Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Does BC Transit Have a Schedule?

Bus times for my bus stop - current as of April 2 2102
For the fourth time in the last six months I have gone to catch a bus to a meeting and the bus has been early and I have missed it.   I allow 5 minutes leeway for the bus at my local bus stop in any case it is early, this should be more than enough time especially since often buses are late at stops and I have to stand around for more than five minutes waiting.

A bus I often catch is the #22 into town at Burnside and Harriet.  I know when to expect it at the bus stop, either at :33 or :03 and my goal is to be at the bus stop a few minutes before the hour and after the half hour.   There are times in the day when the bus is scheduled to be there at the hour or half hour, but the 11:03 bus today was not one of them.

I also assume that if I am at my bus stop before the bus is supposed to be at the previous timing point, I am safe to catch the bus.   This bus was scheduled to be at Burnside and Tillicum at 11:00 am.  

I left my house at 10:53 am and when I was 50 meters from the corner I saw the #22 blow by at 10:57 am.   That is six minutes before it is supposed to be and it means I have a 35 minute till the next bus, problem is that my meeting was in Fernwood and at 11:30 am, the next bus would have me there 15 minutes late.   I had to take a taxi which cost me $15.

To be certain of getting the bus do I have to be at the bus stop ten minutes early?   The bus trip from Harriet and Burnside to Fernwood is 19 minutes but I have to be there 10 minutes early to be certain which is more than half the time of the trip.   This makes the time from my door till I get on the bus is almost as long as the whole bus trip Fernwood, if I am only going to downtown it is longer walking to and waiting for the bus than catching the bus.

The current times on the schedule are from April 2nd 2012, this is less than two months ago.  This should mean it is accurate, very accurate.

A bus being early is of no use to me.   With a bus you plan based on the arrival times, coming in ten minutes earlier gives you no benefits.  A bus being late by five to ten minutes sucks, but I can plan for that and even if I am a few minutes late, it is at least close.

The #22 I was waiting for left VGH at 10:40 am and was supposed to take 23 minutes to get to my stop, it only took 16 minutes.  This is almost 1/3 faster than the schedule calls for and seems completely insane to me, would the driver not notice that they are very early and running fast?   Did they not adjust for this?

The meeting ended so that I had a 14 minute wait for the bus, thankfully I did not actually go and visit a store or get a coffee because the bus was 4 minutes early.

If you had expected this bus to be at Burnside and Douglas at 1:07 pm as it is scheduled to be, you would have been disappointed because the bus was already at Harriet and Burnside

I think that BC Transit should be held responsible for the schedule and have to reimburse passengers when buses are early or when they pass people up.  

I left my home at 10:53 am and retuned at 1:10 pm, 2 hours and 17 minutes and a cost of $17.50 to get the meeting.  If I had driven it would have taken me 1 hour and 28 minutes and cost me about $2.40 for all the costs related to driving (fuel, insurance, maintenance etc...).   So choosing to go by transit today cost me $15.10 more than driving and an extra 49 minutes.    If there had been a bus there when it was supposed to be, it still would have cost an extra $2.60 to take the bus and still the same extra time.

What I do not understand is why BC Transit does not ensure the buses are keeping to the schedule, today was not uncommon as far as my experience has been in the last six months.   I am trying to use transit, but if I can not rely on it to be get me to where I want to be when I expect to it is not useful.  I am already giving up time in my life to take the bus, more than I should.   More and more I think we need return to being a two car household because BC Transit is not willing to offer a reliable and effective service.

All I want is to know that I can arrive at a bus stop at the same time as the bus will come and not have to wait.   I have been to many cities elsewhere in the world and I can rely on the buses to be there.  In years of catching buses in Tsawwassen to get to downtown Vancouver, the buses never came early and basically never late.  

What would make this possible for me and improve things for me would be:

  • BC Transit guaranteeing no bus leaving any stop before the scheduled time 
  • An app for my computer and phone that would give me real time data on where all the buses are and when they will be at stops.
  • Realtime screens with updated information on when buses will arrive at each bus stop.
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