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

96 headerThere are 5 of the 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.

So what do I think?

Well, the main transit item on the City’s agenda is the replacement of the 96 B-Line with Light Rail Transit, something that was politically deadlocked with an election promise. 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

Students are not sheep.

Pedestrian light being installed at site of fatal crash

by  Kevin Diakiw – Surrey North Delta Leader
posted Jan 24, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Five months after a teenage girl was killed while walking across a road in Newton, the city is installing a set of pedestrian lights at the accident location.

On Sept. 18, 2013, Amarpreet Sivia, 16, was walking across 128 Street at 69 Avenue, near Princess Margaret Secondary School – where she was a student – when a motorcycle hit her and two other girls.

Sivia did not survive the accident.

In wake of the accident, there was a new call for a lighted crosswalk at that location….

(read more – Surrey Leader)

On the topic of crosswalks, I’m glad to see that action is FINALLY being taken at 128th Street in Surrey, at the location of a pedestrian death that I took up last fall in a blog write-up.

Looking south on 128th Street from 72nd Avenue, at the crosswalk-less stretch. Courtesy: Google Street View
Looking south on 128th Street from 72nd Avenue, at the crosswalk-less stretch. Courtesy: Google Street View

There was a Facebook comment on this article I took notice while on break at Kwantlen in Richmond today, and I felt like I just had to write a comment. Read more below.

Diane Scheuneman from Surrey

This was a horrible accident which has changed many people’s lives. I feel for all these people and hope they have the support and understanding they require to recover as best they are able to continue on with their lives.

However, during the period when my daughter attended Kwantlen University I often dropped her off and picked her up at different times of the day, I saw many of the local high school students crossing the street wherever they wanted instead of using the safer alternative of crossing the street at 72 Avenue and 128, which is a light regulated cross walk and not far off their chosen path. In addition, these students were often on their cell phones, engaged with one another and not paying attention to the traffic and their own safety.

High school students go on to Kwantlen campus (why?) and often walk in a horizontal line across the limited driving lanes in the parking lot, disrespectful of vehicle drivers doing their best to safely navigate through a maze of students, who are not walking where and as they should be (on the side, single file). Drivers have to come to complete stops and wait. It was a very frustrating situation for drivers accompanied at times by rude behavior from the students.

I hope that the administration at Princess Margaret high school have had numerous pedestrian safety workshops for students teaching them their own responsibilities when walking in traffic, and that Kwantlen University is not their ‘playground’.

Perhaps the Surrey School District should share in the responsibility and have secure high fences around the entire school premises with designated entries/exits which would file students/visitors on and off the premises using safe methods (e.g. entry/exit onto 72 Avenue where they would then walk to the street corner to cross in the light-controlled crosswalk; entry/exit at the back to then cross at the new crosswalk). Otherwise, 128 Street could be ‘littered’ with crosswalks every half block based on where the high school students choose to cross the road! What a traffic nightmare that would be.

I hope that the safety of all improves with this new crosswalk, student traffic/safety education and that suggestions from community people be heard and possibly implemented.

My response

You may wish to read my viewpoint on this issue I published last October.
http://darylvsworld.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/political-incompetence-kills/

According to City of Surrey & BC by-laws, students crossing to reach the businesses at 70th Avenue are not jaywalking. This is because they are crossing more than 1 block away from the lighted crosswalk – and Surrey bylaws state that if there’s no crosswalk, you’re expected to just cross. Lunch break at Princess Margaret is just 45 minutes long. You seriously cannot (and I mean CANNOT and SHOULD NOT) expect students to go out of their way to 72nd Ave on limited lunch time. I reckon that habits of running and hurrying would make them even less safe than with the current arrangement where they cross 128th St closer to the businesses.

As I mention in my above write-up, I am a graduate from Johnston Heights Secondary in Guildford. Previous to my 9th grade year, students were regularly crossing 4 lanes of 100th Avenue, either at an unmarked location on 153rd Street – not within 1 block of any signalized intersection – or at varying points to the west and east, within 1 block of a signalized intersection and thus doing so illegally. This crosswalk and another on 152nd St was signalized in 2009 and all students use the signalized crosswalks today. They were a huge success, and they are benefiting not only school students, but also the entire neighbourhood through improved access on several fronts.

128th Street does not have to be littered with crosswalks every half block – there are two spots where signalized or at least marked crosswalks do make sense. My experience at JH demonstrates that one or two crosswalks would probably be fully successful at preventing crossing at any unmarked spots.

I don’t think that money spent to educate students on where to cross and not cross the road would be money not well spent, but think of the logistics – you’d have to do this every single year. A signalized crosswalk, on the other hand, would be not only be a one-time investment – there would be a cost offset through economic benefits, as the crosswalk may encourage students to check out the local businesses. It can’t be denied that ease of access matters a lot in our society. Why do you think high-density neighbourhoods are popping up along the SkyTrain lines throughout Metro Vancouver?

On the issue of high school students going into Kwantlen and crossing the parking lot the way they do…. well, it’s a parking lot. Do you seriously expect students to adhere to unwritten rules of walking along the edge of a parking lot that does not have any proper sidewalk or walking path defining a pathway to Kwantlen? I would think that Kwantlen needs to make changes to their parking lot design if through pedestrian traffic is supposed to be accommodated.

Lastly, please allow me to say that I take issue with your suggestion that PM Secondary be turned into a prison with high fences around the entire premises and limited exits from all directions. What did we do to deserve that kind of shame? And, what do you think we are? Sheep!?

Regards,
– KPU student