Monday, October 20, 2008


Mysteriously, inexplicably, the local transit system, hated and feared by all who use it regularly, keeps winning international awards.

Clearly the juries who give out these prizes have not been talking to the drivers.

"The overcrowding, the delays, the pass-ups, the inadequate service. It's gone on for years."

This a quote from the local union president, Don MacLeod, calling for many, many more buses.

Will Transclunk or Coast Mountain Bus or whoever is claiming to run the show these days hear this plea?

Or will people trying to get home from a day's work still wait for 30 minutes in the cold and dark and rain?


Anonymous said...

Our family of four (three of driving age) has one vehicle, which is usually sufficient. We also spend over $1,000 a year on bus passes (a lot of money). My daughter takes two buses to school this year and she often has long waits in the dark and the rain with backpack and sometimes violin in tow (for some reason the wait times seem to have increased since the new route along 16th came about). We want to do the right thing, but those "running the show" make it very difficult. There have been several mornings lately when I am asked to drive her to school so that she doesn't have to endure the long waits in the dark in the pouring rain (and she does check the bus schedules).


MurdocK said...


There is a reason that the 'bus' is also known as the 'looser cruiser'.

Will there be many loosers and left-behinds?

Time for more people to wake up to the possibility of working, learning, shopping and everything MUCH CLOSER TO HOME.

David in North Burnaby BC said...

When I've tried taking transit the buses and trains have been filthy, strewn with garbage, idiots eating flinging food around, junkies passed out, punks acting up looking for trouble ... just a mess.
They have a long long way to go to get me out of my car.

Anonymous said...

Murdoch, Get real. Folks can't afford housing in YVR so they travel for hours to reach their job. There just aren't that many great jobs in the 'burbs. Rapid transit--like the good ole train that ran along Arbutus to Steveston
or the one that ran from Carroll St. to New West. were safe and efficient. Try the 601 bus--clean, comfy seats, friendly drivers. But Translink wants to take it away--have us shove into the crowd in Richmond and tunnel into town. Yick! With the economic losses the gov't is incurring we may never see the Gateway Project. More buses! More buses! Yeah!

Anonymous said...

We were in Spain this summer and relied on public transport (the metro, buses and trains) and found them to be completely efficient in getting us here, there and everywhere. One doesn't always want to stay "much closer to home" either in ones own city or when on vacation. I'm sure people visiting Vancouver don't find moving around Vancouver any easier than the locals do -- and I certainly expect to use public transport when visiting other places; although if I were a visitor in Vancouver I would rent a car. I shop and work locally (I'm lucky), but I also like (and need) to venture to other areas of the city, and for that I drive, I do not take the bus or Skytrain, as the schedules and routes are much too limiting, not to mention too time consuming. Not sure of the relevancy of the looser cruiser comment -- there are many people, for instance students, who need to take the buses.


Anonymous said...


I take exception to the "Looser(sic) Cruiser" comment and the advice to "wake up and work... closer to home."

My husband and I have one vehicle, which hubby uses for his work. I am a SAHM who works mostly weekends. I live in a community where I can walk to the library, rec centers, grocery shopping and many services - HOWEVER, notwithstanding my high use of double strollers and my sneakers - I STILL NEED TO TAKE THE BUS!!

I would love to have my job closer to my home - but a job closer to home DOESN'T EXIST. I guess I could move - but I work downtown (Yaletown) and can't afford a million dollar family home. I would also love to be able to walk to all my appointments - but my family physician (who, btw, IS within walking distance) has to send my children to specialists who are located West of Broadway (a yucky two bus and one skytrain away from my home).

I take the bus out of necessity. I don't appreciate being called a "loser" and I don't appreciate being told to "wake up" and walk more - I walk circles around most people.

Reality bites - I don't live in a tiny village or hamlet where everything is spitting distance away. I live in what is suppose to be a world class city and should expect adequate public transit!!!

Linda Yuill

Light Rail Guy said...

There are many reasons that Vancouver's bus & transit system is a disaster - it is operated as a social service not as a product.

As a social service TransLink provides bus service on routes that do not have the ridership to sustain the service. The result, buses and bus drivers are wasted on nonproductive routes while on badly congested routes, buses (& drivers) are wanting.

This phenomenon is know as the 'German diseases' has it was German transit planners that first recognized that a 'social service' style bus system, used mainly by the elderly, the poor and students was avoided by everyone else.

Today in Germany (and the rest of Europe), public transit is seen as a product; a product that must compete against the car. By designing a transit system to suit the needs of its customers, customers will opt for transit, even if it is a wee bit slower than taking the car.

