Traffic congestion eases while transit system over capacity

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

12 comments


Will the legacy of these Olympic Games be that we value our transit system more?

A couple of nights ago I took my son to the soccer field for his weekly practice. While I was there, I had the chance to speak with a few of my friends to ask them how they were enjoying the Olympics so far. They universally responded by saying they were having a good time. Over the last week, I've actually made a point of asking dozens of people how they feel and it's been generally a big thumbs up. Some claim they're liking all the free stuff, while others simply love all the sporting events. One parent told me he's loving the Olympics because it's shaved about 20 minutes off of his regular car commute. He was thrilled that the traffic on Metro Vancouver's streets was as light as he's seen it since the 80's. So what gives? What happened to all the dire predictions of traffic gridlock?

Only a few weeks back we were hearing doom and gloom predictions of traffic chaos and the fact that reducing road capacity by 50% in some parts of the city would translate into gridlock. Those predictions have simply not come true. Based on the anecdotal stories I've been hearing over the last week, it would appear quite the opposite has taken place. Traffic on Metro Vancouver roads hasn't been this good since Madonna cut her first album.

Much of the credit goes to regular car commuters who got out of their vehicles and into transit. In all the years I've taken transit, I've never seen so many people hopping aboard transit as I have over the last 7 days. Regardless of how crowded transit has become, it is simply wonderful to see everyone dump their car in favour of the bus, SkyTrain, streetcar and West Coast Express - if only for 17 days.

So far the system has held up very well and TransLink officials deserve a lot of credit for their hard work in preparing for this big event. There have been a few minor hiccups at several popular SkyTrain stations, but considering how long you have to wait to get into the Royal Canadian Mint, a 30 minute line-up to jump aboard the Canada Line is a breeze.

Earlier in the week another friend of mine also relayed to me how thrilled they were that the roads were empty of cars and they could make their way throughout Metro Vancouver with relative ease. I gently reminded them they were also the same person who only a year ago didn't want to invest a single additional tax dollar in transit as it "doesn't benefit car riders". Well...do you still hold that position? Take a look around you? More transit service equals more transit riders. More transit riders equals less cars on the road.

Hopefully one of the legacies of these Games is that we now collectively understand that if more people take transit, there are fewer cars on the road. If there are fewer cars on the road, we then reduce carbon emissions and it's easier to get around for the rest of the folks who need to drive. If there is less congestion, commuters can get to their destination quicker and burn up less fuel. It's a big win-win for everyone. Unfortunately, I think once the Games are over the vast majority of people will simply jump back in their cars and we'll fall back into our old habits once again. Sigh.

In fact, in Salt Lake City during the Olympics, things also went swimmingly well during the first week of the Games from a transportation perspective. They went so well that word of mouth about the great road conditions led a ton of people to get out of transit and back into their vehicles in the second week. That shift translated into some real traffic nightmares as the Games wound down. Let's hope this doesn't happen here.

After one week our Games, we should all give a big shout out to TransLink for their hard work at quickly getting us where we want to go in a safe and clean environment. Given the stress that's been placed on the system, their collective efforts to date have been nothing short of a miracle! And let's also hope that a few folks have become transit converts, and they decide to give up their weekly commuter stress and replace it with time better spent reading a great novel on SkyTrain.

12 Comments

CTV News is reporting on some of the transit system overloads. See it here:

http://bit.ly/derSH1

i've been taking transit daily these days! sometimes i'll still take my car out somewhere if i'm not going anywhere near downtown, but if i'm going out somewhere for the the day or the night, then it's transit all the way! it's a really nice change of pace. i'm hoping to keep it up after the olympics. i've found taking transit a lot less stressful than driving and even sort of fun.

Absolutely. I hopped on a bus for the first time in years, and transferred to the new SkyTrain line. Quick, clean and efficient. Minor lineup at the SkyTrain, but staff on hand along with Olympic volunteers kept everything running smoothly.

I forgot how great it was to not have to park downtown, and to not worry about having one more pint.

I agree. I think Translink may just get a gold medal. If they can keep up this level of service, the whole city would benefit. I can see expoline Skytrain from my house. The trains pass way more often and are much more full. Occasionally, these days, I can see people dancing in the cars!

I don't think translink has been organized at all, especially if you're taking the bus to and from North Van to Vancouver. The seabus is beyond crazy and waits are very long, especially when there's 3 hockey games. The bus schedules have not been adjusted to match the volume at peak times. If using the bus means my normal bus commute goes from 45 minutes to over 90 minutes, I don't think its a success. I haven't been impressed with transit, it could be drastically improved in all areas.

