99 B-Line bus stop renovation from hell demands answers

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

40 comments


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:

  1. Why was this project not done in the summer when the weather was drier and the university not in full session?
  2. Why was almost nothing done to communicate the scope and timing of this project to regular bus riders in advance?
  3. Did this construction really need to take over two months?
  4. 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

40 Comments

I’m a regular user of this transit “hub” and have also wondered why it could take so long to pour a couple of concrete slabs. I take the #9 and transfer onto the skytrain at Commercial. The #9 bus stop was moved west of Commercial. For a few days, bus drivers wouldn’t even know where the new temporary stop (going eastward) was. So you had transit users running for the bus whenever a driver would stop at a different spot. Try asking a bus driver why that is and you get this “what do I care?” look.

I’m very skeptical of the city’s answer that the Hornby bike lane had no impact. It seems that work at the Commercial station stopped as the work on Hornby got underway.

Thanks for shedding some light on this issue.

Looking forward to a post on the 2011 budget. Council apparently thinks that taxpayers are to be used as a bottomless pit to pay for every idea our civic politicians come across.

Quite similar to the Grandview Park fiasco on Commercial, or Norquay park (renovations) on Kingsway. Just be glad that they didn't close the stations/sidwalk altogether as they have the parks behind fences for 8 months.
Crazy.

See how Burnaby handles street work for a City that Works.

I've seen a shelter at terminus for Translink with a glass roof take 8 months to finish over the winter and everyone had to huddle without shelter in the rain and snow for that time.

Bring back the streetcar. Then we would walk out to the traffic island and get on. The city fixed those as fast as the similar Hornby (hollow gesture) bike lane separation.

And how do you feel about watching people cross the Broadway under the skytrain bridge, or otherwise zip across the street not at the corner.

All-door entry at the Broadway station is encouraging, though a small minority, fare avoidance. Who checks. San Francisco made all-door entry better.

You need to get a life Daniel. There are many more things to get upset over in this city and this province. Why get all bent out of shape over a bus stop?

You need to get a life Daniel. There are many more things to get upset over in this city and this province. Why get all bent out of shape over a bus stop?

Daniel, good for you for following up...now, perhaps you can get someone to put a notice on the Burrard Street bus shelter near the north end of the bridge that is no longer in use due to the bike lane construction..again, a lack of coordination between Translink and the City IMO...

bobh:

If a project is suppose to be completed in 2 weeks and it runs over to 2+ months - how much 'extra' money do you think that adds up to?

Translink and the City are both crying over dollars and we (taxpayers) will be seeing hikes from both, yet their level of spending control is nowhere.

I'd be curious to know what the original budget for this project was and where it stands now.

You may not find this of interest, but as a very frequent transit user, I can quite honestly tell you that people that use this hub are asking this exact same question.

This is the busiest transit hub in
the city that and I believe it sees well over 100,000 users daily. Why is this taking so long?

Thanks, this is the kind of reporting where you guys can really add value. Going to both sides for the story and then triangulating was valuable.

I don't know why you feel such a need to constantly snipe at cyclists. One more cyclist is also one less person on already crowded busses, at least on the routes I would use. I'd think you would want to support and celebrate both. Vancouver's cycling infrastructure is a joke compared to many other cities. Even Cambridge is a lot better for cyclists than Vancouver (Boston on the other hand sucks).

It would be good to have a strong lobby group for people who ride mass transit. And pedestrians for that matter.

great article guys. Unreal the cities priorities and it appears that when it comes to bike lanes there is obstacle high enough.

As some have brought up cyclists...

On Global news today - the 'Vancouver Cycling Coalition' had their people ( a few dozen) riding the Hornby lane last night in order to help 'support' the supposed approval numbers the city has posted.

According to the city - 57% of the businesses on Hornby support the lane. Now, I wonder if any of that 57% are busineses that are reporting a loss of custom to the tune of 20 - 30%.

By 6:00 pm, the lane was virtually empty and the cars were backed up until the cows come home.

Excellent reporting. Too bad city staff won't be reading this in their media summary now that Ballem has cut out citycaucus from the mix.

I take the bus there every day and was also wondering the same thing. What the hell went wrong there. There sure are a lot of pissed of transit riders over the last two months. but this is the first time I've ever read about this anywhere. Keep up the good coverage.

Thanks for your reporting on this issue. I've been wondering what's the delay at Broadway and Commercial.