Another reason that our transit system is so poor is SkyTrain.

SkyTrain and its close cousin RAV, are hugely expensive metro systems that have sucked huge sums of money from the transit system, To date SkyTrain's over $200 million annual subsidy has hobbled regional transit planning.

Metro's, like SkyTrain & RAV, do not attract ridership (the Europeans have discovered this decades ago) and it's telling that TransLink admits that over 80% of SkyTrain's ridership first take a bus to the metro! Very poor indeed.

Who builds with SkyTrain? Very few and the mode is now sold as a prestigious airport people mover. When RAV (which is definitely not a P-3) opens, the annual subsidy for (READ) Vancouver's metro system will top $300 million annually or put another way, each year Vancouver's metro will cost a little less than a FastFerry fiasco or that the metro's subsidy could build a complete LRT line every two years!

Today, in Europe, unless there is vast ridership (in excess of 15,000 pphpd) which demands a metro, simple on-street, cost effective LRT is preferred by transit planners because it works and works well!

Lastly, TransLink is Campbell's and Falcons plaything and the TransLink Board is nothing more than property developers and 'slick Willies'; all Liberal hacks, sucking off the public tit!

When you have idiots running the show, don't be surprised at the results!

Anonymous said...

The above Post was very interesting reading. I also have to concurr with "Linda Yuill's" Post, we just visited Vancouver , over the Thanksgiving weekend, and strolled South Granville, playing Tourist. I said to My Handler as we strolled along, that there was an awful lot of "Help Wanted" signs in the shop windows. She who is much brighter than I, pointed out that on the wages that these small buisnesses are only able to pay, that an Applicant would have to bus in from the burbs, in order to work in the area. And that just isn't feasible
I hate when she is right..........

Cheers, Gary.

Martino said...

light rail guy, you hit it right on the head. The best commentary
on transit and transit services I've ever read.

MurdocK said...

Linda Yuill,

You sound like a vital and creative person.

Have you considered creating work that you want to do from either your home or very close to it?


More Busses?


All that more busses brings are more employees for the company, which means a bigger payroll and more cost...therefore higher fares...therefore reduced ridership on more routes and more 'route concentration' etc, etc, etc.

I have heard of 'mini-busses' that are really just oversized vans that are being operated in some of the London suburbs (that are outside the tube network), these mini-busses are private ventures and operate in areas that are less served by the state sponsored busses. The mini-busses are larger than a taxi and better apportioned, with clean nice seats etc which puts them miles ahead of the busses. I was not able to find out the limits to the service, but they do have a focus to direct their traffic into the tube or light rail networks which are much cleaner and better served than the busses.

Such a system is possible here, but not currently legal. For it is the monopoly position that the TransKlunk Krew owns which they are using to leverage their great salaries and bonuses!

Bonuses which seem to be getting better every time the 'system' gets one of these awards ~ David?

Anonymous said...

I would like to add to the "Looser Cruiser" moniker. Unfortunately, this term came to being in the 70's, when it was found that buses did not attract the motorist from his car and only the poor, the elderly used public transit.

Billions of dollars have been invested in bus design and bus systems to change the mode into an acceptable transit alternative. It has not - buses do not attract the motorist from the car.

In Europe, after much study and practical research, trams (LRT, streetcars) were found to be the mode that had a proven ability to attract the all important motorist from the car.

Case point: In the late 70's, German transit planners predicted that most LRT/tram systems would disappear by 2000, it didn't happen - why?

In the cities where on-street trams were abandoned in favour of more buses and metros, overall ridership dropped significantly -why?

The once frequent, at your door tram service, was replaced by an infrequent bus service (buses cost more to operate) which meant forced transfers from bus to metro and back to bus again (sound familiar?) not only increased journey times, it was complicated and user unfriendly, it was easier and simpler to use the car!

So were sown the seeds of a LRT/tram Renaissance, with a revolutionary message - cheap streetcars/trams/light rail, operating on-street would attract more new ridership than a very expensive grade seperated metro system.

TransLink, its board, and the provincial government, like the 'old church' before has ignored the reformation of transit planning and still clings to the old liturgy of "the more expensive the metro system, the more customers it will attract" and "'rail' transit must be elevated and/or put underground to free the streets for cars."

Vancouver is still in a transit 'Dark Age', and the poor bus service is but a foretelling of things to come.

Light Rail Guy said...

Why is light rail or tram/streetcar built?

The answer may be a surprise.

LRT is built because it comes more cost effective to operate than buses on a transit route, when ridership exceeds 2,000 pphpd.

