– Tale of a train, two buses and a car

Richmond News

Alan Campbell

It’s time to bring back the Granville B-Line bus

She drives her car to a bus stop at 6:30 a.m.; takes the bus to the Canada Line; takes the train to Vancouver; takes another bus to downtown eastside.

It’s been almost a month since Richmond’s bus transit system integrated with the Canada Line, but the rush-hour commute for Coun. Sue Halsey-Brandt sure isn’t getting any easier, or quicker.

Halsey-Brandt, a music teacher at Strathcona elementary in Vancouver’s Hastings district, was a fierce opponent of the loss of direct bus services from Richmond to Vancouver when the Canada Line opened.

She used to leave for work around 6:50 a.m., driving to the airport station bus stop near the Delta Vancouver Hotel, before taking the B-Line bus and then the Hastings bus to reach her school.

On a good day, she’d get there in 45-50 minutes — almost an hour on a bad day.

Now she has to get out of bed 20 minutes earlier, drive from her west Richmond home to a bus stop at Blundell and No. 1 Roads, take the 401 to the Brighouse Canada Line station, before taking the train to Waterfront Station where she catches the Hastings bus.

An exhausting and inconvenient 65 minutes later, Halsey-Brandt gets to work.

“The train portion of the journey is wonderful. The Canada Line is superb, it’s fast and efficient,” she said.

“But there are not a lot of seats and lots of people have to stand. I get to Brighouse around 6:45 a.m. and it’s always crowded. I think this is a problem for older people.

“The Canada Line is consistent, but it does take longer to get to work now. And people’s Canada Line manners are shocking with all the pushing and shoving to get on before people have even gotten off.”

With all the connections and jockeying for position aboard the trains, Halsey-Brandt is already using the car to get to work more often than ever before — and is considering using it even more.

“I am taking my car more, as when I need to get to a special meeting or something I can’t be waiting about on all these connections,” she said.

“I’ve tried different routes and even tried walking to work from Roundhouse station. But it took me 45 minutes, and sometimes I’m carrying heavy loads. It’s also going to be dark soon, and I don’t want to walk through downtown when it’s dark.”

Halsey-Brandt said she still holds out some vain hope of a return of the B-Line bus service, which used to go directly from Richmond to downtown Vancouver.

TransLink revealed this week that the daily average ridership on the Canada Line since the bus integration system was launched Sept. 7 is 82,000.

Dave Zabel, TransLink spokesman, said the number of people using the new rapid transit system ranged from a weekday high of 93,000 to a low of 79,000.

“The original target is 100,000 within the first two years,” Zabel said. “So we’re doing quite well, but we’ll continue to monitor it.”

He added that the number of people using the bus system is currently the same as before it integrated with the Canada Line, but that TransLink expected this to rise once people get more comfortable with the new service.

Two people who have noticed a difference, for sure, are the managers of two of Richmond’s biggest shopping centres, whose parking lots commuters have been trying to use as a free park and ride.

Leslie Mathieson, of Richmond Centre, said the towing of cars has definitely increased since the line opened. She said the centre has towed away more than 40 cars directly related to people parking in their lot and jumping on the Canada Line. “There’s a three-hour parking limit, but people will get chalk warnings twice. The third time, they will get towed,” Mathieson said.

“And if we see them walk straight to the Canada Line from the parking lot, then they will get towed without warning.”

Over at the Lansdowne Centre, manager Barbara Phillips said they have resisted towing people’s cars away.

“We’re a private lot, not a public one and a lot of people don’t realize this. We’ve been helping people find alternatives to parking here when they want to use the line,” Phillips said.

Phillips said that since the line opened, they hired an extra security guard who cycles around the parking lot. “We’ve been helping people and giving them warnings, rather than have them towed,” she said.

“We expected this to be a six-month learning curve, but, to be honest, it’s not been too much of a problem for us. Towing is at the same amount as it usually is.”

© Richmond News 2009
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