Also, wanted to bring something else to your attention. Former NPA councilor/ journalist/ SFU instructor Peter Ladner is calling for a new separated bike lane on Point Grey Road:

"Former city councillor Peter Ladner is renewing his push to have the city create a separated bike lane along a stretch of Point Grey Road that he says will make the route safer for cyclists and joggers.

Ladner said ideally a separated bike lane would connect with the existing separated lane on the Burrard Bridge and run west along Cornwall and Point Grey Road to Highbury Street, near the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club and Jericho Park.

“That would be the ultimate goal,” said Ladner, a commuter cyclist who first pitched the idea during his first term on council in 2004.

But, he said, the nine-block stretch of Point Grey Road from Macdonald to Highbury would be the first section where he would create a separated lane. It’s a route heavily used by cyclists and joggers.

“It’s already being used and it’s very dangerous, especially in the narrow section between Blenheim and Alma [streets],” said Ladner, who lives near the yacht club. “Cars can’t get by cyclists, so there’s always an issue. The runners are unsafe as well because they’re spilling off into the street.”"

http://www.vancourier.com/health/Former+councillor+peddles+bike+lane+plan/3854731/story.html#ixzz18DVJodOD

I post it here because I didn't see it in your 'Recommended Reads' section. Cheers.

I am a big fan of dedicated cycling lanes, having been hit three times in Vancouver (twice on Hornby) and once in Cambridge while on the painted lanes. But I don't see that a Cornwall to Point Grey lane is really a priority. I cycle that route most days I am in Vancouver and use the designated streets. Cornwall is way too dangerous for me, and I cycle Mass Ave. in Boston regularly.

Drew Snider, here, from TransLink. We did provide some details to Daniel but these are missing from his on-line story:

-- The project is not just a simple concrete pour. It started with widening the sidewalk on the south side of Broadway, which involves taking out the fire hydrant, moving huge trolley overhead poles, moving the trolley overhead wires, then putting them all into their new places.

-- It was all supposed to be done in the summer, but there were delays in design approval so the start got pushed to the fall.

-- Some of the work that has been done now was supposed to happen next summer:reinforcing the concrete pad where buses stop, so they can take the repeated weight of 15+ tonne buses coming and going up to 40 times an hour during rush hours. Rather than shut things down AGAIN to do that job, the city asked if we could do it as part of the sidewalk-widening. That stretched the original timeline.

-- Other factors that added to the time included a request by the city to not do work on weekdays in order to avoid snarling traffic. Then came the inclement weather - can't pour concrete and let it cure if it's too cold or too wet and if you recall the past couple of months, it's been a bit of both.

-- This isn’t a matter of playing "the blame game". I explained what happened in the course of giving Daniel a story that no one else had. And while the City can doubtless explain the nuances, I'm pretty sure that comparing the work involved in widening the sidewalk and pouring a new landing pad for buses (see above) with putting in the bike lanes is an apples-and-chickens comparison.

Wow, Steven Forth, whoever thought I would agree with you?! It is the season of miracles though so maybe that's it. (By the way, I'm teasing you).

Anyway, I do agree that turning PG Road into a dedicated bike lane is a bad idea. I see that the stretch you are referring to is really dangerous and I have never understood why those cyclists don't use the side roads since it is an available and safer option. A death wish I guess?

Also, because there are those of us neanderthals who still drive (just saving you the trouble of calling me that, Chris Keam), there is already so little street parking in the area that losing any of it would be a shame.

And before anybody jumps down my throat about for suggesting that we consider the car owner (Bobbie Beas, I know you're out there) please consider this:

1. Not everyone who lives in Kits works conveniently downtown or even in the city.
2. Note everyone works in an area accessible to transit (me, for example).
3. Not everyone is physically capable of riding a bike - or walking to and from a bus.

Okay, that's all. Cue the militant cyclists...

"we hope you will participate in "the conversation" by providing comments that stick to the issues, and do not stoop to name-calling or personal attacks."


wish in one hand, spit in the other as they say....

Thank you Drew Snider for posting additional information. It’s truly appreciated. One thing is for sure, contrary to a certain city hall, he seems to always be available to media even when the story is not all too pleasant.

One question to Drew: when will the #9 stop be reinstated at the bottom of the skytrain station?

Sorry? Are you attributing that earlier comment to me because I never said that.

I'm glad you brought it up, however, because my point to you was that there isn't really any 'discussion' to be had with you. You may not outright namecall (nor did I) but it always feels like a 'you're right and the rest of us are just a bunch of sorry dinosaurs that you have to painfully suffer'.

If you want conversation maybe you could explain to me why cyclists DON'T use the safer side streets.

Interesting comments from Drew, I wonder what the full story is from the City rather than the edited version?

