Shelley Schnurr is so fed up with missing buses, with riding on old, cast-off ones, with waiting for those that are late, and with what seems to be a casual response to all of her concerns by TransLink.
“We’re not their top priority, let’s put it that way,” Schnurr said of Maple Ridge.
She’s a long-time commuter into Vancouver and used to take the West Coast Express, which cost her $240 a month.
But that got too pricey so she now catches the No. 701 bus to Coquitlam Central Station, then jumps on to the new Evergreen SkyTrain for the final stretch of the two-hour commute to Vancouver.
But it’s not an easy ride.
Schnurr says the number of people catching the bus between Maple Ridge and Coquitlam has jumped since the new Evergreen extension of SkyTrain at Coquitlam Central began a year ago.
When the eastbound 701 leaves Coquitlam for Maple Ridge in the evenings, it’s already packed.
“We are jammed in there like sardines. The buses are full before they even leave Coquitlam Central. They give us a single bus. They don’t even give us a double bus.”
It’s the same story in the morning when she catches the 701 in east Maple Ridge at 5:42 a.m. But two or three times a month the bus is late, or it doesn’t show up and she has to wait until the next one. She’s supposed to start work at 7:30 a.m., but delays can mean she doesn’t get in until 8:30 a.m., so she’s lucky she has an understanding manager.
Recently, the No. 701 bus for 5:42 a.m. didn’t show up two days in a row. That meant she had to go back home, get her car and drive to Maple Meadows West Coast Express parking lot so she could catch the next 701.
If she wanted to take a bus into Vancouver, it would take three hours, a schedule that she thinks TransLink set in order to encourage people to take SkyTrain.
Schnurr has complained, often, to TransLink and said her comments are listened to respectfully. But nothing changes.
“It’s like talking to a brick wall,” she said.
“Just meet your service standards,” she said. “Just show up.”
She wonders if Maple Ridge is getting the hand-me-down buses while riders in Vancouver ride in new vehicles?
Some are so old they’re hard to start in the morning, further adding to schedulding issues, she said.
And, she asks, is Maple Ridge getting the service improvements it’s been promised?
“We’re getting the ones that are at the ends of their lives, for the longer routes.”
Two new bus routes were added to Maple Ridge in September, consisting of two community shuttle bus routes to Silver Valley.
A B-Line, express bus route from downtown Maple Ridge to Coquitlam Central is to start in September 2019 as part of Phase 1 of the 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transit and Transportation. That will offer a direct bus link on a 15-minute frequency basis.
But Schnurr says that’s needed now, not two years from now.
“They need it way before 2019.”
Coun. Gordy Robson sympathized and said TransLink staff have confirmed the B-Line start date.
“It shows you that as soon as they put a B-line in, it will be well-used.”
TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan says the 701 has a better-than-average performance rating. System-wide, the average on-time performance for all of TransLink’s routes is 75.7 per cent – meaning that 75.7 per cent of the time, the buses in the system get to their stops within four minutes of the scheduled time.
In the July-to-September period, the 701 achieved an on-time percentage of 80.5 per cent.
On average, the 701 gets about 2,000,000 boardings a year. That ridership has remained stable from 2012 to 2016.
What isn’t known yet though is the number of boardings this year since the start of SkyTrain in December 2016.
“We know that we have seen more ridership on 701, for sure.”
Bryan said the 701 ranks 94th out of 214 bus routes in terms of boardings per service hour. That puts it in the middle of the pack when it comes to the ridership.
“We certainly want to get that B-Line up and running as quickly as we can. It’s like a, if-you-build-it-and-they-will-come situation. Once you have a high-frequency, reliable service in place, we think ridership will grow quite well over the years,” Bryan said.
He said different buses are rotated throughout the region, and that TransLink kept some older buses operating in order to expand service while it awaits new vehicles.
TransLink plans on ordering 32 double decker buses for use on highway routes, but none of those are planned for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.