There are 5 new 96 B-Line buses in service today, which has me thinking that by now there should be some excitement in the city regarding this brand-new transit infrastructure. The new buses are absolutely wonderful: they’re smooth and quiet; have more space inside for passengers; and feature security cameras, modern LED lighting and air-conditioning. These are the first hybrid diesel-electric buses in Surrey, and it is the first time that Surrey’s bus depot has received brand new buses (instead of old hand-me-downs) in 17 years.

While great investments like these tend to come with big political photo-ops, only TransLink seems to be bothering with any sort of advertisement about the fact that there are new buses in Surrey.

The City of Surrey’s own Twitter feeds are blank, the Facebook page is blank, and not one Councillor or the Mayor has offered a single word about the new buses. No one from the city had anything to say about the buses during the time before their arrival, and this has continued now that many of them are in service. I thought politicians in this city really cared about transit issues, but it seems that riders are expected to enjoy the new buses without even a single word from their representatives.

As a regular 96 B-Line rider, this leaves me more than a little disappointed. The new buses are a huge step forward in improving the quality of transit in Surrey, and deserve the excitement from City representatives that transit riders will have today.

Is this related to LRT?

At the moment, the main transit item on the City’s agenda is the replacement of the 96 B-Line with Light Rail Transit, which was promised during the municipal election by Mayor Linda Hepner. Perhaps the City of Surrey fears that the appeal of these buses will take attention away from future LRT.

If the City of Surrey were to assist in advertising these buses, it might foil their LRT master-plan by exposing some of its major shortfalls. The expected overall travel time savings on King George Blvd and 104 Ave is only 1 minute over the existing 96 B-Line. In addition, the construction process for the LRT system will require the street to be closed from edge-to-edge and create huge disruptions for transit riders on the 96.

A street-level LRT would be limited to the same speed as on-street traffic and will not bring anything that can’t already be provided by a high-quality bus service. At best, this LRT is years away from opening (due to continued conflicts over transit funds) and I think the City should be proud of the service improvements that TransLink has been able to introduce today. The new buses are hybrid-electric, giving riders the same smooth-and-quiet ride experience that a street-level tram brings and bridging the gap between today’s bus service and LRT. They can also get around accidents and road closures that would close down an LRT service.

However, anything that bridges the gap between existing bus service and future LRT is likely something the City of Surrey doesn’t want. It’s no secret that the business case for the proposed LRT system is extremely questionable, and I’ve already caught the city trying to mislead citizens in a CitySpeaks survey on the difference between bus rapid transit (BRT) and LRT.

As well, in terms of neglecting the 96, the City of Surrey has done that in more ways than refusing to give it deserved attention. While other B-Line bus routes have been introduced with high levels of accompanying investments (such as the median bus lanes on Richmond’s No. 3 Road for the previous 98 B-Line), the City of Surrey has spent little to boost the 96 B-Line, if it has even spent anything at all. Some portions of King George Boulevard have had exclusive bus lanes installed to speed up the 96, but these bus lanes were funded by TransLink. The City could have implemented traffic signal pre-emption to keep B-Line buses moving, last year when it renewed the city-wide traffic management system at a cost of $2.7 million dollars. That also didn’t happen.

96 riders are extremely satisfied with the service.

Regardless of all this, the SOFATP 2015 monitoring report indicated that nine in ten (91%) rate their overall satisfaction with the 96 B‐Line as good‐to‐excellent, with an average rating of 9.0. This was measured before the introduction of these new buses. Is the City of Surrey not interested in addressing its many happy B-Line riders? Or perhaps there are fears that within these riders, there are people who will organize against the City’s plan for LRT?

In any case, I guess the City of Surrey is not interested in taking any credit for this wonderful investment. The new buses have brought as much improvement for 96 riders as a future LRT and perhaps even more. Their loss, and our gain.

Next generation 96 B-Line bus "S15003" at Newton Exchange | Photo by me
Next generation 96 B-Line bus “S15003” at Newton Exchange | Photo by me
Why isn’t the City of Surrey more excited for the new 96 B-Line buses?

2 thoughts on “Why isn’t the City of Surrey more excited for the new 96 B-Line buses?

  • February 13, 2016 at 11:52 am
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    New buses don’t necessarily make better service. I think the lack of excitement generally comes from the fact that Translink has only really expanded 49.5 hours of extra service per business day for the entire area south of the Fraser River in the last 5 years. That’s not really very much. On top of that the 96 B Line route by itself represents almost 55% of the total Revenue Hour Increase over that time. Unfortunately, the shinny new hybrid articulated buses that Translink is using won’t save that much in operating expenses. The 96 B-line Route is an express type of service that makes the most of limited stop express service that maximizes high travel speed. Higher speed service is when the diesel part of the hybrid drive is used most often. Instead of the high density, slow speed type of route, using a lot of stop and go service, which is when the electric portion of the propulsion system is really used most often.

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  • February 13, 2016 at 3:58 pm
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    Sorry made a mistake, its actually 69.7% of the total number of revenue hours. That’s the 96 B-line Bus accounts for 69.7 % of all the revenue hours added by Translink from its inception in fall 2013 to the end of 2014. Or put this way, the 96 B-Line, accounts for 55825 total revenue hours from its beginning in the fall 2013 until the end of 2014. According to Translink between the beginning of the operating year of 2010 until the beginning of the 2015 operating year they added only 80,000 revenue hours of service south of the Fraser River. Over the same period Translink added 392000 revenue hours system wide. To keep things in perspective, in 2014 alone, just the TTC in Toronto added 700,000 revenue service hours as the first phase of increases to make up for the service cuts made by the Ford administration. I don’t have the increases in revenue service hours planned for 2015 but its even larger.

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