Vancouver’s Busiest Buses

Translink has a list of performance metrics per bus route here. Those include ridership, boardings per revenue-hour, crowding measured as a percentage of available seats, and operating cost per unlinked trip. Since the numbers are only given per route, without a single table or chart as one could find for Providence or New Haven, here are the busiest routes, per weekday:

1. 99 – 54,350
2. 20 – 27,900
3. 9 – 25,300
4. 41 – 24,800
5. 16 – 21,250
6. 8 – 20,150
7. 3 – 19,950
8. 49 – 19,700
9. 135 – 19,600
10. 25 – 19,300

The full sanitized data for daily and annual ridership, excluding minibuses and night buses, can be found here. I’ve verified that excluding minibuses and night buses doesn’t change the rankings in the top 50 routes.

Although Vancouver’s buses more or less run on a grid, the grid isn’t very clean. Some lines, like the 9 (Broadway), 99 (Broadway), 3 (Main), and 41 (41st), run more or less straight north-south or east-west, bending only at the ends, but many others do not. The 16 follows a broad U-shaped route, serving Arbutus on the West Side, feeding into downtown, and then going east on Hastings and then south on Renfrew. Multiple routes use Broadway for just a few blocks, to orient themselves to the correct north-south street. Others are L-shaped.

This makes it hard to figure out what the busiest corridors are (Vancouver has enough ridership that the 15-minute frequent network extends too far down to give us the busiest routes). Broadway is clearly the single busiest – if 99 and 9 are considered express and local versions of the same route, then Broadway has nearly 80,000 weekday bus riders, compared with 55,000 on 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan, without counting buses that serve small segments of Broadway along their trip. Not counting buses that zigzag, the next busiest are 41st Avenue (41), Hastings (135, 160), Main, and 49th (49).

But this partial interlining does exist. So how busy is Hastings, anyway? If we add the buses that go on inner Hastings – 14, 16, 20, 135, and 160 – we get 90,000 weekday riders. But the 14 and 16 have half their route on the West Side, and the 20 turns south on Commercial; those are not just Hastings buses. The same problem happens on Main (the 8 partially runs on it), and 4th (west of Granville it interlines the 4, 7, and 84, and west of Macdonald also the 44, totaling 40,000 riders).

This doesn’t mean Hastings has more people riding the bus on it than there are taking the Millennium Line. I doubt it’s even close – the 16 and 20 have long north-south legs with connections to the Expo and Millennium Lines, so people from Fraserview and most of the Renfrew corridor are probably not traveling anywhere on Hastings. But most likely, whatever fraction of 90,000 Hastings has, it is probably the second busiest corridor, or maybe the third after 4th.

The obvious problem here is for SkyTrain development. Broadway is almost certainly getting rail, and judging by how far lesser-used corridors are getting SkyTrain extensions, Hastings should get one too. 4th is half a kilometer north of Broadway, but Hastings is 2 km north of the Millennium Line. Hastings’ distance to the West Coast Express is shorter, but it is an active freight line, with active port industry to its north, and often parks separating it from the street grid to the south. Frequent, frequent-stop commuter rail is still possible, but half the station radius is wasted on water, and the freight traffic is such that it might require too much multi-tracking to be cost-effective for the potential ridership.

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21 Responses to Vancouver’s Busiest Buses

  1. Adirondacker12800 says:

    The 16 follows a broad U-shaped route, serving Arbutus on the West Side, feeding into downtown, and then going east on Hastings and then south on Renfrew.

    That’s what happens when the bus runs through instead of terminating.

    • Alon Levy says:

      I’m not saying it’s bad, just that it’s not exactly the perfect grid. Chicago’s Blue Line does the same, by the way.

      • Adirondacker12800 says:

        So do most NYC subway lines. The route of the current M train nearly makes a loop.
        San Francisco’s bus map … looks like someone sneezed spaghetti. It makes lots of sense once you realize that north of Market it’s dropping people off and collecting a few for south of Market or vice versa on it’s return trip. They almost empty out at Market and begin to fill up again.

        • Ted K. says:

          “… someone sneezed spaghetti” ? No, SFMuni’s system is a hybrid radial (Ferry Plaza / Transbay Terminal routes) and grid system. The neat trick the planners pulled was the creation of “L”-shaped routes like the 22-Fillmore, 24-Divisidero, and 29-Sunset. These lines connect the southeastern part of the city to the northern part. There is method to the madness.
          A long time rider of SF’s Municipal Railway
          Maps – http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mmaps/official.htm

          • Adirondacker12800 says:

            someone who has seen grid systems or radial systems sees a very confusing mishamsh until you realize it’s all going to Market Street and that L shape is just an artifact. People are using it to get to Market and where the bus goes after that isn’t terribly important.
            I particularly like the 27. Seems like it’s making a turn every other block.

          • Ted K. says:

            The frequent turns on the northern part of the 27-Bryant route are due to lots of one-way streets and the need to avoid the steeper parts of Nob Hill (the south face has steps on some blocks).

            Also, there are at least THREE (3) Market Streets – Inner / Downtown (Embarcadero to Van Ness), Middle (Van Ness to Castro), and Upper (Castro to Twin Peaks). It may all be connected together but the divisions are obvious to a local and some would chop it up even finer than I have. It’s easy to cross / touch Market St. but only the radial lines make the Inner Market sector their destination.

