An old teacher of mine once told me to always state the obvious and state it carefully.  There are, I’ve come to believe, a lot of good reasons to do this.  For my part, I sometimes like to stop and remind myself of what I know, since doing that often also shows me what I don’t know.  So in that spirit, bear with me while I say some really banal things.

People in every part of metro Vancouver complain about their transit service, and often enough the complaints sound the same.  There aren’t enough buses.  But that means very different things to different people.

To someone who commutes along Broadway, it means getting passed up once, twice, or three times before getting on a bus. It means not really knowing when you’re going to get on a bus, so you need to give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes to make sure you get where you’re going on time.  It means not just never getting a seat, but standing in such cramped conditions that you can’t even reach into your pocket to skip a song on your iPod.  It means, if you’re jammed in at the back door, getting off at every stop, so that people getting off the bus can get by you — and then having to fight your way back onto the bus ahead of the crush of people who’ve been waiting at that stop while they got passed up by two earlier buses.  If this is your bus-riding experience, it’s pretty easy to look at those yellow commuter buses where every passenger gets their own high-backed Lay-Z-Boy seat, and get annoyed that Translink’s running  buses at rush hour with no one standing up in them.

But to someone who commutes from Langley to Richmond, “not enough buses” means buses leaving every half hour, maybe every 20 minutes during rush hour.  It means having to choose between being 25 minutes early for work or 5 minutes late.  It means staring at your watch, knowing that if your first bus is even four minutes late, you’ll probably miss your transfer and end up waiting another 10 minutes for your next bus.  It means not going out for dinner or drinks after work, because your buses run too infrequently once the afternoon rush is over.  If this is your bus-riding experience, then it’s probably pretty easy to look at the five minute intervals between buses in the city and feel like Translink’s giving you the short end of the stick.

That’s the obvious part.  Laying it out like that helps focus attention on the non-obvious part.  At the margin, which of these two situations should Translink make its priority for improving?  I don’t know.

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