realised they noticed all the housing development that’s going on South of #1 that’s being called Carvolth, named just like the Park en Ride. According to Wikipedia, more people live in Walnut Grove than White Rock…

    Braid is a good choice as a rider has a choice of direction (North Burnaby or thru New Westminster) on the Millennium. Plus the train will be emptier so seats will be available for pensioners and school kids.

    Don’t know what all this fuss is about. When did Skytrain arrive in Surrey? So Langley gets *one* commuter bus? Some sour grapes here, me thinks…

    • snowystar

      Not to mention that many regions actually *loose* transit service for the Surrey B-Line AND the Rapid Bus…

      And yes, the schedule for the Rapid Bus is very tight. When the Government Street off-ramp is completed and the service gets extended to Lougheed, the round-trip time would be about 52-54min. That means the driver gets only 6-8min for recovery/break/loading/unloading passengers at Carvolth. Even if its only 1min added to the trip, a third bus would be required, and it means a 50% increase in service.

  7. you forget to add the fact they will be charging people to go to the park and ride out there in Langley to ride this one bus.
    I’m willing to bet most people who would take this bus would be people who would drive out to it as the connections will probably be crap in Langley. So add a parking toll on top of a bus pass every day most people will likely decide its not worth giving up the comfort of there own car for a longer ride.

    No one translink has been killing itself. Its got 3 cities begging for transit and all they do is give them as little as possible and when ever possible hold it back a little more.

  8. Allan K

    I wouldn’t blame all on TransLink… I mean, it’s not them who actually spearheaded the Port Mann Highway 1 project or the Evergreen Line. Both of these are political decisions made by the provincial government’s Ministry of Transportation with only partial or no consideration from the former.

    For example, if the 555 were to use those HOV ramps, then what are they supposed to do? Stopping on the ramp will not help, as there are no major bus routes on 156th Street to begin with, apart from the local 337 service, which was never intended as a connection to Guildford Exchange. In addition, the province didn’t even think about placing bus stops on the ramps themselves: the renders clearly show that it’s one lane per direction only even at the intersection. So even if a bus stop were added, it’d just be blocking the HOV ramps and therefore reducing their usability.

    The only one thing the 555 bus can do if it came off the freeway at the HOV ramps would be to head to Guildford Exchange and return. That’s nice and all, but by doing so you’re basically adding like 10 minutes to the journey each way just to service that area, and by then you’d probably lose some if not all of the Langley customers for the longer than expected commute.

    Basically, all of these poor design decisions by the PMH1 project leaves no room for sharing the infrastructure and only one other option: a direct bus from Braid/Lougheed to either Guildford or Carvolth, but not both. Add to that the recent squabble over TransLink’s budget and future plans, and only one of these routes ended up surviving. Is the 555 or the Guildford-bound bus the correct one? Maybe or maybe not. But in any case you can’t blame TransLink for everything when it has to live with what the province hands down.

    • ^ Allan

      I was the first to take the missing RapidBus stop issue to the news and suggested that the RapidBus could stop at the far end of the HOV ramp/156 St intersection. There is a wide shoulder here which could have accommodated a permanent still be built with some concrete barriers, and the buses could proceed past the intersection during the green phase and stop at the other end of the intersection as if on a normal street. This would block the only lane onto the highway for a short period; however, because 156th St would have a red light, it should not be an issue. The route could connect to 337 (which would boost the productivity of another one of the lower-performing TransLink routes).

      The real missing link is the missing exchange at 104/156 which would have also allowed more direct connections with Fleetwood bus routes 326 and 335, a possible extension of 96 B-Line and other future 104th Ave rapid transit.

      @Paul thanks for the feature! It and the suggestions have been mirrored back on my site with a post.

  9. Excuse me.. paragraph above got screwed up.

    …which could have accommodated a permanent sidewalk/passenger waiting area. A temporary one could still be built with some concrete barriers….

  10. Andrew Browne

    It’s not fair to blame Translink. The province mandated a service (Hwy 1 rapid bus) and then failed to provide funding. I’m sure Translink would love to provide this service at an appropriate standard, but are unable to do so because they can’t conjure money out of thin air. And don’t start about “efficiencies,” because most of those were service cuts. :(

  11. Tim

    Time spent getting from Guildford to Port Coquitlam now by transit: 1.5 hrs, distance 12 km.

    Time spent after $5 billion of road and transit infrastructure to the vicinity is added: 1.5 hrs, distance 12 km

    • snowystar

      The new trip time will be MORE than 1.5 hours assuming your trip involves the 159. In order to fund new services like the Rapid Bus, they are merging the 159 and 177, which means all 159 trips will have an additional 10min detour added.

  12. Simon

    Keep your promise! Residents deserve a stop.

  13. Bill

    This is all the Liberals fault. Vote them out or forever be a loser! They have ruined everything in BC! They lied so many times about this project, about the HOV lanes, the Cameras, the Rapid bus! It was ALL a plot to get people to drive the bridge and pay the toll! That’s what the plan was from day one while pulling the shades over peoples eyes so they didn’t see it coming. I wish we could launch a class action against translink and the BC Government!