Drew Snider...if you're still reading, any chance you could weigh in on the removal of the bus lane on Burrard in the final two blocks of the Burrard St. bridge?

It seems to me that losing that lane for buses, to make way for the bike lane, significantly slowed the bus route along Burrard. Burrard is insane during rush hour, and I'm curious what Translinks views are on the subject and whether or not you're recording a significant difference in travel time.

In addition, I regularly run the Point Grey road route that Peter Ladner is referring to. While there is considerable traffic along that route, it's a slow traffic route. While I could see a non separated lane running that route to connect to the non separated lane going to Spanish banks, I can not see what the need is for a separated lane. It's also a one lane street in both directions...how are you going to accommodate a separated lane there? Remove the side walk?

Oh wait, I forgot...maybe they will just make us pedestrians walk on the other side of the road like the Burrard St. bridge. Cyclists first after all.

@coco

Please don't be ridiculous. No one is suggesting eliminating motor vehicle access so if you chose to or need to drive, you still can.

A separated bike lane along Point Grey Road would complete the Seaside Path, one of Vancouver's most important features that is very popular with residents and visitors alike. The current bike route along 3rd involves several turns and is rather hilly. 3rd also does not have lights at MacDonald or Alma and is rather narrow making passing on-coming cars rather scary. It is far from an idea bike route.

Asking why cyclists don't use it is like asking motorists why they don't use 4th instead of Point Grey. Just as people drive along a street because, for whatever reason, it is a good route for them, people cycle along streets because that street works better for them.

The proposal, I believe, is to make Point Grey one-way to create room for a separated bike lane. People driving in the other direction would use 4th Ave. As the speed limit on 4th is 50km/h while the speed limit on Point Grey is 30km/h, 4th would be as fast if people obeyed the law on Point Grey. Unfortunately, most speed.

My apologies, Richard, you're right. I did seem to imply that the whole road would be closed but that was not what I meant. (Must learn to proof-read!).

Anyway, I appreciate your explanation and can see that it might work. I also now have a much better understanding of why cyclists use the main road instead of the side streets.

You know, this would have been a really nice and interesting 'conversation' if you had taken a nicer tone in explaining the whole thing to me. Maybe next time.

@Drew. Thanks for your additional information. Much appreciated.

As you are aware, I pushed back my story in order to allow TransLink a full opportunity to provide us with all the details relating to this project.

Unfortunately, I never heard back from you before my deadline. Therefore, I published my story with the information you provided to me yesterday.

From my perspective there still remain a number of questions that need to be answered regarding how this project unfolded. Clearly there are two different versions of events, and it will be up to our readers to decide which one is closest to the mark.

Richard, you state:
"No one is suggesting eliminating motor vehicle access so if you chose to or need to drive, you still can"

Then you state:
"Asking why cyclists don't use it is like asking motorists why they don't use 4th instead of Point Grey. Just as people drive along a street because, for whatever reason, it is a good route for them, people cycle along streets because that street works better for them."

Then you state:
"The proposal, I believe, is to make Point Grey one-way to create room for a separated bike lane."

So if I understand you correctly it's completely ridiculous to suggest bicyclist CHOOSE a safer route if they feel point grey is too busy(of which there are many), yet it makes perfect sense to FORCE drivers going west(the lane I assume your suggesting removing) to take an alternate route to make way for the new cycle path. Have I got that logic correct?

Can you point me to the part of Richard's comment where he said it was ridiculous to suggest to cyclists they choose a safe route?

Ah Keam, right on cue....

Could you point to me the part of Richard's logic that makes sense? No I didn't think so...hence your response.

Typical Keam...if you can't find a response you just try redirection.

If I understand you it's completely ridiculous to ask a commenter to indicate how they arrive at a conclusion... kind of like what you're expecting of Richard?

I’m a regular user of this transit “hub” and have also wondered why it could take so long to pour a couple of concrete slabs. I take the #9 and transfer onto the skytrain at Commercial. The #9 bus stop was moved west of Commercial. For a few days, bus drivers wouldn’t even know where the new temporary stop (going eastward) was. So you had transit users running for the bus whenever a driver would stop at a different spot. Try asking a bus driver why that is and you get this “what do I care?” look.

I’m very skeptical of the city’s answer that the Hornby bike lane had no impact. It seems that work at the Commercial station stopped as the work on Hornby got underway.

Thanks for shedding some light on this issue.

Looking forward to a post on the 2011 budget. Council apparently thinks that taxpayers are to be used as a bottomless pit to pay for every idea our civic politicians come across.