Simple? No not for our lot of transit planners, bureaucrats, and politicians, who try to pretend that LRT is a third rate transit mode. To date, not one of the 5 SkyTrain operations has matched LRT's operating criteria.

A little history may dispel many myths. After WW 2, most North American cities abandoned their streetcar/interurban lines in favour of buses and the auto. This modal shift meant that new and larger highways had to be built to accommodate the new 'rubber on asphalt' transit modes.

University Engineering dept. all but abandoned 'rail' planning in favour of road engineering. As time progressed, this cadre of 'road' engineers became the new generation of professors who taught that 'rail' was old fashioned and not worth the bother.

In the late 60's & early 70's, congestion in major N.A. cities reached the point, demanding a cost effective public transport alternative to the car. Buses, the good old 'rubber on asphalt' solution, just wasn't working, but a return to streetcars (still operating in some cities including San Francisco and Toronto) was unthinkable.

Huge metro (subway lines) were just too expensive to build to be contemplated as a viable alternative, so a whole new line of proprietary 'light-metro's' and monorails were conceived, as the new way to reduce congestion, but there was a hitch; light-metros cost almost as much a metro to build. In the late 70's city planners, engineers, and politicians were collectively dragged kicking and screaming, forced to plan and build with LRT.

In the United States, the success of San Diego's and Portland LRT systems laid the foundation for the Renaissance of LRT leading to a massive return of streetcars to city streets!

Not in Canada, eh.

Canada, with its much smaller population, did not follow the USA's path, Montreal went metro with a French rubber tyre system; Toronto had retained its 'Red Rockets' or streetcars and was now involved in a massive program of Subway construction; Calgary opted for much cheaper LRT and Edmonton got what Calgary got; and the only city left for 'rail' transit was Vancouver.

BC's then social Credit Party, in a tawdry political deal, bought the obsolete ICTS light-metro system, now renamed ALRT, produced by the Ontario provincially owned UTDC. ICTS/ALRT, was completely rejected by US cities, where it did not pass scrutiny and even the city of Hamilton rejected a 'free' ICTS starter line because the cost to extend the line, to be useful would be cost prohibited.

For about 3 times the cost of LRT and none benefits of LRT, Vancouver was saddled with this dated light-metro system (now called ART and owned by bombardier Inc.) and the vocal SkyTrain lobby.

The result today is we must pay up to 10 times more to build with SkyTrain and pay about double the cost of LRT to operate the system. 80% of SkyTrain's ridership must first take a bus to the system and it is just too expensive to extend the metro to be useful. SkyTrain's massive annual subsidy has cannibalized the bus system, starving it of much needed cash.

The Gateway highways and bridge project was spawned by SkyTrain, because it is just too expensive to build to create a viable transit network that would provide a viable alternative to the car. Remember those 'rubber on asphalt' only engineers and professors, they are happy with Gateway!

Those who champion more SkyTrain are in reality championing more highways.

MurdocK said...

Well put Light Rail Guy.

Sadly for the Lower Mainland there are very few 'reserved' corridors for the LRT to run on...since the rubber on asphalt crew has them all fully paved right now.

I think that it will take a total collapse of the current system, for more than a week or two, to prove that a different system must be considered, let alone actually get built.

In the interim expect creeping costs and dropping service levels...prepare to be left behind.

Anonymous said...

Murdoch wrote "have heard of 'mini-busses' that are really just oversized vans ... these mini-busses are private ventures and operate in areas that are less served by the state sponsored busses."

Those also run all over Hong Kong which has of course fabulous public transport. No problem getting anywhere quick unless one is foolish enuff to attempt driving.

Anonymous said...

Murdoch--The mini buses are operating quite nicely in Tsawwassen.
Someone should investigate the relationship of Bombardier and SNC Lavalin to the excessive number of federal and provincial gov't contracts each is awarded.

To read about who really is in charge in this country, see the Sept.12/07 The Grand Ayatollah then check Read Mr.d'Aquino's
comments at APEC /07. Gateway is aprt of an international master plan.

Anonymous said...


"The mini buses are operating quite nicely in Tsawwassen."

Yes they do run - empty all day long, as well as the mini buses in Ladner. At best, these wee buses carry 10 or 12 people a day! It would be cheaper for TransLink to just hire a cab. This service is a 'social service', only used by those with subsidized fares!


"Sadly for the Lower Mainland there are very few 'reserved' corridors for the LRT to run on."

But lest us forget the Arbutus Corridor, one of the best example of a 'reserved rights-of-ways' in the world.

Also the seldom used and former interurban route from Marpole to New Westminster see occasional freight trains and of course the former interurban line to Chilliwack, still being used by the Souther Railway of BC today.

