Cambie Bus Route suggestion

Now that the Canada Line exists, I don’t take the Cambie bus very often. Generally, it’s only if I want to shop in the Cambie village, as there’s no convenient skytrain stop there (aside: Why on earth there’s no stop at either 16th or 17th is beyond me – it seems to me that the village suffered hugely during construction, but gets almost no benefit now that it is re-opened, because there’s no nearby stop. I suspect most increased business is due to how much easier it is to get there by car & bike, rather than transit).

Down at the north end of Cambie St, right by the bridge, it seems to me that Translink is missing out on a natural transfer opportunity:

Cambie screen grab from Google Maps
The Chaos at the south side of Cambie Bridge.

Currently, there’s a Northbound stop at W. 7th ave, outside the Save On Foods – this is great! But then, the bus has to change lanes to get on to the Cambie Bridge. Once on the bridge, the bus has to change langes again, back to the curb lane, and the next stop is not until the north side of the bridge, at Pacific Blvd.

What I propose is this: Rather than have the bus go on the ramp here, keep it in the curb lane, and have it continue down the hill to the intersection at W. 2nd ave, outside the Police building. Add in a bus stop right there, where W. 5th comes in to meet Cambie & W. 2nd. To help traffic flow, take out part of the sidewalk there, which is impressively wide given how little foot traffic there is. Then, cross  W. 2nd ave, go on the on ramp to the bridge there. This has several advantages:

  1. It eliminates 2 lane changes on a busy street – a sure way to reduce the chance of accident.
  2. With a bus stop at W. 6th, it makes it really easy to transfer to the Canada Line at the Olympic Village station.
  3. It creates a new transfer point for both the eastbound & westbound 84 bus line & additional transfer point for the 50 bus.
  4. As the south side of False Creek grows, having a stop here becomes increasingly useful place for people to hop on transit to get to the Library, SFU Downtown & even gastown, as the bus passes by it at Cambie & Pender streets – a route not well served by the Canada Line.
  5. For (lazy) bike riders, it’s a nice place to get put your bike on the bus at the bottom of the hill to ride up to Queen Elizabeth, the Cambie Village, etc. after coming over the bridge, or along the seawall, or along 5th ave, etc.

I see one potentially large downside, which is that the bus has to go through an additional traffic light, which could add some time to the overall route. My personal feeling is the upside to this outweighs this issue.

Fear of Random Public Death at the Olympics

I have many Gen X friends, those friends who are just a little older than me who became teenagers during the 1980’s. One of the defining characteristics of this set of friends is a lingering existential angst about the impending nuclear doom. For me, given that I was all of 11 in 1988, the threat of nuclear war has always been remote – a relic of a previous age. For me, despite absolutely zero personal experience, my existential angst has long revolved around being blown up, shot or poisoned in a public place – a victim of terrorism of some sort. When I was a teenager, I witnessed a drive-by shooting in Chinatown in Toronto. I was also much more conscious of the world at large (due, in no small part to my dad’s subscription to the Guardian Weekly), right around when there seemed to be an uptick in IRA-related bombings in the UK – the London Stock Exchange (1990), Manchester (1992, 1996) and so on, the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo Subway (1996). In the middle east, the early 90s were the core years of the First Intifada (1987-1993), which involved wave after wave of attacks on (what to me at the time seemed to be) primarily civilian targets.

This likely is a direct contributor to my intense dislike of crowds & fireworks in particular (huge crowds + explosions? No thank you!), and it has, from time to time, given me pause as I use transit. Particularly in Vancouver. I have taken transit in cities all over the world, many vastly larger and, at least in theory, more dangerous than in Vancouver. However, overall, I feel the least safe riding Translink than virtually anywhere else. Our system is so open, so understaffed, so automated, so spread out and so easy to infiltrate. I’ve watched several people jump down into the tunnels downtown, seen a woman wandering aimlessly along the tracks towards Joyce station. This should not happen.

And now we have the Olympics. For very good reason, the organizers are encouraging everyone to take transit. But that also means that everyone will take transit, and if you wanted to disrupt these games, there’d be no better way than to cause an incident on Translink. And here’s the thing: if there’s one thing that Israel has proved to the world, is that police & military are of no protection against a determined attack, so it wouldn’t matter if there were soldiers and police on every bus and train (for the record, that would also prevent me from wanting to use transit – violence’ only product is more violence, and soldiers and police embody violence).  And so, I’ve had, in the back of my mind, this growing unease about taking transit as the Olympics draw nearer. I know, statistically, that its incredibly unlikely that anything would happen. But this is not a rational fear. It’s just a fear. And sadly, it’s growing stronger right now. I’m sure that our contemporary media-culture of fear-based reporting doesn’t help either. While I normally think of myself as fairly healthy, psychologically speaking, I’m realizing that this phobia is not, and is starting to affect how I live my life, so I should probably do something about it.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll take transit during the games. I would like to enjoy many of the LiveSite events going on, but I’m breaking out in a nervous sweat just thinking about all those people that’ll be there during the Olympics. So maybe not. We’ll see.

Translink (Canada Line) & the Olympics

Quite rightly, VANOC is suggesting that people use transit during the Olympics to get around. This is a good & Noble goal. However, I have some concerns, particularly around use of the Canada Line. At the best of times, my experience is that tourists find our lack of transit gates to be confusing. It’s not terribly clear how to buy tickets, how to “activate” (or whatever the proper term is) them, and how long they’re useful for. This all seems clear enough to residents (although due to the supposed level of fare evasion, maybe it isn’t), however I’ve on at least a dozen of occasions helped tourists figure out how to use the Skytrain (buses are not an issue, due to there being a driver to  manage this).

Opening Day Line Up for the Canada Line. Photo Credit: The Buzzer
Opening Day Line Up for the Canada Line. Photo Credit: The Buzzer

About once a week, at Oakridge Skytrain station, there is a Canada Line attendant who stops and asks to see people’s tickets. This inevitably causes a slow down in getting on the train, and clearly, by the look on people’s faces, is annoying. Given how incredibly packed the Canada Line is already, I can just imagine the confusion & anger if Translink tries to do this during the Olympics. And, as I imagine Translink is looking at the Olympics as a golden opportunity to make some much-needed revenue, I’m expecting to see a veritable army of green-jacketed people checking for tickets. As a result, I’m imagining an even larger army of angry, confused & frustrated people trying to get on over-crowded trains to get downtown to venues, hotels, events and the whole thing just ending up with Translink having a black eye.

I hope that this doesn’t turn out to be the case, but given how poorly thought out the Canada Line constructions appears to have been, I am quite worried that it will end up being a fiasco. Does anyone remember the insanity of the opening day of Canada Line? Imagine that for 2 weeks now. Only it’s tourists stuck in the huge lines, who are perfectly willing to complain to all the media who I’m sure will rush to cover it, rather than us locals, who are more likely to put up with it.

It may be easier for all involved to either a) simply allow free travel on the Canada Line (or all skytrain lines) during the Olympics (highly unlikely at this point) b) provide each and every visitor who has an even ticket a commemorative transit pass (also unlikely) or c) have the Canada Line staff at the stations to help buy tickets, etc, but don’t sweat any accidental (or on-purpose) fare evasion during the Olympics to make using the service as nice as possible for all involved (also unlikely, but seems to be the lease unlikely).

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