            The two non-Owl horseshoes, K/T LRV couplet and the F-Market, are both double radials with connections to the Embarcadero Stn. (K/T) / Ferry Plaza (F). What confuses outsiders (though I find it fun) are SFMuni’s community service lines like the 36-Teresita (a truly serpentine beast). When in doubt check a lines category – radial, grid (polar also applies – it gets cold in SF), comm. service, or historical (e.g. cable cars). The seeming craziness comes from the overlapping systems (SFMuni is the result of mergers like New York’s subways) and a very bumpy geography.

            http://www.sfmta.com/cms/asystem/routelist.php

          • Adirondacker12800 says:

            it doesn’t get cold in San Francisco. It doesn’t get hot either.

      • Beta Magellan says:

        It’s pretty unusual for a bus to do, at least in a large city. I can’t think of any buses in Chicago that do—there’s too much street-level congestion during rush hours downtown to allow, for instance, the Cottage Grove bus to go west on Madison and keep some semblance of schedule adherence.

  2. Eric says:

    Hastings’ distance to the West Coast Express is shorter, but it is an active freight line, with active port industry to its north, and often parks separating it from the street grid to the south.

    Not just parks, but industrial zones too, and with a 40-100m vertical difference in elevation. Surrounded by inaccessible territory on both sides, there is no reason to add stops to this line, at least to the east of highway 1.

  3. Alex B. says:

    Would it be possible to extend the Canada line from Downtown under Hastings? That would offer a large ‘L’ shaped route with legs to the South and to the East, but I don’t know if the Waterfront Station is too constrained to make that turn.

    • John W says:

      If I remember correctly, Canada Line is at 90 degrees to the rail tracks at Waterfront. Expo Line could possibly do it as it is facing east when it terminates, though I’m not sure if the track configuration would allow it.

      There’s talk of a streetcar in roughly that area as well, running west towards Stanley Park, and south on Main to Science World and then along the tracks to Granville Island. There was a page about it on the city’s website, but it’s gone now (might just have got lost in the website revamp rather than being completely shelved).

      • Alex B. says:

        That’s my understanding as well, but my thought was that a) an L shaped routing could be useful compared to doubling the Expo line back again, and b) that extending the Canada line and it’s conventional propulsion might be easier/cheaper than the linear induction of the rest of the system.

        I’m not sure if there are any structural impediments that would prevent it, or make it otherwise technically unfeasible.

        • Alan Robinson says:

          It may be possible to continue the Canada Line to the north, but it would involve underground demolition of the main station access and digging under the expo line and the CP rail yards. The expo line is already aligned east at surface level adjacent to the freight tracks (The tunnel was originally a CP freight tunnel). One can’t follow the ROW past Columbia St. where the existing freight and commuter rail ROW is constrained, but this allows a new tunnel enterance to be built and the line shifted over to either Hastings or Cordova St.

          I don’t see that a full Class A right of way solution for Hastings as preferable to a Class B right of way
          . Although it’s a high capacity route, it’s no longer a terribly important route for long-distance regional connectivity, as the Millenium and Evergreen Lines fill that role. What Hastings needs to provide is rapid service from downtown to Willington, street priority at the downtown terminal, and good connectivity to all the north-south streets it intersects. Hastings St. is one of the widest streets in Vancouver and can accommodate two lanes of the street as a dedicated right of way suitable for a busway or a tram/bus corridor.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Expo is easier, but I agree, the route would look really tacky on a map. The Millennium Line would look like a troll proposal to have a line loop back in every direction so that if you didn’t care about travel time you’d have a one-seat ride from anywhere to anywhere.

  4. mike0123 says:

    Anecdotally (I use it most often outside of rush hour), the Main buses 3, 8, 19 and the Commercial bus 20 run mostly empty on Hastings and are mostly full at their skytrain connection.

    The Canada line can’t make it under the Expo line at Waterfront without moving the Canada line station. A turn onto Cordova would be much tighter than any on the line. The Expo line tail track points towards Hastings and its out in the air beside a railyard.

  5. abramv says:

    but Hastings is 2 km north of the Millennium Line. Hastings’ distance to the West Coast Express is shorter, but it is an active freight line, with active port industry to its north, and often parks separating it from the street grid to the south. Frequent, frequent-stop commuter rail is still possible, but half the station radius is wasted on water, and the freight traffic is such that it might require too much multi-tracking to be cost-effective for the potential ridership.

    So just build Skytrain to Playland. They’ve already got rail service out there anyway, it just runs on a closed loop using gravity.

  6. The Broadway line (UBC Line Study at Translink ) is the obvious thing to do. But unfortunately, Surrey is probably going to get something first for political reasons. Surrey study at traslink

  7. Beta Magellan says:

    Given the width of Hastings and amount of infrastructure already there due the the trolleywire, has anyone suggested some sort of median-running open BRT there? Since it looks like a lot of crosstown routes use Hastings as a funnel into downtown, it seems like it would make sense—the only big downside I can see would be that it makes implementing surface rail less likely in the near future.

  8. rico says:

    Just a note I think the numbers are boardings not trips.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Yes, they are boardings, i.e. unlinked trips. It’s the only way to compare different lines in an integrated network, really.

  9. Pingback: The Problem with Anchoring | Pedestrian Observations

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