The transit system has been awesome. I am from Red Deer, Alberta and have not ridden a bus for years since my university days. To think the buses and the skytrams are working as well as they have been is amazing. I find the staff and the volunteers have been very helpful and friendly. Being on the bus has been a great way to meet people not only from Vancouver but from all over the world. Yes there have been waits but to me it has been very reasonable. Great work to the City of Vancouver and Vancouver 2010.

As a local, knowing that i can walk just a couple stations over in the time it would take me to catch a train at waterfront when it gets busy - I haven't had to wait longer than one or two skytrains at the most! With the trains running so frequently, it often takes LESS time than normal for my commute.

Some rowdies and open liquor on the Canada Line last night, but I'm glad that at least they have an easily accessible alternative to driving drunk.

These Olympics really reminded me why driving is still the best way of getting around Vancouver.

For the first couple of days into the Olympics, I was braving the transit system like everyone else. I'd start from UBC, either take a bus to the Canada line and then take the train, or bus straight to downtown. 45mins to 1hr each way, not necessarily factoring the walking time to and from the bus/train stops.

Last weekend, I decided to drive to downtown instead. Instead of my 1hr+ trip each way, I took only 20mins to arrive in downtown, and maybe another 5mins to find a parking lot. It is cheaper than Transit too. All day parking on weekends are often $6. Tickets for transit for two people are $10 round trip.

The biggest difference I noticed was the complete removal of street parking. That instantly added one additional lane to the busy downtown streets such as Howe and Seymour day and night. Of course more people taking the transit and less cars helped. But I think the city should explore completely removing street parking from core streets such as Granville, Howe, and Seymour day and night.

The Transit system is still seriously underdeveloped in Vancouver. The Canada Line caters conveniently only to a narrow sector of the population along the line itself. The city was not originally developed with a mass subway network in mind. Population is fairly evenly distributed via single homes favouring car travel.

Until the subway system matures, more lines are added, and population hubs spring up around those train stations, cars is still the king of the road.

There should really be an option for editing comments on this blog. I noticed a couple of glaring grammatical mistakes in my previous post! LOL Sorry about that.

To add to my last comment, I think a few minor changes to the Canada Line will make the travel a lot more comfortable.

1. Simple signs that alert if the exit is on the LEFT or RIGHT side for the next station prepares the travellers where they need to get off. They already have scrolling LED info boards on the trains, it will be easy to add that information.

2. Add another train car or two to the 2 train Canada Line! This one is just short sightedness of Translink. Instead of creating an infrastructure to cope with the transportation needs of the population tomorrow, they are meeting the challenges today. That means it is already at its peak right from the start, with no room to grow. During regular work days, these trains are packed to the brim. Another car would greatly relieve the congestion.

3. Do we really need every other train going to YVR during rush hour? Many times, commuters heading to Richmond wait until a Brighouse/Richmond Centre train before getting on, while the YVR bound trains are less empty. This is a non-issue during other times of the day, but from 4:30-6:30pm, there should be more trains heading into Richmond than YVR to relieve this stress.

4. Prohibit food and beverages in the trains on the Canada Line. I know the line itself is over capacity during the Olympics, but have you seen the mess left over at the end of the day? Beautiful floors are stained with coffee spills, half eaten sandwiches are left on the ground, garbage everywhere!

5. Speed up the approach and departure of the trains from the stations. Have you ever noticed how slow trains roll to a stop at a station or how slow a train leaves a station? I thought it was so we'd get a smoother ride, but that's not the case is it? There is always a abrupt JOLT as the train comes to a complete stop.

My couple of cents! Go Canada Go!

Re: Transit, YES - I wholeheartedly agree with your comments that Translink officials deserve huge accolades for their 2010 transportation plan, in fact, I think their efforts have been GENIUS!

On Friday evening a friend and I attended the Figure Skating at the Pacific Colliseum. As the evening was coming to a close, I held my breath, wondering just how long it was going to take for us to get home to New Westminster given the size of the crowd.

Well, the programme concluded about 5 past 8, by 9:15 I was back in New Westminster.

Need I say more? Fabulous!

might this have at least some bearing on the dearth of traffic?
from Vanoc's website

It is strongly recommended that service deliveries and goods movement in Downtown Vancouver be scheduled between midnight and 6 am for the month of February 2010. If before 6 am is not possible, the next preferred window is before noon.

lets keep this up for ever....

Yet its passenger-carrying capacity over a given distance would be a match for a subway.

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