The Canada Line will bring big changes to the way your suburban bus service operates, especially if you live in Richmond, Delta, or South Surrey. Your bus may only go part way to Vancouver instead of all the way. Your centre to centre express bus service may never be the same again.
Although TransLink really doesn’t really have the money, they should consider more town centre to town centre bus routes. Currently, there are only a few of these routes. The #430 from Metrotown to Richmond Centre, the #301 from Newton to Richmond Centre, and the #97 B-Line from Lougheed Town Centre to Coquitlam Centre are a few. The suburban highway coaches are also a long-standing version of a centre-to-centre bus service. Given that most of us live in places without rapid transit, but are still relatively close to a town or neighbourhood centre, we should have more express buses.
The idea has been catching on slowly in Metro Vancouver, but it really hasn’t taken off with any gusto. The York Region of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has seen a major change in their transit with their VIVA rapid bus transit system and Hong Kong also has a very extensive bus system that actually duplicates some of their rapid transit runs.
In the York region of the GTA, we have the cities of Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughn, Aurora, and Newmarket with 5 bus rapid transit lines serving the area. Basically, the lines conect major town centres and major transit hubs to one another in the region. It was implemented very quickly from conception to operation. People just want to get from A to B in a comfortable fashion. VIVA was created in York because the region may not be able to support a subway system, but a bus rapid transit system provides a quick alternative in a suburban setting.
In Hong Kong, I’ve spent a lot of time on their bus system. I spent some time in the New Territories centre of Tai Po. It would be considered somewhat suburban by Hong Kong standards, but has a very urban environment when compared to North America. Tai Po is along the old Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) line which is now called East Rail. East Rail runs all the way from the Hong Kong-China border right to the Kowloon waterfront in the core of Hong Kong.
If East Rail and all the buses were run by TransLink, TransLink would cancel all the bus service going into Kowloon and funnel everyone onto the train. All buses in Tai Po would go to the train station and then you have to transfer. Because Tai Po is in the middle of the line, then you will likely not get a seat. You would be standing all the way to your stop. At your stop, you would get off and transfer to another bus to get to your actual destination. The train is definitely faster and can carry more people. Buses are slow and get stuck in traffic. That is very true, but the transfers and the standing are a real pain.
In reality, however, East Rail is not Tai Po’s only connection to central Hong Kong. There are a number of buses that go into the heart of Hong Kong. This bus service complements East Rail. East Rail only travels down one route through the busiest parts of Kowloon, but not all parts of Kowloon. This is where the bus service comes in. Buses from Tai Po can take you to other major destinations in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island that are not directly accessible by the train. You could going to East Kowloon or West Kowloon. The train is indirect and involves a 3-seat ride. Instead, with the bus, you get 1-seat service to the place you’re going.
To me, that would be a huge prefernce. Because my bus starts at the terminus, then I get on, get a seat, and sleep the rest of the way. I don’t have to worry about when I have to transfer. I am not forced to stand most of the way, even if the train is faster.
TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company should definitely consider leaving some of the Richmond, Delta, and South Surrey buses as they are. Maybe they don’t realize that some bus routes are actually more comfortable and convenient than a rapid transit route. In fact, the suburban buses are probably some of the most comfortable buses in the system.
South of the Fraser, the centre-to-centre express bus could change some driving habits. People just want an alternative that works for them and isn’t extremely time-consuming. 20 minutes versus 60 minutes is a big deal for a lot of families. Express bus service could make the bus more competitive and offer a better alternative. A network of centre-to-centre service would help to cover Delta, Surrey, and Langley very easily and it wouldn’t cost the billions of dollars (unlike SkyTrain and Gateway).