BC's busiest bus stop was out of commission for two months
As a regular user of the popular 99 B-Line bus in Vancouver, I'm very familiar with its operations. On most days of the week, you'll find me standing there patiently waiting to get on to one of those crowded blue articulated buses. As you can appreciate, any changes to this bus stop will not only get my attention, but also that of thousands of daily transit users.
A couple of months ago I made my way to Broadway and Commercial bus stop only to find that something had dramatically changed. The bus stop was suddenly behind a bunch of yellow tape and passengers were all being shuffled about 100 or so feet east of the current stop. A number of security guards in yellow coats were guiding us away from our under cover dry zone and out into the autumn monsoons.
The day it happened I asked the TransLink staff onsite what was going on. They told me there was some construction planned for the bus stop and it would re-open in about two weeks. Two months later BC's busiest bus stop has yet to be re-opened and it's still under construction. So just exactly what happened with this project and why were thousands of bus riders needlessly inconvenienced for over two months?
Several questions came to my mind as hundreds of us huddled together in the pouring rain a few weeks ago waiting for the bus to arrive:
- Why was this project not done in the summer when the weather was drier and the university not in full session?
- Why was almost nothing done to communicate the scope and timing of this project to regular bus riders in advance?
- Did this construction really need to take over two months?
- If cyclists on a separated bike lane had been impacted in this way, would it have garnered more media attention?
After several calls to both TransLink and the City of Vancouver regarding what appears to be a construction boondoggle, I'm only marginally closer to finding out the details of what exactly happened.
When I spoke to TransLink to get answers, they blamed the City for the delays. They claim the reason it took so long to finish this project is the fact Vancouver didn't allow them to block off two lanes of traffic in order to pour concrete (something that happened for the Hornby bike lane). They were only allowed to pour concrete during evening and weekends, which apparently was not optimal. According to TransLink, had they been given this approval by the City, it would have cut weeks off the construction time.
I also asked TransLink who was funding the project along with who was project managing it. Their spokesperson didn't immediately have the answer, and I'm still waiting for a call back. Now over to the City.
When I called Vancouver's Engineering Department, and told them what TransLink told me, they sounded skeptical. They took down my information and within an hour or so I got a call back. Here is the City's version of events:
- The project was paid for by TransLink, not the City.
- The contractors on site were there under the direction of TransLink as project managers
- The City did recommend concrete be poured on weekends and evenings to avoid possible traffic congestion, but did NOT restrict TransLink from working weekdays. They simply told TransLink that if they wanted to work during the weekdays, they would need to hire traffic control staff on site.
- The project was supposed to have been started and completed before the end of summer. They could not elaborate as to why the project only got started in the fall.
- The construction of the Hornby bike lane did not delay or impact the bus stop reconstruction project as the work crews were different
- The project suffered from scope creep as a result of a new crosswalk being thrown into the mix
Interesting how the two stories don't seem to line up.
When I spoke to TransLink they blamed the City for delays. When I called the City, they point fingers at TransLink for the delays. Regardless of whose version you believe, in the end it was thousands of bus riders that were caught in the middle and negatively impacted.
In fact, unless you actually use this bus stop on a daily basis, it's hard to describe what went on there over the last two months. Normally thousands of people respectfully line up (sometimes hundreds at a time) waiting for their chance to jump on the B-Line. It's never fun to wait for a bus, but it usually a polite affair with everyone quietly waiting in the queue.
With the 99 B-Line bus stop out of commission, the orderly process of entering the bus went out the window (hence the need to hire security guards and extra transit staff) and it was every bus rider for themselves. No more Mr. Nice Guy. People were butting in line, arguing with transit staff and generally looking quite disgruntled. Trust me, on some of those rainy cold days when more than one stray umbrella smacked me in the face, I felt a serious urge to head over to my local auto dealership and pick up a nice 4 cylinder...but thankfully I never did.
I can only imagine the howls of outrage if cyclists using a separated bike lane would have been impacted in this way. Rest assured, you wouldn't just be reading about it on a civic affairs blog, the cycling lobbyists would have been all over the 6 o'clock news demanding answers. Unfortunately for bus riders, they don't seem to have the same kind of well funded lobby behind them, despite the fact that their numbers far outweigh the number of cyclists in the region.
As I've said before on numerous occasions, people getting out of their cars and into mass public transit is the best way to reduce someone's environmental impact. That's why everything must be done to ensure that riding mass transit in this region is as economical, accessible and customer-friendly as possible.
On the positive side...I'm pleased to report that according to both the City and TransLink, after two months, the old 99 B-Line bus stop and Broadway/Commercial will re-open again on Friday. There is still a bit of construction left to complete, but it will be user friendly again for transit riders.
How it came to be that one of BC's busiest bus stops could be impacted in this way for over two months is puzzling. As I've tweeted out before, we somehow found a way to build a whole bike lane in a few weeks, but couldn't repair the 99 B-Line bus stop in a timely manner.
If Vancouver City Hall is truly interested in promoting transit and getting people out of their cars, they should be making a few calls to find out exactly what happened with this project.
What do you think? Is it acceptable for these types of construction delays to take place at BC's busiest bus stop? Which version of events do you believe? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
- Post by Daniel