A shuffling of transit service that will make buses more frequent in some parts of Metro Vancouver and more scarce on other routes should start to become noticeable this spring.
TransLink’s so-called service optimization initiative aims to wring more revenue out of the transit system with the same budget and number of service hours.
“We’re not cutting back service, but we’re moving it around from where it’s not doing much good to where it will do more good,” spokesman Ken Hardie said.
Boosting service on runs at times where full buses drive by passengers waiting by the road and trimming back the schedule when buses run near empty should, TransLink projects, have the effect of improving performance overall, carrying more passengers and increasing fare revenue.
It estimates an extra $10 to $15 million per year could be generated through the planned reshuffling of about 4.5 per cent of total service hours.
It’s expected to be a fine-tuning of the schedule, with changes in bus frequency rather than elimination of entire routes.
“The intent is to nip-and-tuck-out service hours that are really not being utilized and reallocate them to different parts of the system,” Hardie said.
It’s too early to say which runs and times stand to gain and which stand to be cut, he said.
But areas like Surrey, Delta and Langley should be net beneficiaries.
“There will be some pretty good lifts in service in the South of Fraser in April as a result of the service optimization,” Hardie predicted.
TransLink acknowledges its service south of the river has not yet caught up to what’s required by the rapidly growing population, he said.
He downplayed the impact on routes where service will be trimmed and passengers will wait longer for a bus.
“We don’t want to raise general concern that there will be widespread reductions in service,” he said. “Done appropriately, very few people will notice.”
Hardie said a few of the changes actually started to happen in December with little fanfare.
Changes that start in April will still be modest, Hardie said, with more reallocation of service to come in September and December.
TransLink has set out principles to guide the changes.
They call for the protection of service to transit-dependent riders who don’t own cars; maintaining runs that are strategic in connecting the network; and protecting growing markets that are experiencing substantial ridership increases.
The strategy is part of TransLink’s effort to work within its budget – which climbed by $130 million a year when tax and fare hikes were approved in 2009 – until it gets approval to collect more revenue for a more ambitious expansion of the system.