What also is forgotten by many. is that the centre or median lanes of Broadway, Main St. Fraser St., Kingsway, Hastings, & Dunbar/Alma all had streetcar tracks and are well suited (with underground services on the gutter lanes) for LRT/streetcars.

Corey said...

Not to mention that the only thing stopping us from creating "reserved" right of ways anywhere in the metro area is for politicians with cojones to stand up and say, "No more cars in these lanes. This is now an LRT corridor, where primacy will be given to moving people rather than chunks of steel."

That will happen at precisely the moment that cars become untenable due to resource and economic collapse, and then the politicians will stand up and pat themselves in the back, rather than berate themselves for having no spine for so many years.

Light Rail Guy said...

From the musty archive, in a dank basement, of the Light Rail Guy.

LRT Primer #1:

One light rail vehicle (1 driver) is as efficient as 6 to 8 buses (6 to 8 bus drivers) on a transit route. For every bus or tram used, one must hire at least 4 people to drive, maintain and manage them.

Example: Say a bus route (Broadway?) needs 70 buses (70 bus drivers) to meet ridership demands. Only 10 to 12 light rail vehicles or streetcars (10 to 12 drivers) would be needed to meet the same ridership demands. Thus the total employees needed for the route would be about 280 people for buses versus 40 to 48 people for streetcars. With wages approaching 70% of operating costs, the saving of over 230 employees for the transit route would equate into massive savings over a 20 year period.

As well 1 streetcar lasts about 4 times longer than a bus and maintenance costs for streetcars are much less as well. All told the savings by operating LRT/streetcar on heavily used transit routes over a 20 to 25 year period, would cover the cost of building the LRT line.

Primer #2:

The SkyTrain lobby knows this well and their agents have grossly gold-plate all LRT construction costs to insidiously increase the costs of LRT to that approaching SkyTrain and or RAV.

A quote from a very well respected American transit planner Gerald Fox points this out in a letter to a Victoria transit group.

"The Evergreen Line Report you sent me made me curious as to how TransLink could justify continuing to expand SkyTrain, when the rest of the world was building LRT. So I went back and read the alleged "Business Case" (BC) report in a little more detail.

I found several instances where the analysis had made assumptions that were inaccurate, or had been manipulated to make the case for SkyTrain. If the underlying assumptions are inaccurate, the conclusions may be so too." ................................."It is interesting how TransLink has used this cunning method of manipulating analysis to justify SkyTrain in corridor after corridor, and thus seceded in keeping its proprietary rail system expanding. In the US, all new transit projects that seek federal support are now subjected to scrutiny by a panel of transit peers selected and monitored by the federal government, to ensure that projects are analyzed honestly, and the taxpayers' interests are protected. No SkyTrain project has ever passed this scrutiny in the U.S.

On can use the F**** word with TransLink's and the provincial governments transit planning. What Campbell, Falcon, and the Liberal hacks and puppets on the TransLink Board have shown is a complete lack of honesty and business sense and the money squandered on SkyTrain and RAV has made the rest of the transit system a third rate show!

MurdocK said...

Added to primer #1 from light rail guy:

The unions know this also...

why do you think they are pushing for more busses!

Light Rail Guy said...

Dead right Murdock! I estimate that if LRT was used on Broadway, over 225 jobs would disappear! Now factor the cost of wages and benefits of those employees over a 25 year span and you would have the money to pay for the new LRT service!

More buses = a more expensive transit service = higher subsidies = higher taxes.

Corey said...

Well if they are short of drivers anyways, maybe they should be encouraging that!

MurdocK said...


The Union movement and larger Government bureaucracies are tied together at the hip.

They will not admit it but they are.

They need each other to survive.

The Union movement's 'raison d'etre' is to get more members so that they can get more dues to pressure for more concessions from 'government' and therefore get more members to get more dues... you get the picture

Government bureaucrats need the agitation that is caused by the unions disrupting everyone elses lives to be able to excuse greater extractions (taxes, fees, levies etc) so that the agitation is reduced. Yet that agitation simply returns at the needed time to generate the next needed extraction, and so on...

What is needed here is to simply decide if "public" transit is a "public" good. IF so then "publicly" announce it and PAY FOR IT "publicly". Otherwise you can decide that it is a private good and let the marketplace determine the value. Keep regulations minimal for safety's sake (though that can be considered dangerous as I would not want to be an Abbotsford farm worker) and see what results.

You may get the 'bucket brigade' continuing or you are more likely to see a 'pipeline' get organized since it is always more efficient.

Efficiency has never been the credo of any Union or Government ever, despite what they may bray to the contrary.