The Richmond News reported yesterday that the first in a series of planned bus-only lanes along Highway 99 is going to be ready for the big change in Richmond bus routes in September.  Buses using the 99 to take people to the Skytrain are now going to have their own lane from the Westminister Highway to Bridgeport Rd.  This is a really smart move.  Not only are Richmond commuters getting out of traffic when they’re on the Skytrain, but this lane will pull them out of traffic for a part of their trip to the Skytrain.  It’s also a nice illustration of a more general point.  On its own, this new bus-only lane would have made a modest, if real, improvement to the ride in from Richmond.  But when you make more and more of these little changes, and when you make them as extensions of a new Skytrain–well, then their aggregate impact can start to look really impressive.

There’s another, um, less policy-oriented point to make here too.  I spend a lot of time talking about the downsides of surface-level transit.  But there’s at least one advantage of surface-level transit that buses on this route will have in spades.  People on the bus will get to look up casually from their Globe and Mail or X-Men comics, or pause their “Quirks and Quarks” podcast for a second, to look down at the row of cars they’re whipping past.  And they’ll get to think to themselves, Suckers.  I’m actually only joking a little bit here.  There’s a real (if perverse) pleasure in seeing all those cars stuck in traffic and blowing right by them.  And, I’d like to think, when some of those drivers see enough buses blow past, they’ll start to think about whether they really want to spend so much of their time sitting in traffic.

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