Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Is the LRT idea dead?

It has been almost three years since the release of the recommendation for an LRT and everything has gone very quiet.    From the spring to the fall of 2011 there was a lot of talk about about the proposed LRT running from Downtown to the Westshore but since then very little has happened.  The very website is getting dated and elements of it are no longer available.

I am relatively happy to see the proposed idea fade away because it was a bad idea for this region, too expensive to operate and not designed to meet the needs of the people in Victoria.   It does bother me that so much time, money and energy went into a plan that was not supportable by the evidence available.  It means that work on improving transit in this region was delayed because of the focus on a dumb idea.

There are simple improvements that could have been done and I believe would have been funded by the province which have not happened.   The addition of a few sections of bus only lanes on Douglas/TCH between Mayfair Mall and Mackenzie would speed up transit and keep it competitive with respect to time.   There does not need to be continuous lanes because each section would allow buses to get ahead of the rest of the traffic.

What has also not been happening is any consideration of what slows down some bus routes.   The BLines buses in Vancouver show what can be done to move buses faster.    There are two major factors why the BLines move so quickly and both relate to the primary reason buses are slower than cars, the need to stop for passengers.  

The first is limiting the number of stops, which is an obvious one.  Even a quick stop means the bus sits still for 20 to 30 seconds.   Taking a route from 25 stops to 12 stops saves about six minutes in stopping time alone.  It also saves the time the bus is slowing down and speeding up from the bus stop.

BLine buses require you to buy your fare before you board, this alone saves time at each stop.  Also important is that you can board a BLine bus through any door and they tend to have three doors.   It means a BLine bus only needs to stop at a busy bus stop for a minute.  Even though this only saves between 30 and 90 seconds at busy stops, over four to eight of them on a route, this saves around another six minutes of travel time.

These changes have not happened because of the distraction of the LRT proposal.  Maybe now that the LRT idea seems to be dead in the water, BC Transit will focus on less sexy but much more useful improvements to transit in Victoria.
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