West Coast Express ridership is still rebuilding after being hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Neil Corbett/The News)

West Coast Express ridership is still rebuilding after being hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Neil Corbett/The News)

TransLink ride hailing among possibilities for Maple Ridge services

New city council briefed on transit expansion plans and proposals

The day could arrive when people living in Ruskin, Whonnock, and the eastern neighbourhoods of Maple Ridge hail a TransLink bus like they would an Uber.

That was one of the revelations the new Maple Ridge city council heard from TransLink’s director of system planning Matt Craig. He briefed council about coming developments from the transit provider, both across the Lower Mainland and particular to Maple Ridge.

Coun. Sunny Schiller asked about TransLink’s use of new technology, and the possibility of on-demand transit.

“We need to move to transit being more of a viable option for people in the community,” Schiller said, adding population numbers are still comparatively low, and on-demand transit could encourage more users.

Craig said TransLink did a two-month pilot on Bowen Island, as a trial for on-demand transit, similar to a ride-hailing service. Riders could summon the bus through their smart phone, and the driver could divert off a fixed route.

In most of the the Lower Mainland, buses quickly fill to the point that this system won’t work, he said.

“For some of the more rural areas, particularly in east Maple Ridge, or other places like that, we see there is a lot of potential for that on-demand transit to improve access and improve options that people have in a different tool than we’ve used,” he added.

The 2019 report titled Transit On-Demand outlined how customers could book trips up to two weeks in advance using a TapRide app, or calling a dispatcher. Some 1,600 people downloaded the app, and 554 different users booked a trip, for about 2,000 boardings. They reported a high level of satisfaction with the service.

Craig told council about changes to expand a system that gets more than a million boardings every day, and among North American systems ranks fourth in ridership per capita.

One of the major changes for Maple Ridge will be Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, and the Lougheed Highway is slated to get one of the nine BRT routes coming to the system. It will run from Maple Ridge to Coquitlam, and would replace the current R3 RapidBus.

A BRT line is an upgrade on RabidBus. BRTs have a dedicated highway lane and signal priority at intersections. They stop at stations, rather than roadside bus stops, and have real-time schedule information and in-station fare payment. Craig called the buses “rail on wheels,” with spacious interiors and amenities. They will be zero emissions vehicles.

They are an option that rivals driving, and TransLink can get this service faster than expanding rail, he said.

The 10-year priorities include a RapidBus service from Langley to Haney Place via 200th Street, which could later be upgraded to BRT.

Coun. Jenny Tan asked what council can do to make sure the city is among the first to get BRT service.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from a lot of folks, and public transit is the future for us, for Maple Ridge to become an economic development engine, and also a very livable community,” she said.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows mayors endorse new transit plans

Craig said council cooperation is important, as TransLink wants to work with willing partners. They are still planning, but in future will be able to present council a map showing proposed stations and stops.

TransLink’s transportation plans include has a 30-year strategy, Transport 2050, which outlines priorities for the next 10 years.

The goal is to expand and improve frequency, span, and days of operation for bus service throughout Maple Ridge. It also intends to improve transit service to the growing Albion area, and improve regional connections with the city, he said.

Golden Ears Park transit access is another goal, as the system expands.

Improvements to the West Coast Express are also planned, and Mayor Dan Ruimy asked when they are coming.

“WCE was among the hardest hit by the changes in travel patterns with the pandemic. We scaled down from what was five trains a day down to three,” said Craig. “We’re back to four now, and we also have the ability to add capacity.”

He said they are adding more cars to trains as ridership returns.

“It really will depend on how we see ridership coming back.”

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge mayor candidate calls for more West Coast Express trains


Have a story tip? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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