Public transit runs better than expected during back-to-school crush

Vancouver Sun

By Kelly Sinoski and Darah Hansen

Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

METRO VANCOUVER — TransLink was bracing for heavier transit traffic this morning after experiencing a smoother-than-expected commute on the first day following the Labour Day weekend.

Despite some commuter crushes Tuesday on the Richmond-Bridgeport trains and along the Broadway and Granville transit corridors, TransLink officials said there were no major problems.

Police were posted on both the Canada Line and the older SkyTrain lines to to keep the trains running smoothly, while SkyTrain ran 12 extra trains to help clear stations faster.

Crowds at the Waterfront and City Centre stations of the Canada Line were large but moving well.

“It was actually pretty easy,” said Mal Robert of London, a senior at Simon Fraser University who arrived at Waterfront Station at 5:30 p.m. after arriving on an overseas flight. “I didn’t even realize it was rush hour.”

Elizabeth Machorro, who arrived in Canada on Monday from Mexico and began school Tuesday at the International Language Academy of Canada, said the commute from Burnaby was easy, and her afternoon commute was going smoothly, too. “There are announcements everywhere.”

Translink spokesman Ken Hardie said: “It seems we didn’t get the crush conditions on TransLink you’d expect. Everyone was moved in a pretty orderly fashion.

But, he added: “We’re all going to be out there [today] to keep an eye on it. Sometimes the first day can fool you.”

The first few days after Labour Day typically see some of the heaviest transit loads for TransLink as people return to work and school after the summer holidays.

The situation was expected to be worse this year after TransLink rerouted several direct buses, including those from south Surrey and Delta, and cancelled others such as the 98 B-Line, to feed the Canada Line.

At Bridgeport Station in Richmond, commuters waited three lines deep on the platform at 7:20 a.m., only to see a packed train pull up from Richmond-Brighouse.

While some grumbled and still pushed their way on, others were herded down the platform by Canada Line attendants to wait for the next train.

South Surrey resident Chris Joy opted to wait another 3.5 minutes for the next train, which arrived nearly empty.

“I really don’t want to stand. On the bus I would get a seat and I’d sleep and now I’m dealing with this,” Joy said.

“I’m not very happy; I’m figuring it’s not going to lessen my commute at all. It doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy.”

Richmond resident Marina Martin, who previously got to work in 36 minutes after hopping on the 491 bus on Westminster Highway, said it took more than an hour to get downtown Tuesday on the Canada Line.

The train, she said, was “overcrowded, stinky, coughing, hot.”

“The air-conditioning in the SkyTrain doesn’t work because you are so crowded in like sardines,” she said. “It’s awful. Am I happy? No, I am not happy.”

Other commuters complained of people pushing and shoving on overpacked Canada Line trains as they travelled between Richmond and Vancouver.

Hardie conceded it will take some time for people to get used to the transit changes. “I’m sure some of the former one-seat rides are anxious about this,” he said. “People are going to spend some time now studying the routes and seeing what their options are.”

Peter Glover, a civil engineer who commutes from White Rock to downtown Vancouver, said although the Canada Line will be “better in the long run,” he was considering taking a bus to King George Station in Surrey and hopping on the SkyTrain instead.

“This worries me because it can be a cattle car with everyone standing around waiting,” Glover said of the Canada Line. “This is where you lose time.”

Meanwhile, TransLink said the 99 B-Line at Broadway-Commercial station drew its usual crowds Tuesday while some passengers had to wait for buses at Production Way in Burnaby, where Simon Fraser University students get off SkyTrain.

In Marpole, a commuter complained that passengers were passed by the always full No. 10 Granville-Hastings bus, which goes to Marine Drive Station as a replacement for the 98 B-Line.

Hardie said TransLink was looking into the Granville situation, which could “be one of those ones where we need to do some fine-tuning.”

Khal Hooper, who used to take the 98 B-Line, said he took his bike on the Canada Line at the Marine Drive station Tuesday and it was much better. He estimated he saved about 25 minutes getting to work.

But Allyson Shone estimated her commute from south Surrey to her job on Pender Street will take a few minutes longer.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking because before I would sit on the bus and walk three blocks,” she said. “I don’t even know what stop to get off.”

Ladner’s Terresa LaRose started her commute 15 minutes earlier Tuesday morning in anticipation of crowds, but said she was pleasantly surprised by how easy the transit was.

But she predicted transit conditions will get worse as more people incorporate the Canada Line into their daily commute.

“I have visions of thousands of people converging on this [transit system] all at once,” she said.

Traffic officials said a motor-vehicle accident on the Golden Ears Bridge may have caused more-congested-than-usual traffic.

With files from Richard J. Dalton Jr.

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