Keam, if you're going to try and contribute at least make some sense, your response was nonsensical.

"Asking why cyclists don't use it is like asking motorists why they don't use 4th instead of Point Grey. Just as people drive along a street because, for whatever reason, it is a good route for them, people cycle along streets because that street works better for them."

Yet if motorist going westbound feel point grey is a "good route" you have no problem putting a bike lane in and taking that option away from them. Rather hypocritical, aren't we?

You know what, I'm gonna throw the Keam's and Richards of the world a bone here...

Given that you guys are hell bound and determined to turn every person, who might otherwise support your cause, against you, why don't you push for something that you could probably get people to rally around...

The arbutus corridor has sat vacant and overgrown for years...and while I personally believe it should be used for transit, I (as I'm sure many others) could be swayed to support turning it into a dedicated biking path. It is a direct route right through the center of town, would require minimal interference with any current traffic, require minimal change to make it suitable and become kilometers of separated cycling ifeastructure to use as proof of concept of the benefits of separated bike paths. And instead of pissing half the city off and turning the debate into car vs cycle it would instead be a net positive for cyclists and the city.

Just a thought...but given how well your current plan is going, piting cyclists against drivers and turning people against your own cause, I guess this is a bad idea.

"The arbutus corridor has sat vacant and overgrown for years...and while I personally believe it should be used for transit, I (as I'm sure many others) could be swayed to support turning it into a dedicated biking path."


Excellent. I will look forward to your contributions in the work to make that happen.

http://www.theprovince.com/travel/Bike+path+Arbutus+Corridor+sparks+interest+except+with+owner/2750594/story.html

It's too bad you, the cycling coalition, and the city didn't push this harder, and before the fiasco downtown. You all might have won some converts to your cause rather than alienating half the public.

Now how about you go put your efforts into working on this rather continuing your war with every person who owns a car in the city...while I'm sure you're enlightened comments will be missed, we'll all understand.

faladsa,

Do you think the City is just flat out lying when they say the work crews that were installing the bike lane were different than the ones working on Commercial?

Do you disagree with the Cities suggestion to do all the work now rather than re-tear up everything again next summer?

Keam's Kryptonite,

I have a car. I drive (carpool). I support the bike lanes 100%. So spare us this 'war on cars' bs. The world isn't black or white.

There's no war with anyone. People are trying to discuss issues here. If you have a personal beef with me you can email or phone me directly and get your issues off your chest, but I'm guessing nobody here is interested in yet another online pissing match.

Happy Holidays,

CK

What strikes me odd - the engineering department and Translink should know that pouring cement during bad weather conditions is not optimal. (Most people realize this)

So why wait until the fall/winter season to start this project knowing that we suffer rain, day in and day out, during this period of time.

And again, I would be curious to know what the original budget was set at and where it stands now.

I mean, if crews are working weekends and evenings to get this done - that is a lot of overtime being paid. (Reminds me of the Olympic Village).

Keam...and here I thought we'd finally found something we agree on. I'm hurt.

Boohoo...given that I just stated that I would publicly support a separated bike lane down the arbutus corridor (probably making it the longest potential separated route in the city) I think you'd have a hard time now labeling me "anti cyclist"....you're right, the world isn't black and white...and the sooner the cycling advocates like Keam recognize that and build bridges rather than burn them, the better off we'll all be.


"The arbutus corridor has sat vacant and overgrown for years...and while I personally believe it should be used for transit, I (as I'm sure many others) could be swayed to support turning it into a dedicated biking path."

I would love to see something happen to arbutus corridor from a practical point of view. One hitch though - it is not public land. It is up to the railway as owners to decide if they ever want to part with the land, or develop, or donate to the public good. They and the public have both studied potential uses to death.

I reside on the corridor and, while I love fronting onto undeveloped greenspace from a selfish P.O.V., it remains for the owners to decide. T

Very good comment.

please don't feed the stalker

Keam, a simple "thank you" is all I ask.

Getting two people to make positive posts about separated bike lanes, after all the damage you've done, is NOT an easy task.

But hopefully you'll learn from my example.

I don't get it, both the city and Translink say Broadway is a critical connector that is at capacity. And this is why rapid transit it needed on Broadway.

Given this, how could they let Broadway be impacted like this for two entire months? The sky didn't fall, as far as I can tell, so is Broadway really so busy or critical?

Frustratingly, many days I traveled by the intersection of Broadway and Commercial during the day and no work at all was being done. Not one worker on site at all. (And this was before the concrete was poured). Clearly not a priority project. What a screw up.

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